The James River Writers Conference has always attracted special guests and highlighted interesting events. But this year, JRW is fortunate to be a part of the Virginia Literary Festival, a weeklong celebration of Richmond’s writing community organized by the Library of Virginia. Beginning Wednesday, October 17, the Festival will feature writing workshops, lectures, literary awards, and the JRW conference.
With the Festival in its second year, Mary Beth McIntire, the executive director of the Library of Virginia Foundation, states on the Festival website that “The philosophy behind the festival is to make it very accessible to a wide audience.” Through James River Writers’ fruitful partnership with the Foundation, the Library is introducing writers to Richmond’s thriving literary community.
The main intersection between this year’s conference and the Festival will be the Virginia Literary Awards. In its 15th year, the Virginia Literary Awards began in 1998 as a way for the Library of Virginia to recognize Virginia authors and topical books. However, the awards have grown from an intimate affair to a major event.
According to Broadside, the magazine of the Library of Virginia, the first few years awarded books in fiction, nonfiction and poetry. In addition to a Literary Lifetime Achievement Award, the People’s Choice Awards were eventually added. The Carole Weinstein Prize in Poetry and the Whitney and Scott Cardozo Award for Children’s Literature were added in 2006 and 2007 respectively.
Broadside also mentions that, in 2007, the popularity of the awards skyrocketed when Tom Wolfe was chosen to receive the Literary Lifetime Achievement Award. As a result, the Library of Virginia Foundation created a Literary Luncheon so that a larger audience could spend time with the finalists. Like a gracious Southern host, the Library of Virginia has invited attendees to take part in this year’s Literary Luncheon. Conference members will be able to mingle with this year’s finalists, such as Tony Horwitz, Chad Harbach, and Dave Smith, as well as listen to an interview with Tom Robbins, 2012’s recipient of the Literary Lifetime Achievement Award.
But the Literary Luncheon and the Virginia Literary Awards are just the end of an eventful week. On Thursday, October 18th, authors Daniel Stashower and Louis Bayard will be giving a presentation on the representation of Edgar Allan Poe in fiction and non-fiction. This event includes material from the Library of Virginia’s collections as well as an optional visit to the Poe Museum.
A special screening of Even Cowgirls Get the Blues will be shown for free at Richmond’s iconic Byrd Theater in honor of Tom Robbins’ nomination. Robbins will also be introducing the film. Friday, October 19th, will feature writing workshops for both adults and kids. James River Writers will hold a series of workshops for conference attendees at the Virginia State Capitol House. A special forensic science-themed workshop will be held for adolescents interested in mysteries and thrillers at the VCU campus. A complete list of events can be found at http://literaryva.com/events.html.
Many JRW members are eagerly awaiting the conference this weekend, anticipating their first page critiques or their one-on-one sessions with literary agents. But thanks to the Library of Virginia’s support, the Virginia Literary Festival provides much more to anticipate—the promise of even more opportunities for writers to be involved with Richmond’s creative community.