Boldface Writing Conference kicks off in Houston Special

Posted May 29, 2011 by Terence Yung
Poets, fiction and non-fiction writers all had the opportunity to be bold and face their inner-writer this week for the kick-start the 2011 Boldface Conference for emerging writers in Houston.
2011 Boldface Conference banner
2011 Boldface Conference banner
Glass Mountain Literary Journal
The conference, which ran from May 23 to May 28, was sponsored by Glass Mountain, the undergraduate literary journal at the University of Houston in Texas. The journal launched its premiere national issue earlier this year.
The idea for the Boldface Conference was the brainchild of Glass Mountain’s founding editor, Regina Vigil, who introduced the concept to the original staff in 2008. She wanted to model the conference after the prestigious Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, but also, make it accessible to the community of undergraduate and emerging writers.
“The name ‘Boldface’ was decided upon by the staff after many, many discussions,” said Tiffany Thor, co-editor of Glass Mountain and staff member of the Boldface Conference.
The writers each select a genre—poetry, fiction, or non-fiction—and present their work to a group of students in a relaxed and intensive workshop setting.
“The only criteria are that the conferees cannot currently or previously have been enrolled in a graduate-level creative writing program,” said Thor.
James Roberts, managing editor of Glass Mountain, noted that while the applicants were not accepted or declined based on their work, the conference does have a cap of 100 participants.
Graduate students from the University of Houston’s Creative Writing Program led the workshops, craft-talks and master classes. They also gave poetry and prose readings throughout the week. This year’s faculty included writers Chuck Carlise, Eric Higgens, Eva Foster, Laura-Eve Engel, Aja Gabel, Adam Peterson, Briana Olson, Thea Lim, Becca Wadlinger, and D’Lynn Rubio.
Tiffany Le, an aspiring poet, attended Boldface this year.
“What I enjoyed most of Boldface was the constant awareness,” said Le. “Everyone was there to share and discuss craft. Casual conversation became an opportunity to learn and evaluate theory.”
“The (one) thing we were passing around was our contortion of language,” she added.
One new development was the offering of one-on-one consultations with visiting writers. This year’s conference counted David MacLean, Darin Ciccotelli, and Aaron Reynolds among the Writers-in-Residence. Conferees had the option of submitting a manuscript directly to one of the three writers to discuss the manuscript.
The conference also capitalized on Houston’s vibrant creative writing community. Evening events included readings from conference attendees and established writers.
Young writers read and listened to each other at various Open Mic Readings throughout Houston, before hearing Darin Ciccotelli, Kevin Prufer, and Will Donnelly read some of their work on Thursday evening at the Poison Girl Bar, an artsy locale in Montrose.
On the last day, conferees explored themes of “professionalization” in creative writing.
Several prominent faculty members from the University of Houston’s Creative Writing Program—Ange Mlinko, Kevin Prufer, and Alexander Parsons—participated in a panel discussion. The trio spoke candidly about their experiences with education, publishing, teaching—and their lives as writers.
James Kastely, director of the Creative Writing Program at the University of Houston, also spoke about the many facets of graduate creative writing programs.
This year, Boldface continued the tradition of the Robertson Prize. Conferees can submit their work to the contest, which awards three prizes—one each in fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.
Next year’s conference will run from May 21 to May 26. Looking at future developments, Vanessa Villarreal, co-editor of Glass Mountain, said that it would be premature to comment on what could be expected of future Boldface conferences.
“We will continue to be community-driven,” said Villarreal. “And to tailor the conference to the wants and needs of the emerging writer.”
Villarreal also noted that the workshops will remain small so that participants leave with the feeling that they received ample individual attention and that the conference will maintain a relaxed, approachable environment where writers in all stages of professional development can thrive.
“We will always celebrate the rich diversity within the national community of emerging writers by encouraging everyone to join us in our collective growth,” she added.