The Tennessee Williams Festival takes place from March 21 – 25, here in New Orleans. The festival celebrates its thirty-second year in 2018, and these are RM220’s picks for best panels and events this year:
Thursday, March 22
- Compassion and Personal Narrative with Lara Naughton. Personal narrative can be challenging. It’s painful to dredge up a pivotal experience and can be threatening to examine it from multiple perspectives. Yet if our goal is to write about ourselves and our antagonists as full-bodied characters rather than archetypes, we may need to confront our habitual judgments. This workshop will focus on writing prompts in order to generate new material or a new perspective on old material. The Historic New Orleans Collection (533 Royal Street), 10:30 a.m.
- Saints and Sinners French Quarter Walking Tour. This leisurely stroll, guided by Frank Perez, through the French Quarter focuses on New Orleans’ enchanting past with an emphasis on the neighborhood’s queer history and rich literary heritage. Hotel Monteleone Lobby, 2 p.m.
Friday, March 23
- Celebrating the Life and Work of Tom Dent. Native New Orleanian Tom Dent (1932-1998) was a founder of the Free Southern Theatre, and a member of Umbra Writers Workshop, which he helped found in New York and which was greatly influential in the Black Arts Movement. He wrote poetry collected in Blue Lights and River Songs and Magnolia Street, the play Ritual Murder, and others. Kalamu ya Salaam, editor of the newly published New Orleans Griot: The Tom Dent Reader, discusses his friend’s legacy with poet/professor Jerry Ward, who contributed an afterword to the volume, along with Abram Himelstein, who published the work with UNO Press. Hotel Monteleone, Queen Anne Ballroom, 11:30 a.m.
- Beyond Inspiration: Sustaining the Spirit of Your Craft. Four novelists discuss getting their work into the world and sustaining their creative energy through the long commitment of novel writing. C. Morgan Babst made a critical mark with her post-Katrina novel, The Floating World. Jennifer Haigh’s fifth novel, Heat and Light, was named a Best Book of 2016 by The New York Times, The Washington Post, and NPR. Gaines Prize-winner Ladee Hubbard is the author of The Talented Ribkins, inspired by W.E.B. Du Bois’s “The Talented Tenth.” Facilitated by Maurice Carlos Ruffin, whose novel, We Cast a Shadow, will be published in 2019. Hotel Monteleone, Queen Anne Ballroom, 2:30 p.m.
Saturday, March 24
- Richard Ford: What Makes a Good Writer. Join Pulitzer Prize-winner Richard Ford for this Master Class where he presents thirteen items that make up good writing, all of which he deems important and valuable. Hotel Monteleone, Vieux Carre Room, 11 a.m.
- Nasty Women Poets: Unapologetic Performances. This reading by contributors to Nasty Women Poets: An Unapologetic Anthology of Subversive Verse is by and about women defying limitations and lady-like expectations. These poets speak not just to the current political climate and the man who is responsible for its title, but to the stereotypes and trials women have faced dating back to Eve, and to the long history of women resisting those limitations. Co-editor Julie Kane, former Louisiana state poet laureate, moderates the reading of 15 incredibly talented women writers and performers. Hotel Monteleone, Vieux Carre Room, 1 p.m.
- All Kinds of Memoir. Memoirs provide a sense of human connection, let us feel we’re not alone. Writers approach the form in a variety of ways. In her new book, Beth Ann Fennelly talks about micro-memoir, Anne Gisleson tells her story through the framework of the Existential Crisis Reading Group, and Rick Bragg and Minrose Gwin make art out of family stories. See how these writers master the art of self-revelation to take audiences along on a personal journey. Moderated by Constance Adler. Hotel Monteleone, Queen Anne Ballroom, 2:30 P.M.
Sunday, March 25
- Human Rights: The Struggle Continues. This panel brings together writers and activists who have been on the frontlines of the human rights struggle for years to talk about gains and losses. Calvin Trillin’s civil rights journalism has been collected in Jackson, 1964: And Other Dispatches from Fifty Years of Reporting on Race in America. Elizabeth F. Schwartz served as co-counsel on the case challenging Florida’s same-sex marriage ban brought by the National Center for Lesbian Rights on behalf of six same-sex couples seeking the right to marry. Loyola professor Uriel Quesada is the author of eight books of fiction, including Mar Caníbal (2016) and editor of Queer Brown Voices: 14 Personal Narratives of Latina/o Activism. In her National Book Award-nominated debut novel, author and civil rights advocate Margaret Sexton Wilkerson puts a very human visage on the plight of three generations of a black family in New Orleans. Moderated by Tania Tetlow. Hotel Monteleone, Queen Anne Ballroom, 10:00 a.m.
- My Favorite Mistake. These writers, who all write intricately plotted, bestselling novels, know what it’s like to plunge down the wrong path from time to time. They talk about what can be learned from mistakes, the pain of recognizing that a work-in-progress has serious flaws, and how big blunders can lead to big breakthroughs. Hear Jami Attenberg, Alison Gaylin, and Laura Lippman talk about their wrong turns with moderator Alison Fensterstock. Hotel Monteleone, Queen Anne Ballroom, 1 p.m.
- A Panel of Poets Laureate. In this panel, moderated by poet Jericho Brown, we’ll hear from Jennifer Horne, poet laureate of Alabama; Jack Bedell, poet laureate of Louisiana; and Beth Ann Fennelly, poet laureate of Mississippi. Hotel Monteleone, Royal Ballroom, 1 p.m.
More information about the festival and the full program are available here. Panel passes ($40/day, $100/weekend) are required for most events; workshops, master classes, and performances are extra.