Three Literary Stars to Shine at SMA Writers’ Conference

By Mark Saunders

In its early days, San Miguel was at the nexus of silver and commerce. Today, it represents the “Creative Crossroads of the Americas,” bringing together the best talent from Mexico, the United States, and Canada for the 7th Annual San Miguel International Writers’ Conference & Literary Festival.

Literature: Three Literary Stars to Shine at SMA Writers’ Conference, Writing and Hope By Margaret Atwood. Thu, Feb 16, 6pm

Soul Talk, Song Language By Joy Harjo. Fri, Feb 17, 6pm

The Literature That Rises From the Streets By Elena Poniatowska. Sat, Feb 18, 6pm. Hotel Real de Minas, 250 Pesos

Perhaps nowhere is the concept of creative crossroads better represented than in the selection of three literary giants to serve as conference Keynote speakers, each from a different country: Margaret Atwood (Canada), Joy Harjo (United States), and Elena Poniatowska (Mexico). This is a rare opportunity for San Miguel residents and visitors to see and listen to a trio of internationally accomplished writers. The three keynote addresses are part of the Full Conference Package and are also open to the public by individual tickets.

Margaret Atwood

Man Booker Prize Winner Atwood, the author of more than forty books of fiction, poetry, and critical essays, will give the opening Keynote. Atwood ranks among the most honored authors of fiction and poetry in recent history. She’s won more than 55 awards in Canada and internationally, including the Arthur C. Clarke for her novel The Handmaid’s Tale, the Giller Prize, the Prince of Asturias Award for Literature, and the Premio Mondello. She’s been shortlisted for the Booker Prize five times, winning once, as well as a finalist for Canada’s Governor General’s Award seven times, winning twice. Her newest novel, The Year of the Flood (2009), the follow-up to her 2003 Giller Prize finalist, Oryx and Crake, is the subject of this year’s Big Read, a city-wide event for book clubs and readers that focuses on a single book.

Joy Harjo

Award-winning poet and performer Joy Harjo will give the second Keynote address. The theme of her presentation, “Soul Talk, Song Language,” merges her two passions: poetry and song.

Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma and a member of the Mvskoke Nation, Harjo’s seven books of poetry have garnered many awards including the New Mexico Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts; the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers Circle of the Americas; and the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America. In addition, Harjo has released four award-winning CD’s of original music (she performs nationally and internationally with her band, the Arrow Dynamics). In 2009, she won the Native American Music Award (NAMMY) for Best Female Artist of the Year for her song, Winding Through the Milky Way. Her most recent CD release is a traditional flute album, Red Dreams, a Trail Beyond Tears.

Elena Poniatowska

The Conference’s closing Keynote speech will be by novelist and journalist Elena Poniatowska, one of Mexico’s most celebrated and prolific writers.

Poniatowska’s first collection of short stories was published in 1954. Since then, her novels have garnered numerous awards, and she has also written countless essays, historical accounts, short stories and chronicles. Poniatowska is best known for her 1971 work La noche de Tlatelolco (published in English as Massacre in Mexico), in which she relates her interviews with survivors and families of those who died in the 1968 Tlatelolco massacre in Mexico City.

In 2006, Poniatowska was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the International Women’s Media Foundation. On Saturday, February 18, she will give the Keynote address on a relevant and timely theme: “The Literature That Rises From The Streets: Writing is like life, and we are all capable of being literary.”

Other Conference Highlights

Activist and writer Naomi Wolf will present an address on “Writing Riskily: Taking a Stand with your Prose,” on Sat, afternoon, Feb 18, at 1:30pm, also in the Real de Minas ballroom. As an added bonus to this year’s conference, she will also present a special two-part event on Mon, Feb 20, 3pm at Hotel Real de Minas, presented in association with Reel Docs and the Center for Global Justice. The event will open with a screening of Wolf’s movie, The End of America, produced by Avram Ludwig. Both Ludwig and Wolf will be present to answer questions. Then Naomi Wolf will give a short presentation entitled, “Protest 101,” about the critical importance of protests at this moment in history.

For complete information about the Conference and to purchase tickets, go to, or visit our table in the courtyard of the Biblioteca any Tue or Thu, 11am-2pm.

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