Hands On Festival Wrap Up!

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Over New Year’s Eve in New Orleans, Burlesque Press hosted the inaugural Hands On Literary Festival and Masquerade Ball. It was a great time. Over seventy writers and scholars presented their work, editors and publishers offered advice for aspiring authors, and everyone managed to find a mask for the New Year’s Eve ball.

From the start, the idea was to create a space where writers and scholars at all stages of their careers could meet and share their work, avoiding the hierarchies and status anxieties that have (perhaps) befallen other larger events in the creative and scholarly calendar.

The other goal was to have successful writers from all forms and genres present together, and see what new creative forces could be unleashed.

A reading by Eva Langston, Melanie Neale McLendon, and Lynne Barrett

A reading by Eva Langston, Melanie Neale McLendon, and Lynne Barrett

Mark Nieson at the Writing the Mask: Gendered Personas panel

Mark Nieson at the Writing the Mask: Gendered Personas panel

Nate Kostar and Tyler Whittenberg debate the Poetics of Hip Hop

Nate Kostar and Tyler Whittenberg debate the Poetics of Hip Hop

Tawni Waters, Daniel Wallace, Dinty W. Moore, Jeni Stewart, and Jesse Manley perform a reading of Merridith Allen's new play

Tawni Waters, Daniel Wallace, Dinty W. Moore, Jeni Stewart, and Jesse Manley perform a reading of Merridith Allen’s new play

A personal highlight for me was the Plot and Suspense panel. I was able to present alongside two remarkable writers and teachers, Lynne Barrett and Bill Loehfelm, each of us offering the audience our best thoughts about designing a thrilling plot. We ranged over crime fiction, Greek mythology, fairy tales, Shakespearean tragedy, and the modernist short story, revealing the writing lessons contained in every literary form. It was a very cool time, and the audience seemed hooked. Here is YA author Madaline Herlong puzzling out one of my plot diagrams.

Daniel Wallace, Lynne Barrett, and Bill Loehfelm teach a class on plot

Daniel Wallace, Lynne Barrett, and Bill Loehfelm teach a class on plot

But it wasn’t just about work: one way that Jeni Stewart (the director of Burlesque Press) made the festival so relaxed and convivial was to feed everyone local delicacies and wine, as well as hosting a masked ball for New Year’s Eve.

Refreshments for the keynote, provided by Shortall's BBQ

Refreshments for the keynote, provided by Shortall’s BBQ

At the keynote address, Dinty W. Moore's sad stories of youth and adolescence made everyone laugh uncontrollably. (photo credit Dawn Leslie Lenz)

At the keynote address, Dinty W. Moore’s sad stories of youth and adolescence made everyone laugh uncontrollably (photo credit Dawn Leslie Lenz)

Then came the masked ball. It was kind of spectacular.

Casey Lefante: memorist, poet, and the festival's chief operating officer.

Casey Lefante: memorist, poet, and the festival’s efficiency guru.

Ira Sukrunruang: professional Dinty W. Moore introducer (photo credit Matt Peters)

Ira Sukrunruang: professional Dinty W. Moore introducer
(photo credit Matt Peters)

Talk flows when you're wearing a mask. (photo credit Matt Peters)

Talk flows when you’re wearing a mask.
(photo credit Matt Peters)

In New Orleans, dressing up always works.  (photo credit Matt Peters)

In New Orleans, dressing up always works.
(photo credit Matt Peters)

Bill Lavender, of Lavender Ink  (photo credit Matt Peters)

Bill Lavender, of Lavender Ink
(photo credit Matt Peters)

Who am I? What is existence? Should I have eaten that peach?  (photo credit Matt Peters)

Who am I? What is existence? Should I have eaten that peach?
(photo credit Matt Peters)

The festival was a great success. Thank you to everyone who was involved!

Stay tuned for information on the 2nd Hands On Festival and Masquerade Ball, returning to New Orleans for this coming New Year’s Eve.

Yours,

Daniel Wallace

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