Metro Weekly

1455 Summer Literary Festival is “unique and inclusive” by design

This year's event, set for three days in mid-July, includes more than 200 speakers appearing on over 60 panels

LGBTQ panel
LGBTQ panel

In 2017, the multi-genre writer and technology analyst Sean Murphy launched what he originally called the Virginia Center for Literary Arts as a nod to his home base in the state’s centrally located town of Winchester in the Shenandoah Valley.

Now called 1455 Literary Arts, the independent, inclusive organization, unaffiliated with any one academic institution or publishing house, welcomes all writers and artists, whether emerging or established, regardless of age, identity, location, or genre.

The goal is to help form creative alliances as well as collaborations with entrepreneurs and business leaders, and ultimately to advance the art and craft of storytelling in general.

In addition to offering residencies, workshops, and other activities and events for specific writers and authors, 1455 serves the broader literary community chiefly through a free, virtual annual festival.

“The 1455 Summer Fest is, by design, unique and inclusive,” says Murphy, 1455’s executive director. “It stands apart from strictly literary events as a free and dynamic experience. Anyone can find a topic of interest and drop in on intimate conversations among some of today’s hottest creative thinkers and powerful storytellers on the rise.”

This year’s third annual event, set for three days in mid-July, includes more than 200 speakers appearing on over 60 panels, a diverse roster including notable names such as CNN’s Lisa Ling, who will receive the 2021 Storyteller of the Year Award, and her network colleague Jake Tapper, plus famed bestselling gay author Louis Bayard, noted Discovery TV host Philippe Cousteau, Jr., veteran liberal columnist Eric Alterman (The Nation and The American Prospect), and several writers and editors long associated with the Washington Post, including Robin Givhan and Marie Arana.

LGBTQ panel
LGBTQ panel

The LGBTQ highlights this year include the panel “What Makes a Successful (Queer) Narrative?” featuring authors Kristen Arnett (With Teeth), Robert Jones (The Prophets), and Torry Peters (Detransition, Baby), and moderated by noted “Bookstagrammer” Lupita Aquino (7/15). “It’s All About Us: The Many Voices of Speculative Fiction and Poetry” panel features authors and DC Center’s OutWrite festival co-chair Marlena Chertock and former co-chair Dave Ring, plus queer Black writer and FIYAH editor Emmalia Harrington (7/15).

Other highlights include a performance of slam poetry by the young, trans, and nonbinary Boston-based spoken-word artist Robbie Dunning (7/16), the panel “Femmes in Verse,” featuring four poets who identify across a “femme” spectrum, including Sandra Beasley and Maggie Smith (7/16), and the workshop “Using Moth-Style Storytelling to Turn Traumatic Memories into Dramatic or Darkly Humorous Tales,” led by four-time Moth StorySLAM winner and Arizona-based writer Molly McCloy (7/17).

Newly minted best-selling Black authors Brian Broome (Punch Me up to the Gods) and Deesha Philyaw (The Secret Lives of Church Ladies) will be featured in a conversation moderated by 1455’s Murphy (7/17), while 2020 Booker Prize-winning novelist Douglas Stuart (Shuggie Bain), who will give this year’s keynote address as well as converse with Bethanne Patrick, also known as @TheBookMaven (7/17)

The 1455 Summery Festival runs July 15 through July 17. Registration is free. For a full schedule of events, visit

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