Outwrite — Illustration: Scott G. Brooks
There are many aspects of the annual OutWrite literary festival to enjoy, but arguably one of the best is also one of the most obvious: picking up new books from the myriad vendors whose tables populate the lobby of the Reeves Center.
“I like getting more titles for my to-be-read pile on the nightstand,” says David Ring, chair of the LGBTQ-focused annual event. “I always walk away with a lot of books, just being excited about new stories I’ve heard about.”
OutWrite — which takes over the Reeves Municipal Center on 14th Street NW this weekend — has a simple purpose says Ring: “To elevate and celebrate LGBTQ writers and writing.”
To achieve that, published LGBTQ writers are invited to perform readings of their own works, lead panel discussions on various literary topics, and teach writing workshops where aspiring authors can learn tricks of the trade. There are six workshops in total, all on Sunday, Aug. 4, including sessions on food and its role in world-building, the psychology of monsters in horror, and how to write about diverse bodies — both real and imagined.
On Saturday, there are 18 readings and nine panel discussions, with more than 100 authors reading their work and sharing their insights. The festival will also have a table with demonstrations on how to make ‘zines, as well as a number of book vendors and a used book sale.
“Saturday, the main day of the festival, is a different experience than a bookstore,” says Ring. “I think it’s really about the mix of personalities. Our featured writers this year are Jericho Brown, who’s a poet being celebrated for emotional honesty [and] who has a lot of literary and mainstream appeal. We have Kristen Arnett, who has a New York Times best-selling book that is just exploding off the charts with a wry, messy Florida humor. Then we have the poet Wo Chan, who is also a drag performer and brings a really acute sense of gender and play and performance to their work.
“To give you an example, with Wo Chan, instead of doing a straight up reading, they’re doing an interview with a local poet, Regie Cabico, where both Wo and Regie will be reading poems. But it’s while Wo does Regie’s makeup up as a drag performer.”
The festival’s attendees appreciate the chance to talk shop and get personal and professional advice from published LGBTQ writers. “The feedback we receive usually talks about the value of sharing space with other writers who are also queer or LGBTQ, and what that means for the sort of conversations that they can have,” says Ring. “Conversations that wouldn’t be possible in a setting or an environment that didn’t already have a group of like-minded folks.”
To top it off, every OutWrite event, beginning with the kickoff party at Ten Tigers Parlour on Friday night, is free and open to the public.
“At the opening party on Friday, we have a couple of performances planned, but it’s largely a place for people to socialize and connect,” says Ring. “We also held our first annual chatbook competition this year, and the winning chatbooks from that competition will be for sale beginning at the kickoff. We’re excited to put those into people’s hands.”
The OutWrite DC festival runs Saturday, Aug. 3 and Sunday, Aug. 4 at the Reeves Center, 2000 14th St. NW. The opening party is Friday, Aug. 2, at Ten Tigers Parlour, 3813 Georgia Ave. NW. For more information and a full schedule of readings, workshops and events, visit www.thedccenter.org/outwrite. Follow OutWrite on Twitter at @outwritedc.