YA Author Margarita Engle to Speak at Neustadt Lit Fest

October 1, 2019
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Text reads: Neustadt Lit Fest. Celebrating excellence and diversity in YA lit. Oct 15 through 19 2019 with 2019 NSK Prize winner Margarita Engle

Margarita Engle will deliver the keynote address for the Neustadt Lit Fest at 11 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 17, in the Reynolds Performing Arts Center, 560 Parrington Oval, on the University of Oklahoma Norman campus. The event is free and open to the public.

Engle’s keynote address, “Two Cultures, Two Wings,” celebrates her contribution to young adult and children’s literature.

Engle (b. 1951) is the Cuban American author of many verse novels. Her books have received multiple awards, including the Newbery Honor for The Surrender Tree and a PEN USA Award for The Lightning Dreamer. She is the 2017–2019 National Young People’s Poet Laureate and USBBY’s 2019 nominee for the Astrid Lindgren Award, the world’s most renowned prize for children’s literature.

“Margarita Engle is a writer near the pinnacle of young-adult and children’s literature,” noted Robert Con Davis-Undiano, World Literature Today’s executive director. “I’m so proud that the NSK Neustadt Prize will be the award pushing her to the very top.”

World Literature Today, the University of Oklahoma’s award-winning magazine of international literature and culture, announced Engle as the winner of the biennial NSK Neustadt Prize for Children’s Literature during the 2018 Neustadt Lit Fest. NSK winners receive $35,000, a silver medallion, and a certificate.

2019 Neustadt Lit Fest Events

The 2019 Lit Fest will feature public discussions with Engle and other visiting writers.

Engle will deliver remarks and sign copies of her works at the “Neustadt Night at the Museum: A Reception, Celebration, and Book Signing,” at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 16, in the Sandy Bell Gallery of the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, 555 Elm Ave..

Kathy Neustadt, one of the co-founders of the NSK Prize, will announce the winner of the 2020 Neustadt International Prize for Literature at that event, and almost 20 visiting writers will be available to sign their books. Refreshments will be provided.

Engle and YA novelist Lilliam Rivera, who nominated Engle for the NSK, will hold a public discussion about writing young adult fiction at noon Wednesday, Oct. 16, in the Scholars Room (Room 315) of Oklahoma Memorial Student Union, 900 Asp Ave.

The event will be followed by a book signing. There will be a free lunch, but attendees must RSVP for the event.

Rivera will speak about Engle and her influence on children’s literature at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 15, in the same location.

The festival will open with a roundtable discussion on Cuba and Cuban-American relations, featuring OU professors Sarah Hines, Tassie Katherine Hirschfeld, and Nancy LaGreca. Moderated by Charles Kenney, the roundtable will begin at noon Tuesday, Oct. 15, in the Scholars Room (Room 315) of the Union and will be followed by a Q&A session. The event is co-sponsored by OU’s Center for the Americas. There will be a free lunch, but attendees must RSVP.

Other festival highlights will include:

A dance performance by students from OU’s Contemporary Dance Oklahoma, who will perform adaptations of poems from Engle’s The Surrender Tree. Set to music composed by Caleb Westby and featuring original choreography by Austin Hartel, Leslie Kraus. and Roxanne Lyst, the performance will begin at 10 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 17, in the Reynolds Performing Arts Center and will precede Engle’s keynote address.

The 2020 Neustadt Prize jury and visiting writers will read from their work and sign books at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 15, in the Scholars Room of the Union. Participating will be Anna Badkhen, Kapka Kassabova, Joseph Legaspi, Philip Metres, Dunya Mikhail, André Naffis-Sahely, Vi Khi Nao, Felipe Restrepo Pombo, Katherena Vermette, Lilliam Rivera, and J. L. Powers. Refreshments will be provided.

Visiting writers Edith Campbell, J. L. Powers, and Katherena Vermette will host a roundtable discussion on multicultural trends in YA literature at 2 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 17, in the Scholars Room.

This year’s Lit Fest is partially supported by a grant from the Norman Arts Council. For a complete listing of all the 2019 Neustadt Lit Fest events, go to https://www.neustadtprize.org/events/event/. For more information and accommodations, call (405) 325-4531.

About the NSK Neustadt Prize

Established in 2003 by Nancy Barcelo, Susan Neustadt Schwartz, and Kathy Neustadt, the prize is awarded every other year to a living writer dedicated to having a positive impact on the quality of children’s and young-adult literature.

Kathy Neustadt sees the award increase as an important step to bringing the prestige of the NSK Prize into parity with mainstream awards. She commented that people need to treat “children’s and young adult literature as important in their own right, which they are!”

The Neustadt Prize website was relaunched in 2019 to celebrate the 50-year anniversary of the Neustadt International Prize for Literature, begun in 1969 (neustadtprize.org).

The site’s newly launched Education Network provides free downloads of teaching curricula focused on Neustadt and NSK Prize-winning authors.

A jury of children's and young adult writers, illustrators, and scholars nominate the candidates for the NSK Prize. The jury also selects the winner in a process that WLT Executive Director Robert Con Davis-Undiano describes as an “exciting adventure in which the best writers and scholars in the world praise and advocate for their own writer heroes.”

Past winners include Mildred Taylor (2003), Brian Doyle (2005), Katherine Paterson (2007), Vera B. Williams (2009), Virginia Euwer Wolff (2011), Naomi Shihab Nye (2013), Meshack Asare (2015) and Marilyn Nelson (2017).

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