When we think of writing conferences, we always think they take place somewhere in the Northeast, along a beautiful coast, in a remote location, or in a popular tourist destination. Houstonians however do have access to one of the best writing conferences right here in Houston.
Boldface is a summer writing conference run by Glass Mountain, the University of Houston undergraduate literary journal. The journal caters to undergraduates across the nation, but the Boldface Conference is open to any emerging writer who is interested in signing up. Inprint blogger Sara Balabanlilar interviewed Joseph Roberts, the head fiction editor of Glass Mountain, to get more information about this year’s Boldface Conference. The visiting writers to the conference include poet Blas Falconer, non-fiction writer Gail D. Storey, and novelist Coert Vorhees. To register and learn more about the Boldface Conference click here.
SARA: Tell us a little bit about Boldface.
JOSEPH: Boldface is a weeklong conference for undergrads and local emerging writers. The first Boldface was in June 2009. This year the conference will last from May 18th to the 22nd. The conference itself consists of various writerly things such as workshops (run by UH’s own Creative Writing Program graduates), Master classes (also run by grad students) where all sorts of different aspects of writing are taught or discussed, to visiting writers and open mics throughout the week.
SARA: Boldface is described as a conference for “emerging writers.” What does it mean to be an emerging writer in Houston?
JOSEPH: Well, “emerging writer” is actually this really interesting kind of umbrella term for the wide array of writers that populate the writing community here in Houston. Often someone that’s an emerging writer is someone that’s still getting their footing in the writing world, learning what it takes to get published. In my experience anyone can be an emerging writer. Literally. We’ve had PhD students in Math come to Boldface, and you know what? I consider that an emerging writer. A sixty-year-old housewife? Heck yes! And that kid from down the block? You know, the one that went to school for writing and who’s been out for four years. Is she an emerging writer? Double heck yes. Regardless of age or status, in my opinion an emerging writer is really a writer-in-training, someone that’s eager to learn about the art of writing. However, the only thing I wouldn’t count as an emerging writer would be anyone that has, or is getting, a graduate degree in creative writing; they’ve already emerged.
Regardless of age or status, in my opinion an emerging writer is really a writer-in-training, someone that’s eager to learn about the art of writing.
SARA: Can you describe a typical day at Boldface? What can writers expect to get out of each session?
JOSEPH: Each day at Boldface is a microcosm chock full of writerly wisdom and fun camaraderie. In the morning there’s workshop, in which a group of you (that special you that you are) and your peers will workshop either your piece or another group member’s piece. After that, master classes follow, then lunch (which is free BTW), which reminds me that I forgot to mention how breakfast is also free and served at the beginning of every day. I mean, how’s a girl to workshop AND learn about how to combat writer’s block or what writing a damn good voice is like (all real samples of past master classes) if she hasn’t got a breakfast taco or coffee in her stomach?
After master classes and lunch, a reading from a visiting author will commence followed by a short break before afternoon workshops. To cap it all off, each day usually ends with a craft talk by the visiting writer. At the end of each day what everyone’s really getting out of this is a limitless set of opportunities to grow as a writer. Whether it be in terms of craft and philosophy found in our master classes and craft talks, the critical lens that workshop puts your manuscript under (in the most loving and caring way possible), or the overall camaraderie between fellow Boldface attendees, it’s all working to make each participant a better, more confident, writer who has the tools needed to continue to write and be a part of the Houston lit scene.
SARA: What is the relationship between community writers (i.e. non-students who have signed up) and student writers during the conference?
JOSEPH: Just like with the emerging writers I think the two are writers-in-training in the end. The only thing that would separate them could be age or occupation, but even then they’re writers, and that’s more than enough common ground for them to communicate and relate.
Just like with the emerging writers I think the two are writers-in-training in the end. The only thing that would separate them could be age or occupation, but even then they’re writers, and that’s more than enough common ground for them to communicate and relate.
SARA: Which speaker/reader are you most looking forward to this year?
JOSEPH: Honestly? I’m interested in seeing all of them read/speak this year. Each visiting writer is a returning alumni of the PhD program, so it’s always a nice treat to hear from them and see how much they’ve developed from a graduate program and afterwards. But if I had to choose, I’d say I’m curious to hear Coert Voorhees read/speak this year. He writes YA, which I’ll admit I don’t write myself, BUT I am interested in hearing some of his work and seeing what advice he has on writing. Though I’m not a YA reader, I’m still open to it, and would be interested to see it surprise with a complex and literary side that I missed before.
SARA: How do you feel Boldface supplements our city’s literary community?
JOSEPH: Boldface is like a literary escalator: it feeds undergrads and emerging writers into the Houston lit scene, restoring it with fresh faces and enthusiasm while also expanding it. Personally, I wouldn’t be as well connected with the lit scene as I am today if I hadn’t gone to Boldface. During my conference experience I made friends, workshop buddies, and got a sense of how welcoming and expansive the lit scene is.
Boldface is like a literary escalator: it feeds undergrads and emerging writers into the Houston lit scene, restoring it with fresh faces and enthusiasm while also expanding it.
SARA: Lastly, as an emerging writer in Houston yourself, what do you find compelling about this city? And perhaps tangentially, what kinds of literary events do you attend/recommend to others?
JOSEPH: I’d say that for me, Houston is kind of a collage city. There are no zoning laws so everything’s just kind of lumped together, which gives it that weird variety that beckons one to peel back its papier-mâché layers.
Oh, I’ve got to give a shout out for the superb reading series run by our big sis mag Gulf Coast. They usually hold readings once a month at Rudyard’s pub, around 7ish, and they never fail to please. I always find myself walking away inspired by the awesome stories and poems written by UH’s grad students. Poison Pen is also another reading series that I think every newcomer has to attend; it’s where you meet the Houston writing community that isn’t exactly associated with academia. Lastly, everyone ought to attend the Glass Mountain monthly reading series. The monthly readings are held at Café Brasil, headlined by two undergrads and one graduate student, followed by an open mic.