By E.C. Barrett
The seventh annual Spring Writes Literary Festival returns to downtown Ithaca this week with 30 workshops, panels and readings featuring local authors and performers over four days. The Trampoline Storytelling Competition, a monthly happening and one of the best-attended events last year, opens the festival on Thursday, April 28, from 7 to 9 p.m. at Lot 10, continuing their seven deadly sins theme with stories about pride.
Spring Writes is a program of the Community Arts Partnership (CAP) featuring events such as Writing Stand-Up Comedy, Exploring Graphic Novels, Writing Speculative Fiction and Developing Characters in Fiction.
As part of the festival, Cinemapolis is screening films by local filmmakers on Saturday, starting with Becky Lane’s discussion of representation in film and the “Bechdel Test.” Christopher Holmes will then present his film “Yahweh’s Sea Glass,” with a question and answer session to follow.
The Wolf’s Mouth Theatre Company and the Senior Theatre Troupe of Lifelong will perform original work, and two open-mic events—one poetry, the other comedy—offer the opportunity for community members to share their work onstage. All events are open to the public and free, with the exception of the Trampoline Storytelling Competition’s $5 cover charge.
According to CAP Program Director Robin Schwartz, “Ithaca has long been flush with writers of all sorts, not just the ones that are occasionally reviewed in the New York Times. There are hundreds and hundreds of writers of all stripes—poets, musicians, novelists, playwrights, journalists and more. A regional literary festival is an important way to get attention on the abundance of literary artists in a consolidated way. Writing can be a solitary pursuit and it’s great to give local writers a chance to get out and show off what they’ve been up to.”
Local author Eric Griffith has participated in the festival since 2011, following the release of his book “Beta Test.” For Griffith, knowing that this literary-minded town has a festival to celebrate writing, literacy and stories is one of the reasons he loves living here.
“These shows are a must for authors and readers,” Griffith says. “In this day and age of false closeness we get from social media—because even if you follow an author you don’t really know them—this is a great way to connect to readers, or for readers to get to know the minds behind what they read. Or meeting new authors they like even more.”
Griffith, a tech/editor for PCMag.com, is part of the Publishing Genre Fiction panel taking place Sunday at the History Center starting at 11 a.m., also featuring romance writers Doreen Alsen and Jen Bokal, and crime fiction writer Gigi Vernon. Panelists will discuss their experiences and the professional expectations of the multi-billion dollar genre fiction industry.
In her first year as artistic director for the festival, Jennifer Savran Kelly notes that Spring Writes offers accessibility to writers who might not be able to attend similar events elsewhere.
“Writers often have to travel and spend money to attend conferences in order to participate in and experience the types of craft workshops and panels that we offer for free as part of Spring Writes,” she says. “It’s a wonderful and rare opportunity for writers to learn from one another and network in this way.”
Kelly was drawn to the festival because it provides writers at all stages of their careers with opportunities to put their work in front of an audience. Ninety writers participated last year with some 900 people in attendance.
In addition to leading an Intro to Bookbinding Workshop, which requires pre-registration, Kelly brought new ideas to the festival including Friday’s kick-off event, Literary Jeopardy, and the closing reading, Story Time for Grown-ups. This last event of the festival features Ithaca writers reading short stories written by other Ithaca writers, while Bar Argos serves up a variety of hot toddies.
Kelly’s idea for this event was twofold: “to allow both the readers and audience to focus on the simple pleasures of telling and listening to a good story and to provide an opportunity for Ithaca writers to honor one another.”
Spring Writes is funded through the New York State Council on the Arts, the Tompkins County Tourism Program, and Wegmans.
The Community Arts Partnership of Tompkins County was founded in 1990 to serve as the arts council of Tompkins County, providing technical assistance, grant opportunities, and professional services and information to artists and arts organizations, as well as public programs that celebrate and support the arts community in the county. CAP has helped to distribute more than $3 million to artists and arts organizations in the community.
For more information on CAP, visit www.artspartner.org or e-mail Robin Schwartz at email@example.com. For more information on the festival, and to download a schedule of events, go to www.springwrites.org.
By E.C. Barrett