Writes Idea, Not Quite There

If you missed The Writer's Garret's inaugural Writes of Spring Literary Festival of Books and Authors over the weekend, you didn't miss much. The fest took place Friday through Sunday at the South Side on Lamar lofts, and it was sponsored by the likes of Borders, DART, KERA, Comcast and Office of Cultural Affairs. Yet even with all those powerhouses behind it, and with a massive publicity push, the place had a distinctive ghost-town vibe. Coming down Lamar toward South Side, I expected to see balloons and vendors on blocked-off streets, only to find my same ol' parking spot across the street from my favorite hangout, Absinthe. Not a good start.

If it hadn't been for the banner over the main walkway entrance, people probably wouldn't have known about the fabulous new festival. Ahem. I think the people at the information table were glad to help someone as I took a program and asked where I needed to go for the Men's Reading session. Along the walkway, tables were lined with vendors, authors and schools all hawking their latest. Yet with VIP receptions and intensive workshops scheduled, I expected a flurry of budding writers taking notes and handing out manuscripts. According to the insert in �tex!, the Writer's Garret's creative writing magazine, and Jerome Weeks' article in The Dallas Morning News, we were supposed to have been treated to more than 100 Texas authors participating in panels, workshops, readings, etc. On Sunday afternoon, I saw about four.

There were some highlights: The Men's Reading featured Dallas Observer darling Will Clarke, who was also scheduled to appear on the Ten Year Overnight Success panel. Instead of reading from from his book Lord Vishnu's Love Handles, which everyone more or less expected, he pulled out an article he was writing for Salon , which is due today. His laugh-out-loud bit on college life, frat houses and riding naked in the back of a truck woke up the room put to sleep by author Paul Christensen's readings immediately before.

Clarke said the festival had been sparsely attended during the two days he was there; it wasn't just my imagination. He was modest, though, when he said the festival would probably need to get bigger authors to attract bigger crowds. With a movie version of Lord Vishnu on the way, he may be one of those bigger authors next year, if Dallas doesn't lose him. To his credit, he said he'd probably be sticking around.

Other moments of scheduling brilliance included a workshop on songwriting with TrueHeart singer Ross Vick; a panel called Today's Myths: A History of Comic Books in America; and The Whole Truth Journalism session. Along with several options for kids and young writers, the festival had the right idea, just not the right planning. But you gotta start somewhere. We'll see how Writes of Spring pulls it together next time around. --Rich Lopez

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