In the heart of New Orleans, a city renowned for its vibrant culture and artistic flair, an extraordinary event unfolds every year. The Saints and Sinners Literary Festival, an annual LGBTQ literary conference, not only celebrates the diverse and dynamic LGBTQ literary community but also serves as a platform for networking, nurturing, and reveling in the power of words. This blog post takes a closer look at the festival, its origins, offerings, and the impact it has on both established and emerging authors.
Saints and Sinners (SAS) began its journey in 2003, founded in collaboration with the NO/AIDS Task Force. It started as a creative outlet to showcase the LGBTQ literary community and offer vital HIV/AIDS information. Over the years, it has grown into a year-round community of shared ideals and encouragement. Executive director Paul Willis encapsulates the essence of the festival by stating that it's a place where writers are reminded why they write and why their voices matter in the world.
The festival celebrates New Orleans' longstanding attraction for LGBTQ writers. It provides a space for authors, students, and readers to network, hone their craft, and, in true New Orleans fashion, let the good times roll.
The offerings at the festival are diverse and artistically rich. SAS features two full days of panel discussions on topics ranging from publishing and marketing to retrospectives on the LGBTQ movement. Nearly fifty writers, including new voices and literary icons, grace the reading series.
The 2019 Festival included discussions on themes such as Love and Desire, Queer Literary Hook-Ups, Dykes To Watch Out For, poetry, spirituality, and "The Power of Sexuality in Contemporary Literature." With over twenty discussions to choose from, the festival ensures a stimulating and engaging experience for all attendees.
In 2019, the Southern Rep Theatre partnered with SAS to present the world premiere of "Azul," an evocative new play by New Orleans native playwright Christina Quintana. The Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival also joined hands with SAS, presenting a Poetry Slam competition and a Saints + Sinners-themed Drag Show.
The festival's three-day event boasts noted speakers and authors, including Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Cunningham, Lambda Literary Award finalist Leona Beasley, and National Book Award winner Justin Phillip Reed, among others.
SAS also offers a writing workshop series led by renowned authors like Dorothy Allison and Judy Grahn. For those interested in exploring the city's queer history and literary heritage, the Saints + Sinners French Quarter Walking Tour, led by LGBTQ historian Frank Perez, provides an enriching experience.
The festival offers various ticketing options, including a weekend pass, a partner party pass, day passes, and single session tickets. Special student rates are also available, making the festival accessible to a wider audience.
The festival's reach extends beyond the borders of the United States. The 2019 SAS Fiction contest received entries from 28 different states and 8 countries, including Australia, Canada, England, France, Indonesia, Ireland, and Trinidad & Tobago.
Saints and Sinners Literary Festival stands as a testament to the power of literature and the importance of LGBTQ voices in the literary world. It fosters a sense of community, encourages creativity, and provides a platform for voices that need to be heard.
In a world where the need for understanding, empathy, and acceptance is ever-growing, events like Saints and Sinners play a crucial role. They remind us of the universal language of literature and the way it can bring people together, regardless of their background or orientation.
With its rich history, diverse offerings, and commitment to the LGBTQ community, Saints and Sinners continues to be a beacon of hope and a celebration of literary excellence. It's not just a festival; it's a movement, a community, and a reminder of why words matter. It's a place where every voice is honored, every story is cherished, and every writer is a saint, a sinner, and a storyteller.