The Tampa Bay Great Books 15th annual Winter Conference Weekend – “Reflections by Native American Writers”

Some thirty literature-lovers from as far away as California gathered at the Hilton Bayfront in St. Petersburg, FL, on the weekend of January 31-February 2, for the 15th Annual Mid-winter Conference organized by the Tampa Bay Great Books Council.

This year’s theme was “Reflections by Native American Writers,” and the formal program began Saturday morning, February 1st, with two discussion groups tackling La Rose by Louise Erdrich.  Leaders for the discussion included Anne Strozier, Joyce Carpenter, and Brenda Tipps.

Following a buffet lunch, Barbara Brown and Linda Feeney led discussions of Crazy Brave by American Poet Laureate Joy Harjo.  Later Saturday afternoon, guests enjoyed a docent-led tour of the James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art, just a short walk away in downtown St. Petersburg.

During the Saturday evening pre-dinner reception, attendees were treated to a special exhibition of authentic native American dance, featuring Cherokee brothers Jonathan and Chad Feather, and their friend Lori accompanying on the flute.   

The Conference wrapped up Sunday morning with productive discussions of Tommy Orange’s There There, led by Tom Walker, Catherine Haddock, and Pindie Stephen. 

Hearing others’ opinions about challenging texts is always a valuable part of the Great Books Conference experience. 

Discussion leader Anne Strozier (right, at head of table) joins Melanie Blake (Executive Director of Classical Pursuits) and Joyce Simard in weighing the comments of others in their morning group.

Even the most difficult stories can stimulate a humorous reaction, as displayed by Edythe Shapiro, Amanda Putnam, and Bernie Stephenson in response to comments by Joyce Simard while Melanie Blake watches at right.

Phil Stephenson makes a point in the discussion of “Crazy Brave,” while Peter Putnam, Pindie Stephen, and moderator Linda Feeney listen intently.

Moderator Barbara Brown makes an introductory point about the Joy Harjo memoir, as Donna McGrew and Alice Levine (to Barbara’s right) digest its significance.

Attendee Joyce Carpenter admires the detail in the and made costumes worn by performer Chad Feather.

More photos in gallery below. Click once on a photo to open the slide show.