Connecticut turned the page in its support of the literary arts Saturday with the inaugural Connecticut Literary Festival held at Real Art Ways (RAW) in Hartford. Organized by Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) English professor Jotham Burrello, the festival brought writers to readers and celebrated all things literary.
For many, a big draw to the festival was the interaction between readers and writers. The event hosted several spaces for writers to read their work and for audience members to ask questions.
“I work with writers, and I totally love being able to see this side of the literary world,” Lesley Hubbard, a West Hartford resident, said. “It’s really, really cool to be able to really kind of dig into the world of a writer.”
The RAW Cafe was held in a small cafe-like setting near the entrance to the venue. It provided a casual atmosphere for attendees to sip some coffee while listening to poetry readings or music performances.
The Tiny Reading Gallery was held in a smaller back room. Writers would each take 10 minutes to read from their original works to an audience of about 20 people. This setting was more enclosed and darker than the cafe setting, allowing listeners to really focus on the presenter’s reading.
Several University of Connecticut professors and students presented at the festival. Professor Sean Forbes and student Ryan Amato each read from their original works in the Tiny Reading Gallery, and Professor Pegi Deitz Shea read in the RAW Cafe.
Two longer talks were held in the theater at RAW. Sloane Crosley, a humor writer, read from her book of essays and then engaged in a Q+A session with a moderator and the audience. Later on in the day, Amy Bloom read from her work. The Theater Talks allowed the audience to interact more with the writers and their works, since the writers read and then took audience questions.
Throughout the day, the festival held various panel talks. Themes included gender, writing about one’s hometown and young adult fiction, among others.
“I’m loving it, I’m very thrilled,” Joseph Brockway, a Connecticut resident and Spanish professor at Springfield College, said. “I went to this panel discussion — Families Living Between Two Worlds — and it was absolutely fantastic hearing these authors read from their work and then share their experience of being bicultural, bilingual.”
The festival also included a typewriter gallery. Attendees could type out their own stories or poems on provided paper or choose a prompt from a big box in the middle of the room. Once finished, writers could display their work by attaching it with a clothespin to strings running around the border of the room.
“It was so much fun to just go in there, just type my poetry, type my stories and do whatever I wanted,” Kristiana Torres, a CCSU junior English major, said.
The Reader’s Marketplace, held in the central room of Real Art Ways, featured a slew of independent bookstores, small presses and literary journals selling their work. Brockway said that it was nice to have all of the small journals and literary magazines brought together because it created a sense that literature was going on in the wider world.
By the end of the day, many had found that the slogan of the festival proved true: If you love books, you’ll love it here.
“I think it’s wonderful,” Torres said. “Actually my professor [Burrello] was the one who started the whole festival, so I’m here to support him, I’m here to support my classmates who are a part of it, and I just think that this is a wonderful thing, and it’s going really great so far.”
Stephanie Santillo is a senior staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.