THE 2021 FESTIVAL
The Festival seeks to honor the works of F. Scott Fitzgerald and those of prominent American literary artists and to support, encourage, and assist aspiring and emerging writers and students interested in the literary arts.
The main festival day in 2021 was held on Saturday October 30th.
For 2021 Short Story Contest readings, interviews, copies of the stories along with Q & A conducted online on Oct. 21st go to our Short Story Page.
See a recording of the event by going here.
About the Festival
The F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Festival was established in 1996 to celebrate the centenary of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s birth, in Rockville, Maryland, the city where Fitzgerald, his wife, and his daughter are buried. The Festival seeks to honor the works of F. Scott Fitzgerald and those of prominent American literary artists and to support, encourage, and assist aspiring and emerging writers and students interested in the literary arts. Originally a one-day event, the Festival now includes programs on three or four days. The F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Festival is co-sponsored by the City of Rockville and the F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Conference, Inc.
The centerpiece of the Literary Festival is the presentation of the F. Scott Fitzgerald Award for Achievement in American Literature to a prominent American writer, who is present to give a reading and a master class. Over the years, many of the most distinguished American literary figures of the last half-century have been honored. The 2021 recipient is John Edgar Wideman. Major events of the 2021 Festival were held on September 17 , September 24, October 21. October 29, and October 30.
On September 17, from 7:00 p.m. - 8:30 p.m., D. Quentin Miller led a discussion of Brothers & Keepers, a memoir written by John Edgar Wideman.
On the evening of September 24, (6 pm -8 pm) Fitzgerald’s 125th birthday, the Festival presented a showing of “Gatsby in Connecticut,” a documentary about Fitzgerald’s time in Westport, Connecticut, and how it influenced the writing of The Great Gatsby, which was followed by a discussion of the film with its producer Robert Williams and Fitzgerald scholar and participant in the film Walter Raubicheck.
On the evening of Oct. 24th, the winner and runners-up in both the adult and student Short Story Contest read from and comment on their stories.
On the evening of October 29 at 8 p.m., the Festival co-sponsored with The Writer’s Center in Bethesda an evening of “Readings in Tribute to John Edgar Wideman.” These activities included morning and afternoon writing workshops designed for both emerging and established fiction and non-fiction writers; a Master Class with John Edgar Wideman; and an Awards Ceremony featuring a reading by John Edgar Wideman.
The 2021 Festival also sponsored two short story contests: a Student Contest open to Montgomery County high school students and an Adult Contest open to residents of Maryland, DC, and Virginia. The winners and two runners-up in each contest were announced and awarded cash prizes at a virtual ceremony in October 2021.
John Edgar Wideman
John Edgar Wideman is the award-winning author of more than twenty books. His forthcoming story collections, You Made Me Love You: Selected Stories, 1981-2018 and Look For Me and I’ll Be Gone, will be published in 2021.
2021 Keynote Speaker
is a Pulitzer Prize-winning critic for The Washington Post Book World, where he has worked since 1978, first as an editor and then as a writer. His weekly reviews and essays now appear each Thursday in the paper's Style section. Dirda is the author of the memoir An Open Book: Coming of Age in the Heartland (2003) and of five collections of essays––Readings: Essays and Literary Entertainments (2000), Bound to Please (2005), Book by Book: Notes on Reading and Life (2005), Classics for Pleasure (2007), and Browsings: A Year of Reading, Collecting, and Living With Books (2015)––as well as the Edgar Award-winning On Conan Doyle; or The Whole Art of Storytelling (2011).
2021 Special Guest
Walton Muyumba is a writer and critic. He sat on the National Book Critics Circle’s Board of Directors, 2014-2020. Muyumba’s essays and reviews have appeared in The Atlantic, The Believer, The Boston Globe, The Los Angeles Review of Books, The New York Times Book Review, The New Republic, and Oxford American, among other outlets.
2021 Short Story Competition
Special thanks to Taryn Trazkovich, Mary Hopkins, Nate Brown and Eric Carzon for their leadership on the contest as well as volunteers from The Bethesda Writer's Center for their story reviews and to the Center for its logistical help making reviews go smoothly.
Adult selections for recognition this year, and some short initial thoughts on each:
Winner: "Searching for the Light"
"Searching for the Light" is a beautifully written, sensitive story that offers readers a narrow yet potent view of loss. As if looking through a keyhole, readers get just a glimpse of the protagonist, Byrne, and her parents, Phil and Caroline. As is the case in all excellent stories, history weighs a great deal here. Byrne's past lies atop her present in surprising and moving ways. We get a glimpse of Phil's injury, a glimpse of the corridors of Philadelphia's Einstein Hospital, a glimpse of Byrne's own desires, interests, and romantic life. A naturalistic story in the vein of Edith Pearlman, Alice Munro, and Ruth Ozeki, "Searching for the Light" is elegantly written and subtle, but its images, phrases, and characters are profoundly engaging and vividly drawn. This is memorable, beautiful writing.
"Will-o-Wisp" opens on a clear, bright Sunday morning in a college town. Dierdre and other weekend revelers are headed back to their dorm rooms and student apartments still wearing their clothes from the night before. But what starts as a familiar story of casual sex quickly turns strange. The previous night, Dierdre saw a warm and benevolent light as she made love to a student she'd met at a club. In this very short piece, the author has managed to avoid the tawdry cliches of sex scenes and instead presents a story about longing for the ineffable. Perhaps, in attempting to recapture and understand that mysterious light, Dierdre's looking for intimacy. Perhaps she's trying to understand something about herself. Or perhaps Dierdre's view of reality is askew. In any case, this story refigures the folkloric Will-o-Wisp as an inscrutable beacon, an ideal of intimacy, a benevolent, elevating presence that puts one in mind of St. Theresa in Ecstasy.
"Sunrise in the Valley"
In "Sunrise in the Valley," a Black doctor comes to work in a rural Pennsylvania nursing facility, much to the surprise of the facility's staff, residents, and administrator. In a lesser writer's hands, this story might be one that overlooks or whitewashes racial complication. Here, though, Dr. Johnson's anxieties are well founded in history, and his unease among rural white people is palpable. When he gets a flat tire on his first commute to work, a truck stops behind him and two white men ultimately help him change the tire. The tension of the moment is alleviated when the doctor comes to no harm, but the echoing sentiment at the end of the story is what makes this one memorable. This story is a powerful reminder that for some of us, danger is to be found everywhere.
Thank you once again for having me. I really enjoyed reading and thinking about these stories! Nate Brown