Welcome to the HP Literary Festival!

Published January 27, 2011 by Jim Rain

Highland Park High School has lots of famous athletic alums -- like Doak Walker and Kyle Rote from days gone by, and Matthew Stafford and Clayton Kershaw in recent times. But HPHS has also produced more than its share of graduates who excel in the arena of words and the life of the mind. That honor roll includes alumni such as Hilary Jordan, author of the best seller, Mudbound, and Doug Wright, the 2004 Pulitzer-prize winning playwright who wrote I Am My Own Wife, Quills, and the book for the musical Grey Gardens.

Not so coincidentally, Jordan, Wright, and a slew of other literary alums are returning to campus on February 17 and 18 to help celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Highland Park Literary Festival. Every year since 1997, the Highland Park Literary Festival has nurtured and encouraged generations of students who may be more at ease with a pen and a notebook than a bat or a basketball. Originally organized as a joint effort by interested parents and the HPHS English Department, the literary festival brings accomplished authors, poets, dramatists, journalists, and songwriters to campus for two days of lectures, readings, and small-group workshops. The idea is to let students get to know and converse with folks who pull words out of their hearts and minds and put them on paper.

But the festival isn’t just for students. It also produces an event for the whole community -- an evening with a distinguished “keynote” author. A typical community event includes readings by the author, stories (often humorous) about the writing process, and a question-and-answer session with the audience. Previous keynote speakers have included Anchee Min, Billy Collins, Tobias Wolf, George Plimpton, Russel Banks, and Michael Chabon.

This year’s keynote author is Doug Wright, who will return to HPHS on February 17 at 7 pm. The evening is free and open to the public.

A few years ago, Wright told the Dallas Observer that HPHS had opened up new worlds to him. "I could think, and that was as legitimate as kicking a soccer ball," he says. This year, Wright, Jordan, and other returning alumni may just return the favor for the current crop of Highland Park students -- and maybe for their parents, too.