F. SCOTT FITZGERALD LITERARY CONFERENCE
The F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Conference was founded in 1996 to commemorate the 100th birthday of celebrated American author, F. Scott Fitzgerald, whose paternal ancestors were from Montgomery County, Maryland; Fitzgerald is buried, along with his wife Zelda and his daughter Scottie, in the cemetery of St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in Rockville, Maryland.
Its announced purposes are 1. To honor the works of F. Scott Fitzgerald and to honor prominent American fiction writers, poets, playwrights, screenwriters, and other literary figures and artists; 2. To enhance the literary arts by conducting an annual event, which includes seminars, lectures, and other educational activities promoting the written word; 3. To support, encourage, and assist aspiring and emerging writers and students interested in the literary arts.
In accordance with these purposes, the nineteen annual Fitzgerald Conferences to date have regularly included writing workshops, keynote speakers, panel discussions, films, a short story contest, and, as its centerpiece, the presentation of the F. Scott Fitzgerald Award for Outstanding Achievement in American Literature.
Since 1996, recipients of the Fitzgerald Award have included many of America’s most distinguished writers, all of whom have been present to accept: 1996: William Styron; 1997: John Barth; 1998: Joyce Carol Oates; 1999: E. L. Doctorow; 2000: Norman Mailer; 2001: Ernest J. Gaines; 2002: John Updike; 2003: Edward Albee; 2004: Grace Paley; 2005: Pat Conroy; 2006: Jane Smiley; 2007: William Kennedy; 2008: Elmore Leonard; 2009: Julia Alvarez; 2010: Alice McDermott; 2011: Maxine Hong Kingston; 2013: Robert Olen Butler; 2014: James Salter; 2015: Richard Ford. The 2016 recipient is Garrison Keillor. Taken as a group, Fitzgerald Award honorees have received 13 Pulitzer Prizes.
Speakers, panelists, and workshop leaders at the Literary Conference have also included many distinguished writers, scholars, and persons associated with Fitzgerald. Among the latter have been his granddaughters, Eleanor Lanahan and Cecelia Ross; the late Frances Kroll Ring, his secretary during his last years in Hollywood; the late Honoria Murphy Donnelly, the daughter of Fitzgerald’s friends Gerald and Sara Murphy; and the late Budd Schulberg, a distinguished American writer in his own right (author of the Academy Award-winning screenplay for the film On the Waterfront), with whom Fitzgerald collaborated on an ill-fated film project in the late 1930s.
Writers who have participated as workshop leaders, seminar panelists, or keynote speakers include Jim Lehrer, Kate Lehrer, Susan Richards Shreve, Azar Nafisi, Alan Cheuse, Patricia Browning Griffith, Olga Grushin, Merle Collins, George Pelacanos, H. G. Carrillo, Richard Peabody, Michael Dirda, Henry Allen, E. Ethelbert Miller, Eugenia Kim, James Grady, Richard Morris, Sylvia Morris, Jonathan Yardley, Marie Arana, Evan Thomas, Susan Cheever, Murray Horwitz, Bob Mondello, Mary Kay Zuravleff, Gary Krist, Richard Morris, Jay Parini, Laura Lipman, Maureen Corrigan, Stewart O’Nan, Margaret Talbot, and A. Scott Berg.
Among the scholars who have participated have been James L. W. West, Scott Donaldson, Alan Margolies, and Ruth Prigozy; they are among the leading Fitzgerald scholars in the world.
In 2012, instead of the Literary Conference, a Fitzgerald Birthday Celebration was held at Rockville Town Center. It featured a reading by Alice McDermott, a seminar on “What Makes The Great Gatsby Great,” and the showing of two films based on Fitzgerald short stories.
In 2013, the name of the event was officially changed to the F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Festival.