Lex Allen Literary Festival

Saturday, march 13, 2021

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.


  • Marilyn Chin, an award-winning author whose books have become Asian American classics and are taught in classrooms internationally, is Hollins University’s Louis D. Rubin Jr. Writer-in-Residence for 2021. Chin’s books include A Portrait of the Self as Nation: New and Selected Poems; Hard Love Province; Rhapsody in Plain YellowDwarf Bamboo; and The Phoenix Gone, the Terrace Empty. She has also written a book of wild girl fiction, Revenge of the Mooncake Vixen. Her honors include the Anisfield-Wolf Award, the United States Artist Foundation Award, the Radcliffe Institute Fellowship at Harvard, the Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship, two National Endowment for the Arts awards, the Stegner Fellowship, the PEN/Josephine Miles Award, and five Pushcart Prizes. In 2017, she was recognized by the Asian Pacific Islander Caucus and the California Assembly for her activism and excellence in education.
  • ZZ Packer’s collection of stories, Drinking Coffee Elsewhere, won the Commonwealth First Fiction Award and was a National Book Award 5 under 35 winner. It became a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner award, was a New York Times Notable Book of 2004, and was selected for the Today Show Book Club by John Updike. 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 TheNew 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.
  • Inara Verzemnieks’ memoir, Among the Living and the Dead: A Tale of Exile and Homecoming on the War Roads of Europe, retraces the steps of her grandmother, a war refugee, and her great-aunt, a Siberian exile, in the wake of World War II. It was named one of The Times’ (of London) best history books of 2018 and a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice. 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, January 22, 2021


All readings and the poetry panel will be held virtually.

  • 10:30 a.m. – Reading by Inara Verzemnieks
  • 12 p.m. – Poetry panel discussing student-submitted work
  • 2 p.m. – Reading by Marilyn Chin
  • 3:30 p.m. – Reading by ZZ Packer

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


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