Lex Allen Literary Festival

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Hollins hosted its first Literary Festival when the creative writing program began in 1960. It’s now an annual spring event known as the Lex Allen Literary Festival, named in honor of the former Hollins English professor. Writers-in-residence take part, along with other guests, who over the years have included Elizabeth Janeway, William Styron, John Barth, James Dickey, Richard Wilbur, Maxine Kumin, Lisel Mueller, Doris Betts, Diane Wakoski, Elizabeth Spencer, and many others.


  • ZZ Packer’s collection of stories, Drinking Coffee Elsewhere, was a National Book Award 5 under 35 winner and was a New York Times Notable Book of 2004. She is at work on a novel about the Reconstruction and Buffalo Soldiers entitled The Thousands, an excerpt of which appeared in The New Yorker’s decennial 20 Under 40 Fiction Issue. Her stories have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, Story, Ploughshares, Granta, Zoetrope All-Story, Best American Short Stories 2000, Best American Short Stories 2003, and 100 Years of The Best American Short Stories. Her nonfiction has been published in The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post Magazine, The Believer, The American Prospect, The Oxford American, The Guardian, The New York Times Book Review, Newsweek Digital Online, and The New Yorker Online.
  • Patricia Spears Jones is author of the poetry collections Painkiller, Femme du Monde, The Weather That Kills, and A Lucent Fire: New and Selected Poems, which features her 2017 Pushcart Prize-winning poem, “Etta James at the Audubon Ballroom.” In 2018, her poem, “Seraphim,” was included in The New Yorker’s Year in Poems. She is the 11th winner of the Jackson Poetry Prize, one of the most prestigious awards for American poets. She was a finalist for the William Carlos Williams Prize from the Poetry Society of America and the Paterson Prize from Passaic County Community College. She is a recipient of grants and awards from the NEA, NYFA, and a Barbara Deming Memorial Fund Award in 2015. Essence.com named her one of its 40 Poets They Love in 2010. Her work is widely anthologized.
  • Inara Verzemnieks is the author of the memoir, Among the Living and the Dead: A Tale of Exile and Homecoming on the War Roads of Europe. The book was named one of The Times’ (of London) best history books of 2018, was named a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice, and was awarded the Anšlavs Eglitis and Veronika Janelsina Literary Prize. The memoir retraces the steps of her grandmother, a war refugee, and her great-aunt, a Siberian exile, in the wake of World War II, and recounts Verzemnieks’ own journey back to the remote Latvian village where her family broke apart. A Pushcart Prize winner and the recipient of a Rona Jaffe Writer’s Award, as well as a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in feature writing, she previously worked as a newspaper journalist for 13 years. Her essays and journalism have appeared in The New York Times MagazineTin HouseThe AtlanticThe Iowa Review, and Creative Nonfiction. She is a graduate of Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Program.

Literary prizes

Undergraduate college students are invited to submit up to three poems and/or up to two short stories for:
      • Literary Festival Poetry Prize ($100)
      • Literary Festival Fiction Prize ($100)

All entries must include the author’s name and contact information (email or phone number) and the name, city, and state of the author’s college or university. All fiction must be double-spaced.

Submission Information

Deadline: Friday, February 14, 2020

Literary Festival Contest
Hollins University
Box 9677
7916 Williamson Road
Roanoke, VA 24020


Location: Frances Niederer Auditorium (Room 200), Richard Wetherill Visual Arts Center

      • 9:30 a.m. – Check-in and refreshments, 2nd floor lobby
      • 10:30 a.m. – Reading by Patricia Spears Jones
      • 11:30 a.m. – Poetry panel discussing student-submitted work
      • 12:45 p.m. – Luncheon, Moody Dining Hall (pay at the door)
      • 2 p.m. – Reading by Inara Verzemnieks
      • 3:15 p.m. – Reading by ZZ Packer
      • 4 p.m. – Reception, 2nd floor lobby

Funding provided by the John Alexander and Mary Josephine Haynes Allen Literary Endowment, the Dee Hull Everist Visiting Speaker Series, and the Louis D. Rubin, Jr. Writer-in-Residence Fund.


Call 540-362-6317 or email creative.writing@hollins.edu.