Luther celebrates writing with Writers Festival

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Nationally known authors Mark Salzman and Anne Lamott will speak at the third annual Luther College Writers Festival Friday and Saturday on the Decorah campus.

The festival’s aim, according to festival Director Nancy Barry, is to “explore the deep and diverse ways in which highly crafted literature in all genres explores the human condition and illuminates the spiritual and moral imagination of readers.”

Salzman will open the festival with a keynote address and book signing at 4 p.m. Friday in Valders 206. Salzman, a novelist and non-fiction author as well as cellist who played with Yo-Yo Ma at Lincoln Center, writes on a variety of subjects. His contemplative novel “Lying Awake” is about a cloistered nun’s crisis of faith. His memoir “True Notebooks” portrays his work as a volunteer writing teacher in Los Angeles Juvenile Hall, a lockup for violent teenage offenders. His latest non-fiction book, “The Man in the Empty Boat,” examines writer’s block and family tragedy.

Also Friday will be a poetry slam at ArtHaus in downtown Decorah.

“At a poetry slam there’s a diversity of perspectives that’s surprising and addictive,” said Kristen Underwood, co-director at ArtHaus, a non-profit organization that offers instruction in arts to all ages. “It’s an incredible mix of the expected, like Luther students, and the unexpected — writers from the community who come out of the woodwork.”

On Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. there will be panels, individual readings by local and regional authors and book signings. Panels will be on topics such as “New Writing-New Media,” “Writing Spiritual Lives,” “Writing About War and the Holocaust,” “Editing College Literary Magazines,” and “Considering Anne Lamott: Word by Word.” Poets and prose writers will read selections from their own work. Presenters from across the country will speak to the craft and ethics of writing. A festival dinner is at 5 p.m.

Lamott will close the festival with a keynote address and book signing at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the Center for Faith and Life.

Readers of Lamott’s “Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life” are familiar with her mantra: “good writing is about telling the truth.” In non-fiction, essays and novels, Lamott tackles topics of motherhood, substance abuse and religion. Her collections of autobiographical essays on faith include “Traveling Mercies,” “Plan B,” and “Grace (Eventually).” Her forthcoming book is “Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope, and Repair.”

The Salzman and Lamott keynote events and other festival events are free, but registration is required either on-site or online. To register, or for a full list of festival events, visit

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