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King University News :: Katherine Paterson Returns to Bristol for Annual Buechner Lectureship & "The Bridge to Terabithia"

The Buechner (Beek-ner) Institute at King College celebrates its January birthday each year by hosting the annual Buechner Lectureship.  Past lecturers have included Frederick Buechner, for whom the Institute is named, Barbara Brown Taylor, and Ron Hansen.  This year, the Institute is pleased to welcome King College alumni and renowned children's and young adult author Katherine Paterson as the 2011 Buechner Lecturer.

This year's celebration will include a weekend of wonder and imagination. Events will commence with King's theatre program performing a dramatic rendition of Paterson's beloved book, Bridge to Terabithia, on Jan. 28, at 7 p.m. and Jan. 29, at 3 p.m. at the Paramount Center for the Arts in Downtown Bristol, TN/VA.  Paterson will give the Institute's Annual Lectureship at the Paramount Center for the Arts on Jan. 29, at 7 p.m., where she will respond to the play as well as sign books.  Prior to the lecture Paterson will attend the matinee performance at 3 p.m.  A meet and greet with the author is planned for 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 29, at KP Duty on State Street in Downtown Bristol.  The theatrical production will reprise at the Fine Arts Building at King College on Feb. 4 - 5, at 7 p.m.

Born in China in 1932 to Christian missionaries, Paterson spent much of her childhood there until the family was forced to flee during the Japanese invasion.  Her family moved often due to their missionary work.  While in school, Paterson began to write, penning many plays in which her peers acted.

In 1954, Paterson graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English from King College.  She received her master's degree from the Presbyterian School of Christian Education.  After teaching for a year, Paterson spent four years in Japan as a missionary.  She then traveled back to New York to pursue a second master's degree in religious education.

Paterson's first children's novel, The Sign of the Chrysanthemum, published in 1973, was a Japanese fairy tale, based on her studies in Japan.  Paterson's writing career includes 39 published works.  Her best known work is The Bridge to Terabithia, published in 1977, and adapted for film twice, a 1985 PBS version and the Disney/Walden Media production in 2007.  Paterson's most recent book is The Day of the Pelican, a story about a refugee family's flight from war-torn Kosovo to America.  She is also contributor to a serialized story, The Exquisite Corpse Adventure, available exclusively on the Library of Congress web site.  Paterson penned the final episode, which debuted in Sept. at the 2010 National Book Festival in Washington D.C.

Earlier this year, Paterson was named National Ambassador for Young People's Literature by Librarian of Congress James H. Billington.  Paterson, who will serve in the position through 2011, chose Read for Your Life as the theme for her platform.  Upon bestowing the honor, Billington said of Paterson, Katherine Paterson represents the finest in literature for young people.  Her renown is national as well as international, and she will most ably fulfill the role of a national ambassador who speaks to the importance of reading and literacy in the lives of America's youth.

Having been named a Living Legend by the Library of Congress in 2000, Paterson's awards are numerous.  She is a two-time winner of the Newbery Medal for Bridge to Terabithia and Jacob Have I Loved, and received the National Book Award for The Great Gilly Hopkins and The Master Puppeteer.  Other accolades include the Hans Christian Andersen Medal, the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, and the Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts, given by her home state of Vermont.

In addition to her new role as National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, Paterson is also a founding member of the National Advisory Board for the Buechner Institute at King College.

Paterson's books have been translated into numerous languages, adapted into films and plays, and acclaimed for stretching the boundaries of the genre, said Dale Brown, director of the Buechner Institute at King College.  Her essays and speeches have contributed to a growing sense of the significance of story for the health and development of the imaginations of young people.  We are truly honored and blessed to have Katherine present the Institute's fourth annual Lectureship and provide insights on the dramatic rendition of 'Bridge to Terabithia.'

The theatrical production, written by Stephanie Tolan in collaboration with Paterson with music by Steve Liebman, will be directed of Elizabeth Dollar, chair of King's Performing and Visual Arts Department and associate professor of theatre; set, lighting, and sound are designed Christopher R. Slaughter, associate professor of theatre; and music direction will be by Amy L. Oblinger.

In this musical version, Jesse, alienated from his family and the culture of rural Virginia, draws and dreams of becoming someone special.  He meets the new girl, Leslie, an outsider also, who encourages him to imagine, read, and continue his love of art.  Together they create the imaginary kingdom of Terabithia, a place where they can be strengthened and safe from others who do not understand them.  After a tragic accident, Jesse must draw on his new strength alone and share the magic of his dreams.

We are honored to perform 'Bridge to Terabithia' as part of the Buechner Institute's annual celebration, said Dollar.  Katherine Paterson's work speaks to children and adults alike about the power of friendship, imagination, and love.  Jess and Leslie are two outsiders that find each other and create a world of wonder and acceptance.  It is exciting to bring their story to the stage.

Tickets for all shows are $5.  Tickets are now available at the Paramount Center for the Arts at 518 State Street, Bristol Tenn.  Tickets for the Jan. 28 - 29 shows may be ordered online at or by phone at 423.274.8920.  Tickets for KP Duty's meet and greet with Paterson are $50, and may be purchased at the Buechner Institute at Tadlock Wallace Hall on King's Bristol campus or online at  Tickets for the Feb. 4 - 5 shows, also $5, will be available at the King's Tornado Alley Shoppe and at the door one hour before the show.

For more information, or to inquire about group rates, contact Dale Brown at or 423.652.4156.