New Literary Talents Shine at Writefest

The emerging writers event is booked with workshops, speakers and plenty of material.

By Amber Tong March 7, 2017

It's not just cowboys who are flocking to Houston this week, as literary aficionados attend Writefest, a week-long writing festival organized by local nonprofit Writespace, now through March 12.

In its second year, three traits still set Writefest apart from other literary conferences: its focus on short-form writing, the participation of editors from literary journals, and the fact that it was specifically designed for new and emerging writers.

“We really wanted to start supporting Houston writers, especially newer ones, in their endeavors to start publishing in literary journals. Some people were trying to do this already, but others didn't know where to start," says festival director Layla Al-Bedawi. "So we had the idea to start this festival that will basically unlock this entire world to them.” 

The inaugural festival’s success surprised both the organizers and the City of Houston, who supported the event through funding from the Houston Arts Alliance. It proved so beneficial to aspiring authors and journal editors that Al-Bedawi didn't even need to convince people to attend. For example, Shelly Criswell, North American Review managing editor, which is the longest running literary journal in the country, signed up on the spot when she met Al-Bedawi at another conference.

Thanks to the overwhelmingly positive feedback and increased participation, more programs are in place for participants. In the mornings, instructors lead workshops about one of four genres: literary fiction, sci-fi fantasy, poetry and flash fiction. In the afternoons, there are more panels that hone in on specific topics.

Attendees can enjoy evening readings from participating instructors and authors throughout the week at various locations, as well as the literary fair on Saturday at Silver Street Studios, which is open to the public. It’s not too late to purchase a day pass to hear this Saturday’s keynote speakers, Ken Liu, author of The Grace of Kings, and Kelly Luce, author of Pull Me Under.

That’s a big part of the mission of our organization—we want to build that community. We are there for all writers, regardless of their background, identities, genres or experience levels,” says Al-Bedawi. “We want to connect all of them.”

Thru March 12. Day pass: $55. For information about workshops, speakers and venue locations, visit writefesthouston.com

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