The Daily Gamecock

USC hosts second author in this year's Fall Literary Festival

USC held its 18th annual Fall Literary Festival at the Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library in the Thomas Cooper Library on Tuesday. In collaboration with the English department, each year the library hosts three guest authors to engage in conversations about their work.

Free and open to the public, the festival is sponsored by an anonymous donor who founded the series after she was inspired from attending a talkback with a local author and felt that the people of Columbia should have the opportunity to share a similar experience.

Program director Elizabeth Sudduth invites students and other members of the public to send in suggestions for future authors.

“We try hard to get interesting contemporary authors who represent different viewpoints and write across different genres,” Sudduth said.

The featured author on Tuesday evening was award-winning poet and children’s author and poet Richard Michelson. Born in Brooklyn, New York, Michelson began his career as a poet, and it wasn’t until he was middle-aged that he published his first children’s book. Michelson never pictured himself becoming a children’s author as he did not read a lot when he was younger. However, through writing children’s books, Michelson discovered not only more about his Jewish heritage but also a stronger connection to the world around him.

“As I tell kids, the beauty in being a writer is you can give yourself the life that you should have had if you were braver,” Michelson said.

In the spirit of Halloween, Michelson began the night with an animated reading of his first published children’s book, “Did You Say Ghosts?” — a book inspired by his young son’s bedtime fear of ghosts and his humorous attempt at consoling him. He invited the audience to interact, which garnered laughs across the room as they eagerly repeated the book’s catchphrase after him at their given cues.

“The last time I did this, like I said, was probably 25 years ago to a group of second graders, and they did really, really well,” Michelson said.

In addition to his children’s books, Michelson is also known for his social justice advocacy, which he incorporates into his work by educating people of all ages through his worldly experience.

Michelson shared work from his adult collection, family photos, childhood anecdotes and even memories of late friend Leonard Nimoy, the actor most famous for portraying Spock on “Star Trek.” Nimoy provided the voiceover Michelson’s book “Too Young for Yiddish,” and Michelson considered him both a father figure and dear friend.

After the readings, Michelson invited the audience for questions and a book signing.

Among those in attendance were President Harris Pastides and his wife Patricia Moore-Pastides.

The festival’s final session will be held on Nov. 9 and features author Lydia Millet.