1455 Literary Arts Summer Litfest

I had the pleasure of attending the inaugural 1455 Summer Litfest in Winchester, VA in July. 1455 is a new literary arts organization with big plans—a residency space, arts center, and a program of year-round literary events. For now, it sponsors the Handley Reading Series at Winchester’s Handley Library (where I appeared last month), and put an enormous amount of energy into this festival, which, from my point of view, came off swimmingly.

I wasn’t able to be there for the kickoff readings on Thursday night, but I attended all but one of the panel discussions on Friday at Winchester’s Bright Box Theater (conveniently located right next to the Winchester Book Gallery, the fine independent bookstore that handled book sales during the festival) and all the panels on Saturday. The panels were excellent. Some highlights:

Tom Kapsidelis and Douglas Rogers spoke on The Art of Political Engagement and their books about the Virginia Tech shooting and a coup in Zimbabwe, respectively. Matthew Davis of the Alan Cheuse International Writers Center at George Mason University moderated a fascinating panel on The Personal Impact of Global Affairs featuring Yeganeh Torbati from ProPublica, Mike Miller from the Washington Post, and Pauline Kaldas, author of a memoir about her journey as an Egyptian American. Winchester was home to both Willa Cather and Patsy Cline, and a panel on Saturday morning presented Melissa Homestead, a Cather scholar, and John Lingan, author of a book about Winchester that looks at Cline’s relationship with the city. In the afternoon, we heard from Jeanne McCulloch and Robert Anthony Siegel about their memoirs in Family Affairs. The last panel of the day featured three fiction writers, Karen E. Bender, Louis Bayard, and Julie Langsdorf, talking about their recent books.

The event didn’t feel like a first-time affair. It ran smoothly, was nicely organized and well-attended. Stay tuned for future programs by 1455, including next year’s LitFest.

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