Our annual writing conference in New Orleans is all about making connections and forming lasting friendships. Jeni’s goal, when she first dreamed up the festival, was to create a warm, supportive, inspiring environment for writers of all levels and backgrounds. It was supposed to be an antidote to the hierarchies and reputation-anxiety one sometimes gets in other parts of the writing world.
For the past three years, the festival has followed that vision. Panels and readings mix famous names with student authors; evening receptions (with free snacks and wine) encourage everyone to relax and share their stories. Local authors take visitors on tours of the city, sharing their knowledge and offering recommendations.
This year’s keynote speaker, Dorothy Allison, was pretty much the perfect embodiment of this spirit: a brilliant writer and exacting teacher who also sat in on almost every reading during the festival, taking the time to listen to everyone she could hear, and who freely offered generous, humble, and sometimes iconoclastic craft and publishing suggestions to the writers she heard (including me).
The masked ball, on New Year’s Eve, which concludes the festival, is just another way to build this egalitarian atmosphere: if you’ve been nervous about talking to anyone over the past few days, you will feel a lot more comfortable speaking to them in a mask 🙂
It was great fun, and while I talked a great deal, apparently I said nothing too embarrassing or silly.
Here are a few of the pictures attendees took this year: