Poet Maggie Smith is the author of “Good Bones,” a poem that went viral after the last presidential election. | Photo by Devon Albeit

Writers, readers and book nerds of all genres will converge at this weekend’s Writer’s Block Festival at Spalding University, immediately followed by the Festival of Contemporary Writing, which continues through Nov. 16.

The Writer’s Block Festival has been around since 2011, but this is the first time it’s being held at Spalding, said Louisville Literary Arts communications director Amy Miller. It began in NuLu but outgrew its space, then moved to the Tim Faulkner Gallery, which it also outgrew.

Now the Spalding location is advantageous for its space as well as its proximity to the Spalding Festival of Contemporary Writing.

Maggie Smith, who wrote the poem “Good Bones,” which went viral internationally after the 2016 election, will give the festival’s keynote address on Saturday, Nov. 10. Smith is the prize-winning author of three books of poetry and has received a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

She will be interviewed at the event by WFPL’s Tara Anderson in a live taping of the podcast “5 Things.” Smith is a guest of the University of Louisville’s Anne & William Axton Reading Series.

Smith’s speech will include readings from “Good Bones” and some from an upcoming book.

“I always like sharing new work when I give a reading,” Smith told Insider. “I tend to talk to the audience between poems, too, sharing background information or anecdotes about the work and what inspired it.”

Smith gave a reading and taught poetry at a workshop at the Writer’s Block Festival a couple of years ago. “I enjoyed it so much and was delighted to be asked back as the keynote reader,” she said.

When her poem went viral in 2016, it took her by surprise.

“Of course I was shocked and humbled when ‘Good Bones’ went viral; no one expects something like that to happen to a poem,” said Smith. “And I was floored when Public Radio International called the poem the ‘Official Poem of 2016.’ ‘Good Bones’ was written out of my own anxiety as a parent raising children in fraught times, and so to see it comforting so many people meant a great deal to me. Whenever I see people reading and sharing the poem, it reminds me of why I write — to process things for myself, yes, but also to share the work in the hopes that it might resonate with someone else.”

Smith taught a workshop at the 2016 Writer’s Block Festival at the Tim Faulkner Gallery. | Photo by Robert Pieroni

The Writer’s Block festival is a free day-long event with several readings and other events. There are agent pitches available, which are not free. There also are five workshops, and participants can sign up online. Those include:

  • Creative Nonfiction — Breaking Tradition: Crafting a Distinct Personal Essay, taught by Lisa Factora-Borchers, 10 a.m. to noon
  • Playwriting — Play at Writing, taught by Margo Buchanan, 10 a.m. to noon
  • Spoken Word Poetry — Say It Loud!, taught by Ching-In Chen, 2 to 4 p.m.
  • Poetry — Finna, the Politics of Possibility, taught by Nate Marshall, 2 to 4 p.m.
  • Fiction — It’s Just as Important Where your Characters Are as Who They Are: A workshop on the importance of place and setting, taught by Brian Leung, 2 to 4 p.m.

The Writer’s Block Festival is an excellent way to make connections, added Miller.

“What we hear most in our evaluations is how much writers like having an opportunity to connect with other writers,” she said. “Because we all work alone. It’s rare to find that person who has that same nerdy excitement about writing as you.”

Silas House | Photo by Tasha Thomas

The eighth annual Writer’s Block Festival takes place Saturday, Nov. 10, at Spalding’s College Building, 812 S. Second St. The event runs from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., with the keynote address at 5 p.m. Visit the website for a full schedule.

The Spalding University Festival of Contemporary Writing begins Saturday with the Axton keynote speaker Maggie Smith, then continues Sunday, Nov. 11, through the following Friday, Nov. 16.

Kentucky author Silas House also will speak Thursday, Nov. 15. Various Festival of Contemporary Writing events will be held at Spalding’s Egan Leadership Center and College Street Building, as well as the Brown Hotel. Plenty of free parking is available for the campus readings. All readings and events are free and open to the public.

Check the website for a full schedule.

Lisa Hornung

Lisa Hornung a native of Louisville and has worked in local media for more than 15 years as a writer and editor. Before that she worked as a writer, editor and photographer for community newspapers in Kansas, Ohio and Kentucky. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Georgia, and after a 20-year career in journalism, she obtained a master’s degree in history from Eastern Kentucky University in 2016.