Téa Obreht Announced As LitFest Keynote Speaker

Annual event will also be moved to virtual format

The+keynote+speaker+this+year+is+Tea+Obreht%2C+an+award-winning+and+best+selling+author.++Obreht+will+speak+virtually+on+Thursday%2C+Feb.+25.+%22Obreht%27s+writing+really+draws+you+in+and+transports+you%2C+and+I+think+the+students+will+really+enjoy+her%2C%22+LitFest+Coordinator+Rachel+Pullen+said.

Photo courtesy of HPISD

The keynote speaker this year is Tea Obreht, an award-winning and best selling author. Obreht will speak virtually on Thursday, Feb. 25. “Obreht’s writing really draws you in and transports you, and I think the students will really enjoy her,” LitFest Coordinator Rachel Pullen said.

The New York Times bestselling and award-winning author Tea Obreht will be the keynote speaker for the 25th annual Highland Park Literary Festival at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 25.

Obreht was born in Belgrade, in the former Yugoslavia, and grew up in Cyprus and Egypt before eventually immigrating to the U.S.

Her debut novel, “The Tiger’s Wife,” won the 2011 Orange Prize for Fiction, and she was the youngest-ever recipient of the Orange Prize. Obreht was also a 2011 National Book Award finalist and an international bestseller and was named by the New Yorker as one of the 20 best American fiction writers under 40.

“She is an up-and-coming author, so we are very happy to have the chance to engage with her this early in her career,” LitFest Coordinator Rachel Pullen said. “She has already and will continue to do amazing things, and I am certain that the students will relate well to her.”

“She has already and will continue to do amazing things, and I am certain that the students will relate well to her.””

— Pullen

Obreht’s work has been anthologized in The Best American Short Stories and The Best American Non-Required Reading and has appeared in magazines such as The New Yorker, Harper’s, The Atlantic, Vogue, Esquire and Zoetrope: All-Story, among others. She serves as the Endowed Chair of Creative Writing at Texas State University and lives in New York with her husband while teaching at Hunter College.

Due to the coronavirus, all LitFest events will be virtual, but the committee said they have worked hard to preserve the activities and speakers. In normal years, the two-day event includes some 60 workshops between students and accomplished novelists, journalists, poets, songwriters and playwrights; a student-run open mic night; a writing contest; a parent book club; and a special awards breakfast.

This year, the student keynote assembly will still take place but will serve as a virtual pep rally. The workshop sessions with writing professionals will take place through Google Meets, and students will log into the chosen session while in their English period.

“We are somewhat excited about this because in the past, some sessions filled up, and students would be disappointed to learn that they could not attend the workshop that they wanted to, but with the virtual aspect, we should be able to get more students into each session,” Pullen said.

The writing contest will still be a part of the event, and the committee is also considering options for a service event. The only event that has yet to find a feasible substitute is FlickFest.

“This is disappointing FlickFest, as it is the main fundraiser for LitFest,” Pullen said. “There is a discussion about moving it to later in the year, but no firm decisions have been made yet.”

The student book club will be exploring Obreht’s essay “The Morningside” on Wednesday, Feb. 10, both in-person and virtually. Copies of that essay will be made available both digitally and in print.

“Each year, we try to improve and grow in different areas of LitFest, and I feel like last year was a huge success,” Pullen said. “This year will look different, but I am hopeful that it will maintain the feeling and give us an opportunity to improve even more for next year.”