Creativity Conversation joins authors and friends Alice Walker and Pearl Cleage

By Maureen McGavin | Emory Report | Oct. 2, 2012

Story image

Atlanta-based novelist and playwright Pearl Cleage (left) joins Georgia-born Pulitzer Prize winner Alice Walker (right) for a Creativity Conversation on Oct. 2.

It's a rare treat – writers Alice Walker and Pearl Cleage, in conversation on the same stage at Emory University.

This Creativity Conversation, moderated by University of Georgia journalism professor and author Valerie Boyd, will take place at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 2 at Cannon Chapel on Emory's main campus. The conversation will be hosted by Rosemary Magee, newly appointed director of the Emory Libraries' Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library (MARBL), where both Walker and Cleage have placed their personal papers. A reception, also open to the public, will follow the event.

Walker, Cleage and Boyd have been longtime friends. "To my knowledge, this will be the first time they will engage each other one-on-one in a public forum," says Randall Burkett, curator of African American Collections at MARBL, "and with their mutual friend Valerie Boyd leading that conversation, I think it will be an exciting afternoon."

The conversation comes at a fortuitous time. Cleage's new play, "What I Learned in Paris," opened earlier this month at Atlanta's Alliance Theatre, where she is in residence as its first artist in dialogue. Walker, a prolific writer, will revisit MARBL that week to use her archives for research; this year also marks the 30th anniversary of the publication of Walker's "The Color Purple."

Cleage said one reason she decided to place her papers with MARBL was the fact that the archive of her "most favorite author" — Walker — was there.

It's also a long overdue conversation, say Boyd and Burkett. Walker and Cleage previously were to take part in a similar chat at the National Black Arts Festival a few years ago, but the session was pre-empted by a scheduling glitch.

As moderator, Boyd says she will ask the two authors how creativity has evolved for them over the course of their long careers. "I'll have them talk about the intersections they see between their work, their other creative influences, the writers they read, how they've been inspired by each others' own work," Boyd says. I'd also like to ask them about younger writers, [and] whose work they admire. I know they've both been very encouraging of a new generation of writers.

I also want them to talk about their creative process, what their writing routines are like and how that may have evolved over the years," Boyd continues, as well as what overlaps they might see in their archives.

Boyd is a University of Georgia journalism professor and author of the acclaimed biography "Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston." She is working on a book about the history of black women in Hollywood called "Spirits in the Dark".