14 Sep

Author Readings and Literary Events

Posted in Community, DIY MFA

One great way to connect with the literary community is through author readings and other literary events.

If you live in a big city or a college town, finding author readings and literary events is not difficult.  Any school with a creative writing program or English department will most likely host at least a few literary events every semester.  For instance, The New School in NYC, where I recently received my MFA, has a great reading series and I am sure most schools with MFA programs have similar opportunities.  These days there are colleges with MFA programs spread across the world (and if you factor in regular English departments, that’s an even greater number of options).  So check out your local college or university for more info.  Local libraries and independent bookstores are also a great resource for finding readings or author talks.

I can’t speak much about literary events outside of NYC since this is the area I know best, but for those New Yorkers out there, let me share a few events/resources that I have found to be useful.

  • One best-kept-secret that I’ll share with fellow New York writers are the Gotham Writers’ Workshop free workshops in NYC.  You can find a listing of these free events here.  These aren’t exactly “readings” but more like 1hr lessons on craft, but they’re fun and they’re free!
  •  For those who love YA literature, check out the Teen Author Readings and the Teen Author Festival.  It features great writers of teen literature and is also fun and free!
  • Every fall, the Brooklyn Book Festival includes tons of great author readings.
  • Another great resource are literary magazines.  *Warning, shameless plug here*  Some of you have heard me mention Verbal Pyrotechnics in the past (BTW, we’re open for submissions).  This is a literary e-zine I’m involved with that is dedicated to teen literature, and it hosts readings in NYC.  If there’s a literary magazine based near you, check and see if they host readings as well.  This could be a great way to connect with local authors. 

But what if you don’t have a university or college nearby?  Where do you go to hear writers speak and read their work?

  • One resource that I really love is Poets.org where you can find poems and bios of several poets as well as some audio recordings of the poets reading their work.
  • Podcasts and webinars are other ways that you can hear writer’s speak (like the SheWrites radio link I shared yesterday).
  • And let’s not forget This American Life, which isn’t exactly an author reading, but often features authors and columnists and always tells great stories.

Now you might be wondering how often one “should” go to readings.  At the MFA program I attended, we were required to go to a minimum of 8 readings per semester.  For DIY MFA, it all depends on how much time you have and how much time you can dedicate to the community aspect of the program.  One reading per month would be ideal, but if you can’t swing that, do what you can.  The important thing is that you’re reaching out and meeting authors and literary folk face-to-face.  Listening to authors speak and read their work can be inspiring and motivating.

Today’s Task: Let your fingers do the walking and look up a reading or literary event you would like to attend.  Mark it in your calendar and plan to go.  Now tell me, because I’m dying to know, what event did you choose and why?


    Comments on this post

    1. Najela says:

      We often have Writer's Week at our school and we've gotten people like Joyce Carol Oates and more. We have a lot of local authors that are so much fun. The writer's week is usually held in February, but I'm sure that we'll have more readings this fall. Last year they have Maya Angelou.

      1. kathanink says:

        Hmmmm…I am going to look into this idea. I live "near" Chicago and Milwaukee, so there must be reading somewhere. I have never thought of this as something to do to expand my knowledge, so thanks!

        1. Bess Weatherby says:

          I've seen those Gotham Writers Workshop fliers all over the street — the yellow ones, right? But I didn't know they was legitimate. I'll pick one up when I leave my building today!

          1. Kerryn Angell says:

            This is something that I've always wanted to do but found it difficult when I was in NZ. Even now that is changing rapidly but one of the advantages of being in the UK is that there is a wider audience and so more opportunities to get out into the offline writing community.

            I've actually already got 2 such events lined up. Peter F Hamilton is a favourite of my hubby's and we are going to see him at Waterstones. Chain bookstores like Borders, etc have a lot of author signings.

            The Manchester Literature Festival is also on in October and has an event with Bernard Cornwall which I'm looking forward to. I'm a fan of his Saxon Series. Festivals and Cons are another thing to watch out for if you're in a large centre.

            1. Dave Symonds says:

              I am definitely going to attend the New School Writing for Children Forum: Getting Published Panel. Thanks for the link. They were actually at the Brooklyn Book Fest handing out info on their forums.

              1. gabi says:

                Bess – Gotham Writers' Workshop (yes it's the yellow leaflet bins all over the city) is definitely legit. They have a free workshop tomorrow night the Lincoln Ctr B&N that I might go to.

                Dave – I so want to go to the New School WFC forum but I'm teaching Tues. nights so I'm going to have to miss that one. Mind if I pick your brain and copy your notes after you go?

                1. Sonia says:

                  I just went to the Decatur Book Festival and saw great readings and Q/A sessions from amazing authors like Jonathan Franzen and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. It was an incredible experience.

                  Since you mentioned This American Life, I want to point everyone towards NPR's Writer's Almanac, which shares a poem every day. Sign up for the free podcasts! http://writersalmanac.publicradio.org/

                  1. Bess Weatherby says:

                    Wow that's so awesome. I love the word "free" 😉 Unfortunately, I'm leaving town tomorrow night. But let me know when you go to one — I would definitely love to join you! I only wish I could do your workshop. Unfortunately I work until seven. Bum. Bum. Bummer.

                    1. thebrawn says:

                      Just needed to say I'm loving the blog, and the photo of the Trinity College library, PLUS the namedrop of This American Life, sealed the deal for me. Consider yourselves bookmarked <3

                      1. graywave says:

                        Ha, I'm just back from Worldcon 68 where I went to about a dozen readings – got to see several of my sci-fi writer heroes strutting their stuff.

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