Time to register for the 6th Biennial John Updike Society Conference

COVID-19 scuttled the 2020 conference, but while the situation remains fluid the John Updike Society board has decided to move forward with the conference, which will be scaled back to a 2.5 day event with no long day trip, held Oct. 1-3 with most people arriving the day before the conference begins. The conference is hosted by Alvernia University in Reading, Pa., with Sue Guay serving as conference director. Please note that the society board decided the responsible thing to do was to require all conference registrants to be fully vaccinated; Masks will also be required for indoor sessions except when eating or at the microphone (See registration packet at the end of this post).

The conference celebrates the Grand Opening of The John Updike Childhood Home, with its 10 rooms of wall hangings, furniture, and 10 cases of unique exhibits that people can peruse for the first time. The conference also coincides with a 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 2, Pennsylvania Historic Marker Dedication Ceremony and the unveiling of the National Historic Registry Plaque.


James Schiff will deliver a Friday evening keynote on the Updike letters project, with slides of some of his “finds” and a walk-through of the challenges that the massive undertaking posed.

The closing keynote will be by Max Apple, an award-winning writer whose works include The Oranging of America, Free Agents, and The Jew of Home Depot and Other Stories. Apple frequently turns up in the same anthologies and “Best of” collections as Updike, and, in fact, the Jewish Journal wrote, “Max Apple’s people are the folks you might see having lunch at a local diner . . . a John Updike without Protestants.”

Elizabeth Updike Cobblah, David Updike, Michael Updike, and Miranda Updike will appear on a panel, “The Truth Behind The Maples Stories Fictions”; Updike society member and Updike family friend Carole Sherr will talk about “Remembering John & Linda Updike”; and a session on “Updike’s First Wife” will feature Updike classmate Mary Ann Moyer, who was Updike’s “stage wife” in two plays at Shillington High School. Moderator: James Plath.

The conference also will feature walking tours of Shillington Updike sites and a bus tour of the area, with stops at the Pagoda, Robeson Evangelical Lutheran (Plow) Church and Cemetery, and Weaver’s Orchards to see the Plowville farmhouse.

Unique to this conference is that Friday will be spent at host Alvernia University, Saturday at the John Updike Childhood Home and Governor Mifflin Schools just across the street from the house, and Sunday at the conference hotel, the Couryard Marriott Reading.


August 12—Last day that academic proposals, Schiff Travel Grant applications, and requests to moderate a session will be accepted. See registration packet below for details.

September 2—Last day to book a hotel reservation and to register for the conference without a late fee. Again, see registration packet below for details.

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