An island-wide celebration of the written word is coming up Thursday, April 11, to Sunday, April 14, at Vashon Center for the Arts, the Blue Heron, the Vashon Library and other locations.
The event, Lit Con, will feature award-winning authors from Vashon, Seattle and Tacoma in 75 events. Visual arts exhibits, based in part on the written word, will also be a part of the festivities, and a celebratory opening concert by the jazz group Pearl Django will open the event.
Angela Gist, the artistic director of VCA, said she was inspired to create Vashon’s Lit Con after taking part in a first-time-ever literacy festival held on Orcas Island last year. Gist said she grasped immediately how a similar shindig could be a success on Vashon.
“Orcas Island is a rural destination that has a lot of local talent, like Vashon,” Gist said. “It inspired me … I imagined a gathering from the full spectrum of seasoned, professional authors, those who are exploring the craft, and those who write for their own enjoyment.”
Avid readers, she said, are also a target audience for the event.
Gist worked with a steering committee to define Lit Con, with participation from such well-known names as Vashon poet laureates past and present, Cal Kinnear and Merna Hecht, as well as Mike and Gerry Feinstein, who have brought many writers to the island as part of VCA’s Arts & Humanities series. Poet Thomas Pruiskma also gave input, as did Molly Purrington, a Vashon resident who works as the director of advancement for humanities at the University of Washington.
Vashon Artists in the Schools manager Kaycie Alanis, along with Amelia Lincoln Ecevedo and Erin Rozewicz, helped create activities for youth at Lit Con.
The result of all this is a dizzying array of workshops, talks and exhibits. Some, including all youth events, are free, while others are ticketed, but event passes, now on sale, will get book-lovers and writers into the whole shebang.
The lineup for Lit Con is purposefully far-ranging and designed for all ages.
“I wanted to create an event where writers of every category could come together and enjoy each other’s company as well as learn from and inspire each other,” Gist said.
Lit Con will take over the business district of Vashon from 2 to 11 p.m. Friday, April 12, with a free “Lit Crawl” boasting readings by 20 local and regional authors in locations, including Snapdragon Bakery and Café, Relish, Gather Vashon, Vashon Brewing & Community Pub, Vashon Bookshop and Island Quilter. Voice of Vashon will also participate in the Lit Crawl, broadcasting readings taking place in its storefront studio.
Activities taking place on April 12 to 14 at Vashon Library and the Blue Heron Education Center will include two teen workshops and a poetry slam.
Authors who are part of the youth series will include Merna Hecht, storyteller and teaching artist; Judith Adams, who conducts poetry workshops for children and adults; Eric Olde, an award-winning children’s singer and songwriter; Karen Cushman, a Vashon author who has penned Newberry award-winning historical novels for young readers; Anna Witte, the author of the Tikitiklip Precolombino series and a professor of Spanish and Latin American literature; children’s librarian and author Linda Ernst; Daemond Arrindell, a performer, playwright, poet and teaching artist; Drego Little, an instructor at Rainier Scholors Program; and Tom Llewellyn, a children’s and young adults author.
Other Lit Con highlights, according to Gist, will be a main stage appearance on the evening of Saturday, April 13, by poet Gary Copeland Lilly, who will present “The Medicine Show,” a reading from a collection of work. Lilley will also teach writing workshops earlier on Saturday and give another talk about poetry on Sunday, April 14.
Michael Meade’s keynote talk, “Awakening the Soul: A Deep Response to a Troubled World,” will close out the conference.
Lit Con will also feature the visual art of multiple artists at VCA. An exhibit by Mark Milroy, Ed Holmes and Marguerite Garth is dubbed “Photography – that tells a story,” and another group show curated by Michael Elenko will show work that integrates the power of poetry and photography. Yet another group exhibit with work by 10 artists, “Word and Image,” will include broadsides, postcards and book sculptures.
The conference’s entire schedule, with ticket links for passes as well as a la carte single events, can be found at vashoncenterforthearts.org. The link to download a mobile app designed to help attendees navigate the poetry and prose-filled four days on Vashon can be accessed at my.yapp.us/LITCON on Wednesday, April 3.