This year, Our Lady of the Lake University's (OLLU) annual literary festival theme, "LIT: The Fire Inside Us" will explore how the campus and community responded to the fire that ravaged the university's Main Building in 2008. The silver-spired edifice had enhanced the San Antonio skyline for more than 100 years and was the heart of the university.
Humanities Texas has awarded OLLU $1,500 to support the festival, which takes place March 30–April 5, 2009.
The idea for using the fire as the literary festival's theme came naturally, according to Nan Cuba, OLLU assistant professor of English and festival coordinator. "This place is very special," said Cuba. "It was founded by a group of Catholic nuns called the Sisters of Divine Providence so there's this great tradition of belief that the university will find its way and its mission. And its mission is to serve. So there's always been a trust that this tragedy would find a way to work itself out that would benefit us."
Indeed, the Main Building is already undergoing restoration, and with the rebuilding of the elegant architecture come technological updates. The Department of English, housed in the Main Building, will have new updates, but that’s not the only silver lining. "Enrollment has actually gone up, if you can believe that," said Cuba. "The community has rallied and enrollment immediately shot up."
The literary festival usually draws about 1,000 people over the course of its events. This year, attendees will have opportunities to interact with two prestigious authors. Janet Burroway is a novelist and playwright whose latest book, Bridge of Sand, takes place on September 11, 2001. Author Stephanie Elizondo Griest has traveled extensively and will address how different culturals around the world respond to tragedy. Both will give readings and lectures during the festival, while the last two days will feature performances of two plays: House on Mango Street, adapted by Amy Ludwig from Sandra Cisneros's novel, and Sam Shepard's Fool for Love. The festival also features events such as the Favorite Poem Project, which invites participants to read poetry that speaks to them about the fire and its effects.