Randall Kenan brings his new story to life for WCU’s Spring Literary Festival

Randall Kenan

Writer Randall Kenan exits the UC Theater stage as the audience applauds. Photo by Tanner Hall.

Randall Kenan, associate professor of comparative literature at UNC-Chapel Hill and writer of both fiction and nonfiction, presented his new short story, “When We All Get To Heaven” on the first night of the WCU Spring Literary Festival.

Kenan began his presentation with a couple of quick facts about himself and then immediately jumped into his narrative surrounding the fictional character, Ed Phelps.

From the outside, Kenan’s story seems as if it is simply an interesting, entertaining tale about a southerner from North Carolina visiting New York, but by the story’s end, it is clear that Phelps’ journey is more about memories and the diversity of people than anything else.

Kenan’s vivid language created the sounds, smell and look of New York City from Phelps’ perspective for the audience. Whether the characters were speaking with a British accent, singing or yelling, used his slight theater background to perform in character on center stage.

Through experiencing new food, seeing new places and meeting new people, Phelps was reminded that no matter how old some memories are, it is always refreshing to be reminded of blissful past experiences.

After Kenan finished the reading and waited for the long applause from the audience to end, he opened it up for questions and comments. A couple of the audience members pointed out that a few of the characters in the story seemed to be based on real people. As it turns out, they were correct in those assumptions.

Even though his story was fictional, there were elements of nonfiction sprinkled throughout. When asked where he draws his motivation from, Kenan said that he is always leaving himself open for inspiration by daydreaming and is constantly developing ideas.

“Writing is a continuation of reading,” said Kenan.

Kenan’s story will be released for the public later this year. A couple of short snippets from the reading are available below:

The 2013 WCU Spring Literary Festival continues through Thursday with events featuring artists from around the country.