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The 2005 Notre Dame Literary Festival

Christie Bolsen | Sunday, February 13, 2005

What do a Notre Dame professor, two former Manhattan nannies and a pro wrestle turned children’s book author have in common?They all took the road less traveled by – and that has made all the difference.The “Road Less Traveled” theme of the 2005 Notre Dame Literary Festival, formerly the Sophomore Literary Festival, denotes the common thread among the featured authors that have all found literary success, yet through completely different methods. Co-chair of this year’s festival Mark Connolly sees the theme as a means of reaching out to potential authors.”In going along with the theme, I believe that through their talks and workshops, the speakers can convey to students the fact that if they truly have a desire to be in the literary world then such a goal stands as very feasible,” Connolly said. “In addition, we have chosen authors that are very recognizable to the Notre Dame community such as Ralph McInerny and Todd Tucker as well as figures that are recognizable on a more national stage such as Mick Foley, Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus.” The festival kicked off Thursday with up-and-coming piano player Rob Gonzales, who has been described as “the next Billy Joel.” There was a workshop that gave participants the opportunity to look into the mind of a professional songwriter and provided a crash course in catchy song writing. Gonzales then gave a concert Thursday night, with a café-like atmosphere and gourmet cheesecake for audience members. Both events were extremely successful in terms of student response and turnout, starting the festival on a positive note. “[The workshop] gave everyone a great glimpse into his life as a musician and the songwriting process,” co-chair Steve Tortorello said. “The concert was fantastic. The LaFortune Ballroom was packed, and the audience enjoyed a cozy atmosphere…. Rob played songs from his new album for roughly an hour and 45 minutes and ended his encore by asking for requests. An audience member shouted out “Piano Man” and Rob was quick to oblige, getting the entire audience to sing along with the chorus as he serenaded everyone with the classic Billy Joel tune.” The writing workshops begin today with a Mystery Writing Workshop lead by McInerny from 3-4:30 p.m. in the McNeill Room in LaFortune. McInerny, who has been a professor at Notre Dame since 1955, has not only written dozens of scholarly books on subjects like St. Thomas Aquinas, but also has written over 50 novels. His “Notre Dame Mysteries” series and “Fr. Dowling” mysteries are among his most popular works. He will bring plenty of expertise to the workshop. Those interested in learning how to craft a mystery novel will be able to look into the mechanics of the mysterious. Sign-ups for this event and others throughout the week are located in the Student Government office on the second floor of LaFortune in room 203.At 7:30 p.m. tonight in the Oak Room above South Dining Hall, Todd Tucker will give a presentation followed by a reception, which are both open to Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross students, as well as the general public. The Notre Dame alumnus graduated in 1990 with a degree in history and entered the Navy’s nuclear propulsion program and completed six patrols on the USS Alabama. Although his travel writing has been published in several national magazines, his two books, “Notre Dame Game Day” and “Notre Dame vs. the Klan: How the Fighting Irish Defeated the Ku Klux Klan,” deal directly with the Notre Dame community.”Notre Dame vs. the Klan” took the true story of Notre Dame students and turned it into literary achievement. In 1924, Notre Dame students violently collided with members of the KKK right here in South Bend. The presentation’s focus on “Notre Dame vs. the Klan” should appeal not only to people interested in literature, but also those who have a mind for history, psychology, sociology or Catholicism, since the book covers the history and evolution of both Notre Dame as well as the KKK. Tucker will also incorporate images of the two institutions into his presentation as he takes the audience through each of the events that preceded the momentous night his book focuses on.”You get to see inside the workings of Notre Dame, inside the workings of the KKK … it will be a complete experience for anybody interested in the range of subjects,” Tortorello said.Tuesday’s events commence run from 3-4:30 p.m. in the McNeill Room with an Author’s Panel featuring McInerny and James C. Martin. The panel, which is also open to the general public, will highlight the completely different experiences of the two writers, following the theme of the week. As a professor McInerny traveled on a path to publication that was divergent from Martin’s, who began as an English teacher. He wanted to be a screenwriter before writing the novel “Push Not the River,” a book he based on the diary he stumbled upon of Polish countess Anna Berezowska.Martin faced disinterest from the publishing community for several years before self-publishing in 2001 and marketing the project himself. Only a year later, St. Martin’s Press bought his book and released a hardcover edition in 2003. Polish and German rights sold almost immediately, and Martin recently completed the sequel, which will be released later this year. The panel will emphasize how McInerny, who has published numerous books, differs from the struggles of a former English teacher. The panel is for anyone who wishes to break into publishing.”It’s going to give students the chance to see the side of the publishing world that you wouldn’t get to see from talking to a teacher,” Tortorello said.Tuesday’s night event starts at 7:30 p.m. in Washington Hall with Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus, the former Manhattan nannies who famously wrote the New York Times No. 1 bestseller “The Nanny Diaries.” The hysterically funny book took the two authors’ life experiences, gained while they were students at New York University, and turned them into a revealing glimpse into the lifestyles of the affluent who don’t have the time or desire to raise their own kids. The book was released in 2002 and sparked tireless speculation in gossip columns about which real-life dysfunctional families the book satirized. The authors have appeared on CNN, “The Today Show,” “Entertainment Tonight,” MSNBC and “The View,” and their newest collaboration is a book of a similar vein, “Citizen Girl.” This most recent foray into satire focuses on women in the working world.McLaughlin and Kraus will give a presentation followed by a reception, open to the general public. The event is structured to take a fun look into yet another background for writers, who wrote as a team – so they have a perspective that you might not expect. The authors will discuss “The Nanny Diaries” and their new book.ND Unplugged will be the next event on Wednesday from 7-10 p.m. in the LaFortune Ballroom. It will feature performances of original student work, including monologues, comedy, music, poetry and spoken word crafted by students themselves. One person will even read a chapter of a novel. There will be Starbucks and artwork, giving ND Unplugged a café ambiance like Gonzales’ concert.Sophomore Andrew Stapleton will be playing a mix of covers and original songs on his acoustic guitar. He’s played at Acousticafe in the LaFortune basement and at Legends before, but is expecting a different type of event with ND Unplugged.”I’m looking forward to following some funky groove poetry, or anything that might give someone the urge to throw on a beret and grow a goatee,” Stapleton said.Thursday is the last day of the festival and opens in the McNeill Room from 4-5:30 p.m. with a Children’s Literature Writing Workshop led by Mick Foley. Foley began with a focused wrestling career that took him around the world in 1985. He achieved national fame in the late 1990s with the World Wrestling Federation when he was a three-time world champion and tag team champion multiple times. His autobiography leaped to No. 1 on The New York Times bestseller list, and his sequel debuted at the No. 1 spot. All of his children’s books and his novel were national bestsellers as well. “The workshop will be focusing on how to write a children’s book, how to create characters people like, and how to write it in a way that children and adults will both like,” Tortorello said.The workshop is open only to Notre Dame students. Foley’s presentation at 8 p.m. on Thursday in Washington Hall will be open only to the Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross communities. The presentation, followed by a reception, will depict for the audience yet another road in literature – one that led Foley to the top of The New York Times bestsellers list.”He will talk about how he went from wrestling to writing,” Tortorello said. “How one thing led to another, and all his different experiences in his life have led to his writing career. Pretty much what everybody all week will be talking about is how their different ‘roads’ led them to where they are.”The Student Union Board is the sponsor and organizer of the annual NDLF, which in its 38th year has its roots as a student-run festival. The annual event is organized under the direction of the Student Activities Office and always has encouraged close interaction between students and authors despite other changes over the years.”I believe the Literary Festival to be important as an enduring event for the Notre Dame community,” Connolly said. “In its 38th year the festival has maintained its prestige and ability to attract exceptional talent.”