Media Advisory: Words Awake! celebrates Wake Forest writers and writing

More than 40 alumni who are novelists, biographers, journalists, screenwriters, poets and hip-hop artists return to Wake Forest University this month to share their experience as professional writers during a three-day celebration of writers and writing.

Words Awake! will demonstrate the power of writing with workshops, panels and readings March 23-25. From sports reporting to science writing to literary fiction, noteworthy writers from around the country will talk about the written word to schoolchildren, college students and community members. The University will also induct 15 writers into the newly created Writers Hall of Fame.

The event is free and open to the public, but registration is strongly encouraged.   Events will be held on campus in Benson University Center.

“We want to champion and celebrate generations of Wake Forest writers while inspiring people to think about writing as a career,” says Thomas Phillips, coordinator of the project and director of the Wake Forest Scholars program.  “It is important for young people to have heroes and role models beyond athletes and political figures.”

Beyond the play on words, the event’s title, Words Awake!, reflects a recognition of past writers and a focus on the dynamic future of writing.  “The event is one part public engagement, one part education and one part celebration,” Phillips says.

Following are a few of the featured speakers:

  • Prize-winning fiction writers Stephen Amidon (The New City) and Clint McCown (The Member-Guest)
  • Newsweek book critic Malcolm Jones
  • Bestselling non-fiction writer and former Time magazine correspondent Doug Waller (Wild Bill Donovan: The Spymaster Who Created the OSS and Modern American Espionage)
  • Young-adult fiction authors Laura Elliott (Under a War-torn Sky) and Frances O’Roarke Dowell (Dovey Coe),
  • Children’s author Jennifer Trafton (The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic)
  • Christian writer Davis Bunn (Book of Dreams)
  • The New York Times chief theatre critic Ben Brantley

On March 23, Wake Forest writers will visit 10 Winston-Salem/Forsyth County schools to lead workshops, readings, lectures, and seminars on their works.   From a poetry slam at Carver High School to a session on science writing at Paisley Middle School to a book club meeting at Cook Elementary School, writers will engage students in the world of writing.

In the evening, Wake Forest alumnus Tom Hayes, the son of legendary Esquire magazine editor Harold Hayes, will premier a documentary he produced about his father, who was also a Wake Forest graduate.

On Saturday, March 24, 16 panel discussions and authors’ readings will be held on campus throughout the day.   Topics will include “Writing Sports,” “Writing for Business,” “Writing Biography/Memoir,” “Writing Washington News,” “Writing for Children,” “Writing/Speaking of Faith and Conscience,” “Writing for Newspapers, Magazines and the Web” and several others.  Later afternoon sessions will focus on “The Art of Teaching Writing” and “Writing/Editing Careers.”   The complete schedule is posted on the website.

“It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have a group of such accomplished writers together in the same place who have the common thread of graduating from Wake Forest,” says Hannah Kay Hunt, a senior English major serving on the planning committee. “We wanted the event to be accessible to everyone.  No matter what your future profession is, being articulate is critical to future success. Writing opens your mind and opens doors.”

Hunt has organized student ambassadors to pair with each visiting writer.  The student volunteers will have the chance to spend time one-on-one during the weekend with writers who share their interests and can provide career advice.

At a banquet Saturday night, Wake Forest will induct 15 writers, including author and poet Maya Angelou and Provost Emeritus Edwin G. Wilson, into the newly created Wake Forest University Writers Hall of Fame, and then conclude the day’s activities with a panel discussion on “The Future of Writing.”

“The quality of one’s writing makes a difference,” Phillips says.  “The whole publishing industry is redefining itself, but that doesn’t mean people don’t still write and get paid for it.  We want to celebrate those who graduate with degrees in the humanities and go on to write.”


Note to reporters:  Follow the event on Twitter at #WordsAwake.


Cheryl V. Walker,, 336.758.6073

Stephanie Skordas,, 336.758.3826

Categories: Media Advisory