SIUC is where my parents fell in love, a New York-Italian who talked with his hands and a quiet dreamer from the little southern Illinois town of Ellis Grove. SIUC and Carbondale were high school competitions, taking the SAT, the mall, movies, and the Italian Village, my parents discussing educational philosophy as they worked on graduate degrees, a bookstore on the edge of campus where I wandered the aisles in the possibilities.
Now I realize that I feel at home on a college campus because I grew up with SIUC. There was no line between Real World and Higher Education. They were so woven together that I still can’t distinguish where one ended and the other began.
SIUC was where I won my first award for writing, from the Southern Illinois School Press Association. Until then, I never knew that anyone saw good writing as an achievement. People strong in math were honored at my high school. You could do Something with that.
SIUC wasn’t known for creative writing when I was in southern Illinois. Now SIUC’s MFA program is recognized nationally. Part of that is due to their focus on community.
Each June high school kids come on campus for the Young Writers’ Workshop, and each October the Devil’s Kitchen Literary Festival pulls great writers to campus for free readings and discussions. Respect to Allison Joseph, Jon Tribble, Sarah Jilek and Grassroots, Annie Waring and the Center for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities, and everyone who works to weave college and community.
The Devil’s Kitchen Literary Festival is a celebration, and it’s for you, southern Illinois. Come and see.