Are you a writer? A poet? A troubadour? A book lover, a culture lover, a music lover? Then leave your mind and your calendar open, because the annual festival, Words & Music: A Literary Feast in New Orleans runs Nov. 15-18. We can’t think of a better site for the festival than New Orleans, the current and former home of some of the most prodigious writers and musicians of the modern age. Words and Music brings hundreds of authors, poets, writers, commentators, musicians, and word lovers to New Orleans to indulge in a feast of words, wisdom, and of course, delectable local food and drink.
This year’s theme is “Voices of New Orleans, Voices of the World: Celebrating 300 Years of New Orleans’ Contributions to the Arts.” Events include readings, workshops, panels, lunches, cocktail hours, dinners, and manuscript critiques by editors from across the country and for the up-and-coming writers among you. In conjunction with the city’s 300th anniversary, the Mayor designated the festival an official New Orleans Tricentennial event.
This year marks a major change for the festival—after 20 years, the Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Society has handed over the reigns for Words & Music to One Book One New Orleans (OBONO) to help carry the festival into the future. “One Book One New Orleans’ mission is to make New Orleans a more literate city, and what better way to support that mission than a festival full of people who know the importance of the written word?” explains Dr. Megan Holt of OBONO. With that change, all festival proceeds will go toward providing literacy resources to adults throughout the Greater New Orleans area.
Words and Music at a Glance
This year’s festival runs from Nov. 15-18. Discussions will take place at the Pere Marquette Hotel (817 Common St.), and special events will be held at venues including Café Reconcile, Ashé Power House, and Drink Lab NOLA. With so many events to attend, it’s hard to know where to start, but here are just some of the highlights:
- Literature and Lunch—The Family Table: Passing on Traditions of Food and Foodways is a lunchtime session at Dooky Chase’s Restaurant. Liz Williams, president and CEO of the National Food & Beverage Foundation, moderates the panel which features Chef Leah Chase, Justin Nystrom, Chef Isaac Toups, and Dr. Mona Lisa Saloy. The session, which includes lunch, costs $45.
- Make it Funky and Feminine: A Conversation with DJ Soul Sister is part of the festival’s “Black Justice and Joy” programming track. Specifically, this track will examine how art has been used to address issues that confront African Americans. During this conversation, DJ Soul Sister will delve into how she works within her chosen performance space, a male-dominated one, as an African American woman. Tickets are $15.
- Late Night Literature: Poetry Tribute to Aretha Franklin takes place at Whiskey and Sticks on Bayou Road. Several planned poetry readings kick off the evening, with open mic night following. Tickets are $10.
- This year’s festival includes several free community programming events, including Youth Programming, Artful Futures: Visual Vocabularies with Soraya Jean-Louis, and KNOW New Orleans with Freddi Williams Evans on Saturday morning. Be sure to register in advance.
- City of a Million Dreams: A Conversation with Jason Berry and Dr. Michael White explores Berry’s new book exploring the history of New Orleans at 300 years old. Tickets are $10.
- The Words & Music Dinner and Awards Ceremony, held at Café Reconcile, honors Mrs. Herreast Harrison for her work in community literacy. Through the Donald Harrison, Sr. Foundation, Mrs. Harrison has been instrumental in giving more than 35,000 books to local children free of charge. Tickets are $50.
- Literature and Lunch—Vengeance closes out the festival. Zach Lazar reads from his novel, which is laced with details from his own life, while a group of formerly incarcerated women known as the Graduates accompany the reading with a performance. Tickets are $50.