Saints and Sinners Gather in New Orleans

“Coming Home” to the Big Easy

The 9th annual Saints and Sinners Literary Festival was held on May 12-15 at various venues in New Orleans.

The publication of Saints and Sinners 2011: New Fiction from the Festival was celebrated at a book launch party at the Hotel Monteleone on Thursday night. The short story anthology was published by QueerMojo, an imprint of Rebel Satori Press.

Photo: “Current Trends in the Publishing Industry” Panel Discussion: (lr) Kelly Smith, Fay Jacobs, Janet Mason, Radclyffe, and Sven Davisson. Photo © Ride Hamilton

Saints and Sinners Book Launch Party
Sally Bellerose | Photo © Ride Hamilton

Contributors David-Matthew Barnes, J.R. Greenwell, Jeff Lindermann, Felice Picano and the author of the winning story, Sally Bellerose, all read from their work. Bellerose has a track record as a winner; at last year’s Saints and Sinners festival Bellerose received the Bywater Prize for her debut novel, The Girl’s Club, which was available for purchase at the conference this year.

Felice Picano
Felice Picano | Photo © Ride Hamilton

On Friday, festival participants had a variety of master classes to choose from. Felice Picano discussed the importance of setting the story in history for its success, while Jess Wells explained how to make setting work in a story. Jen Violi encouraged writers to remember why they love to write, and Aaron Hamburger offered guidance on using eroticism effectively.

Achy Obejas addressed the topic of conflict, Michael Thomas Ford had practical strategies for the writing life, and Michele Karlsberg and Collin Kelley gave advice and ideas about social networking.

In the evening there was a party at the Le Petit Theatre, the oldest continuously running community theatre in the country. The lovely inner courtyard, complete with koi in a fountain, was filled with people catching up with old friends and making new ones, while a talented guitarist serenaded the crowd.

Saturday was the first full day of the festival. Festival-goers monopolized the lobby of the Bourbon Orleans hotel—lounging on the sofas and chairs, browsing at the tables offering books by festival participants. There were panels on self-editing, writing for the young adult market, and historical fiction, among others. Jewelle Gomez offered a panel called, “Poetry: The Silky Words of Seduction.” Jewelle was celebrating the 20th anniversary of the publication of The Gilda Stories.

interested audience members
Interested audience members | Photo © Ride Hamilton

The program also included a full schedule of readings, including one featuring Lambda Literary Award finalists Chris Corkum, Michael Thomas Ford, Ann Herendeen, Merri Lisa Johnson, David Pratt, J.M. Redmann and Kathleen Warnock. As the editor of Cleis’ Best Lesbian Erotica series, Warnock read a cento composed of sentences from each of the twenty stories in Best Lesbian Erotica 2011.

One unscheduled item that many visitors—and locals—made time for was a short walk to check out the Mississippi River. It was a sobering sight; steps by the riverbank were submerged in water, and there were whitecaps farther out.

taking notes
Taking notes | Photo © Ride Hamilton

Sunday morning there were more panels and readings. At four o’clock the festival concluded with the traditional closing party upstairs at the Bourbon Pub. Five new new literary Saints were inducted into the Saints and Sinners Hall of Fame: Jameson Currier, author and publisher of Chelsea Station Editions, Otis Fennell, owner of the fabulous Faubourg Marigny Bookstore, publicist Michele Karlsberg, author Achy Obejas, and Kelly Smith, publisher of Bywater Books.

2011 Saints and Sinners Hall of Fame Inductees
Hall of Fame Inductees: (LR) Otis Fennell, Jameson Currier, Festival Director Paul Willis, Kelly Smith, Michele Karlsberg, and Achy Obejas | Photo © Ride Hamilton

Many of those who attended commented that coming to New Orleans for Saints and Sinners felt like coming home. Organizing the festival takes an enormous amount of time and effort, so kudos to festival director Paul J. Willis, Greg Herren and Amie Evans for another successful event.