San Miguel Writers’ Conference and Literary Festival Will Be Largest Ever!

By Susan Page

Seven years ago, the small group of writers and readers called the San Miguel Literary Sala said to each other, “We are a world-class destination. We should have a Writers’ Conference here.” Through personal connections, they were able to persuade John Berendt, author of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, to travel to San Miguel to keynote the event. Twenty-seven people signed up for the full Conference and had a wonderful experience.

Literature: Seventh Annual San Miguel Writers’ Conference and Literary Festival. Thu, Feb 16-Sun, Feb 19. Hotel Real de Minas. Many Individual Events Open to the Public.

The Conference rapidly grew in stature and reputation. In 2010, the Real de Minas ballroom bulged with more than 800 people to hear a stirring and memorable address by the inimitable novelist and essayist Barbara Kingsolver. The Conference has hosted Tom Robbins, Erica Jong, Todd Gitlin, Sandra Cisneros, Rebecca Walker, and a long list of other literary luminaries, and has brought hundreds of tourists to San Miguel for their first — but often not their last — visit.

The Seventh Annual Conference will be held February 16 to 19, 2012, with more than 160 people registered for the full Conference, traveling to San Miguel from Canada, the US and all over Mexico, and not one but three legendary writers set to keynote the event: Margaret Atwood from Canada, Elena Poniatowska from Mexico, and Native American poet and musician Joy Harjo from the US. The conference is “The Creative Crossroads of the Americas.”

Special Features

Unlike many writers’ conferences, in San Miguel we welcome readers as well as writers and have planned an entire series of workshops for those who love to read but may not themselves be writers. To encourage book groups to attend the conference together, we have established a reduced “group rate” for five or more people who register together. Also, we welcome local residents and visitors to attend individual events, in case they are not interested in the entire Conference. Special features open only to full Conference participants include pitch sessions with top literary agents, individual consultations with faculty members, and a private reception with faculty members.

Individual Events Open To the Public

The Conference keynote address by celebrated novelist Margaret Atwood promises to be an historic, not-to-be-missed event, on February 16, at 6pm at Hotel Real de Minas. On February 17, at 6pm, multi award-winning Native American poet and musician Joy Harjo will present the lecture “Soul Talk, Soul Language,” intertwined with her music. And on February 18 at 6pm, the remarkable, much beloved Mexican journalist Elena Poniatowska will present an address called “Literature That Rises From the Streets.”

Six other general session addresses are also open to the public, including a talk by feminist icon Naomi Wolf; an address by Michael Schuessler about two 20th-century women important in Mexico’s history: Frances Toor and Alma Reed; a presentation by Sharon Robinson, who is the daughter of baseball’s legendary Jackie Robinson; and a stirring talk by Kristin Iversen about growing up near the Rocky Flats nuclear test site. All of these events will be presented in English with simultaneous translation into Spanish with earphones.

Fabulous fiesta

The spectacular fiesta we throw on Friday evening of the Conference has become famous. Barbara Kingsolver was so impressed and moved by it that she described it in a special essay in the back of the paperback version of her novel, The Lacuna. For those traveling to Mexico for the first time, we pull together into one event every type of Mexican celebration we can think of. For an admission price of $US40  including an abundance of food and drink, we encourage everyone who is in town to be dazzled and delighted by this event, Friday, February 17, at 8pm at the Instituto Allende. Barbara Kingsolver said of it, “It’s one of the 10 best parties I have attended in my life, and I can’t remember the other nine.”

On Sunday evening at 6pm, the Conference will close with a play that is also open to the public, the award-winning one-woman show, That Dorothy Parker, written and performed by Carol Lempert, whose long list of TV and Broadway credits and rave reviews, including The New York Times, is impressive.

And finally, the eight-hour intensive workshops for writers, which take place on the two days following the Conference, are also open to the public.

Where to Purchase Tickets

Complete information about the entire Conference and all events mentioned above is available on the Conference website:, where Conference registration and tickets for individual events can also be purchased. Tickets and information are also available every Tuesday and Thursday from 11am to 2pm in the courtyard of the Biblioteca on Insurgentes.

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