Photo: Leslie Pizzagalli

By: Leslie Pizzagalli

On Oct. 5, the first-ever Connecticut Literary Festival was held at Real Art Ways in Hartford, Conn. The event was organized by Yale Writers’ Workshop director Jotham Burello, and Director of Creative Writing at Quinnipiac University Kenneth Cormier. Literary lovers got to experience an all-day artistic affair from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in a rather intimate theater setting.

For those who missed out: “It was a blast,” said Burrello, who ensured that the event would indeed return next year. CT Lit Fest was a day filled with book readings, food trucks, and Q&A segments—not to mention a unique and cozy typewriter gallery, where attendees were encouraged to print out and pin up their stories, poems, or deep, dark secrets. In the middle of the room was a bucket filled with writing prompts, along with clothespins to hang up and admire your work.

Photo: Leslie Pizzagalli

“By all accounts, it was a wild success,” said Cormier, who was unsure of what kind of audience the event would actually reach. “I believe we ended up counting a total of between 700 and 800 attendees throughout the day.”

“The idea was to get as many of Connecticut’s poets, authors, editors, publishers, writing programs, and literary minded people together in one place for a celebration of all the talent and creativity that we have in our region, and I think that is exactly what ended up happening,” he added.

Photo: Leslie Pizzagalli

Throughout the festival were booths and sign-up sheets for student-run literary journals—an excellent networking opportunity for aspiring writers in the area.

Students from various colleges including Eastern Connecticut State University, QU, and Fairfield University all showcased their student-run literary magazines. CCSU in particular provided copies of their student journal, “Helix Literary Magazine,” and encouraged students from colleges and universities in Connecticut to submit creative works for a chance to be in future editions of the publication.

Photo: Leslie Pizzagalli

“The event is affordable and accessible. A lot of cool art stuff going on all scattered about,” said Professor Anthony D’Aries, the Masters of Fine Arts in Creative and Professional Writing Coordinator at Western Connecticut State University. “It helps prevent people from going to other states in order to participate.”

D’Aries wasn’t just excited about attending the event—he happened to be a part of the action as well. Students and event-goers could find him in the Tiny Reading Gallery, where authors and writers in attendance doing readings of their original work. D’Aries gave listeners a preview of one of his chilling short stories, Southport. “People make lifelong connections at these types of events. It’s a really special thing.”

Photo: Leslie Pizzagalli

When he wasn’t manning the (tiny) stage, D’Aries represented WCSU’s MFA in Creative and Professional Writing table with graduate student and MFA program assistant Brendan Dyer. “It was great to represent the MFA program at the Connecticut Literary Festival,” said Dyer. “When given the right place to chat and meet, I think students and writers become even more passionate about literary communities.”

Photo: Leslie Pizzagalli

On display were: pamphlets about this year’s Bram Stoker Festival in Dublin, Ireland, where D’Aries and Dyer will travel later this month; published books from some of WCSU’s faculty members; and a poster for the MFA’s online, student-run literary journal, Poor Yorick. Dyer had the chance to stroll around and appreciate just how students can work together to create projects. “I had the opportunity to meet editors from local literary journals. I think putting a face and a personality to the names I submit work to is important,” he said.

Despite the event taking place indoors, numerous literary fans happily spent the day celebrating and admiring the talent coming from so many different parts of the state.

Photo: Leslie Pizzagalli

Burello and Cormier found inspiration for the CT Lit Fest from the Quinnipiac student journal, “Montage.” Cornier explains that he wanted to assemble writers and editors around the state and plan an event like this for years. “When I mentioned this to Jotham, he thought that this would work well at a larger literary festival, where student and professional editors, poets, writers, and publishers could all exhibit their stuff together.”

Cormier was collecting typewriters with the idea of a festival of sorts in mind. He intended on some sort of writing marathon for his current students, faculty, and staff at Quinnipiac. As the plan kept evolving, Cormier ultimately decided that this idea would work great for some sort of gallery—thus the CT Lit Fest was born. Burello is unsure of the exact date, but after a turnout like this year, 2020 is looking bigger and better in terms of sponsors, writers, and volunteers to help keep this celebration alive.