Houghton Writing Festival 2014

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Houghton College


April 4, 2014 - April 5, 2014


The Writing Festival, sponsored by the Houghton College Department of English and Writing, will be focused on children's and adolescent literature. Participants include Newbery Honor Award-winning author Gary Schmidt, author Sheila Stewart Nelson,  illustrator Johanna van der Sterre, poet John (Jack) Leax, and M.A. children’s literature holder Elizabeth (Betsy) Rutledge.

*For a list of workshops, lectures, Q&A sessions and bios, please see below. 


Gary Schmidt


Gary Schmidt is a prolific author of children's literature and young adult fiction. His most recent novel, Trouble, was published in 2008 by Clarion. He has received the John Newbery Honor Awards from the American Library Association, the first in 2005 for his novel Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy and the second in 2008 for his novel Wednesday Wars.  Gary received his undergraduate degree in English from Gordon College in 1979. Thereafter he attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, receiving an MA in English in 1981 and then a PhD in medieval literature in 1985. He joined the faculty in the Calvin College English department in 1985.

Sheila Stewart Nelson


Sheila Stewart Nelson graduated from Houghton College in 1997 with a degree in creative writing. Since then, she has earned a Master’s Degree in English, worked as a senior editor for a small publisher, and written four dozen educational books for middle school and high school students. She has published fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, and is currently working on a novel for adults. She grew up on the ocean in northern Newfoundland and now lives with her two children in Carlton, New York.

Johanna van der Sterre


Johanna van der Sterre is a children’s illustrator living in Ithaca, New York.  Johanna has loved drawing as long as she can remember. She attended Union College in Schenectady, New York where she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Visual Art.  Then, she went on to the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia for a Master of Fine Arts Degree in Illustration.   She has been working as a freelance illustrator for ten years, creating art for Highlights, Cricket and Ladybug Magazines, as well as many educational and trade book publishers.  Booklist includes: Mendel’s Accordion, by Heidi Smith Hyde, published by Kar-Ben/Lerner, 2007; The First Christmas Present, by Marilyn Summerer, Concordia Publishing House, 2009; Feivels’ Flying Horses, by Heidi Smith Hyde, published by Kar-Ben/Lerner, 2010; Why Do I have to Make My Bed?, by Wade Bradford, published by Tricycle Press/Random House, 2011.

John (Jack) Leax

John (Jack) Leax was for many years poet-in-residence at Houghton College in Houghton, New York. His poems have been published widely in anthologies and periodicals. His previous collections of poetry include Reaching into Silence (1974), The Task of Adam (1985), Country Labors (1991), Tabloid News (2005), and Recluse Freedom (2012).  Remembering Jesus, his newest collection, will be published by Cascade Press next year.  During our Festival, he will be reading from and discussing his adolescent novel, Nightwatch (Zondervan, 1989).

Elizabeth (Betsy) Rutledge

Elizabeth (Betsy) Rutledge graduated from Houghton College (2007) with a degree in English. She went on to pursue a Master of Education degree in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Children’s Literature from Penn State University (2012).  She currently works at Houghton College as the Assistant Director of Admission Events.


*=session open to all students, faculty, alumni, and community members

Friday, April 4

10:00-11:15 a.m.:  Ms. Johanna van der Sterre and Ms. Sheila Nelson--writing and art workshop with students from Belfast Central School

(Library 201--Study Room overlooking the campus quad)

Facilitators: Prof. Sunshine Sullivan, Ms. Laurie Parker, and Ms. Maria Rhone

*11:30 a.m.-12:10 p.m.:  Prof. Gary Schmidt--chapel talk, “The Freedom of Naaman” (2 Kings 5:1-14)

(Wesley Chapel)

*12:30-1:30 p.m.:  lunch open to the entire community following Prof. Gary Schmidt’s chapel talk

(Campus Center, South End Dining Hall)

Facilitator: Rev. Mike Jordan

1:45-2:45 p.m.:  Prof. Gary Schmidt--reading and discussion with students from Fillmore Central School and Houghton Academy

(Center for Fine Arts Recital Hall, Room 126)

Facilitators: Prof. Laurie Dashnau, Ms. Susan Ferdinand, and Ms. Ann McNeil

1:45-3:45 p.m.:  Ms. Johanna van der Sterre--four 1/2-long critique/discussion sessions with individual students who sign up in advance

(location TBA)

Facilitator: Prof. Jillian Sokso

Ms. Sheila Nelson--four 1/2-long critique/discussion sessions with individual students who sign up in advance

(location TBA)
Facilitator: Prof. Laurie Dashnau

 3:30-4:00 p.m.:  English and Writing Opportunity Day session for prospective students

(Writing Center, Chamberlain Center 101)

Facilitator: Prof. Laurie Dashnau

 *4:15-5:30 p.m.: Ms. Johanna van der Sterre and Ms. Sheila Nelson--joint session for open student, faculty, and community members

“Cultivating Creativity in Everyday Life”

(Library 323)
Facilitator: Prof. Laurie Dashnau

 *7:00-8:15 p.m.: Prof. Gary Schmidt, "That Kid in the Back Row--The One with the Red Shirt”: talk and discussion, with references to Lizzie Bright

(CFA Recital Hall, Room 126)

Facilitator: Prof. Jim Wardwell

*8:15-9:00 p.m.: Writing Festival reception and book signing

(CFA atrium)

Saturday, April 5

*8:45-9:30 a.m.: Ms. Johanna van der Sterre, Ms. Sheila Nelson, and Prof. Gary Schmidt--breakfast with English literature, writing, art, and education majors who sign up in advance

(Campus Center, Lennox Dining Room)

Facilitator: Prof. Laurie Dashnau

*9:45-10:45 a.m.: Prof. Jack Leax--reading from and discussion re: Nightwatch 

(Library 201)

Facilitator: Prof. Lori Huth

Ms. Johanna van der Sterre, Ms. Sheila Stewart Nelson, and Prof. Gary Schmidt--1/2-hour critique/discussion sessions with individual students who sign up in advance

(locations TBA)
Facilitators: Prof. Jillian Sokso and Prof. Laurie Dashnau

*11:00 a.m.-11:45 a.m.: Ms. Johanna van der Sterre, Ms. Sheila Stewart Nelson, and Prof. Gary Schmidt--session on matters of vocation

(Library 201)

Facilitator: Prof. Jim Zoller

*noon-12:45 p.m.: Ms. Betsy Rutledge--lunch discussion re: reading and studying children’s literature

(Campus Center, Lennox Dining Room)

Facilitator: Prof. Stephen Woolsey

*1:00-2:15 p.m.: Ms. Johanna van der Sterre, Ms. Sheila Stewart Nelson, and Prof. Gary Schmidt--session on publishing, publishers, and the publishing industry followed by closing discussion and Q/A session

(Library 201)

Facilitator: Prof. Susan Bruxvoort Lipscomb


Laurie Dashnau



Faculty & Staff, Students

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