Ken Waldman: Lighthouse Lit Fest Report


In the late 1990s, as I expanded my touring, and started traveling further east from my Anchorage base, I twice attended the Colorado Book Festival in Denver. There I met a couple, Mike Henry, a poet, and his wife, Andrea Dupree, a fiction writer. They’d recently started an organization, Lighthouse Writers, which offered classes for aspiring writers. Though we haven’t crossed paths in years, we’ve stayed in touch. I let them know about my books, CDs, and touring. They kept me on their mailing list. They’ve outgrown one building, and are about to outgrow another. Six years ago they started a literary festival to supplement their other programming. The concept proved successful, and this year’s Lighthouse Lit Fest ran from June 3 to June 18.

Touring in Colorado this spring, I was fortunate to take part, and led a craft seminar on Monday, June 13, titled Five Poetry Prompts. Later in theweek, I attended a salon titled What’s Fiction For, and was guest musician for the Friday, June 17, final party/literary agent reception. While the conference is wholly urban–there’s a mix of weekend intensives, craft seminars, evening salons, evening readings, a kickoff party, a final party/reception, and a weekend devoted to the business of writing–the two weeks of events make it possible for Denver residents to pick-and-choose in the midst of daily routine or else more fully immerse in scheduled activities.

Out-of-towners can participate for a few days, or longer, while enjoying a major city. This year’s faculty included regular Lighthouse instructors, who all have MFAs and/or have published acclaimed work, as well as writers/professors at nearby campuses, including Jake Adam York, who directs the Creative Writing program at University of Colorado at Denver and Nic Brown, who teaches at University ofNorthern Colorado. Visiting writers included David Wroblewski, who wrote the best-selling Story of Edgar Sawtelle. The five literary agents in attendance were all well-known and well-respected; four flew in from New York City.

At the final party, I met a geologist, Rob Wesson, who’s working on a book, and who has a home in McCarthy. That was my only Alaska connection at the festival. Otherwise, I enjoyed attending the salon, which featured a provocative discussion about the meaning of fiction for both writers and readers. (Consensus was that despite the ways of the world, the need for–and interest in–fictional worlds was not going to disappear in our lifetimes.) My seminar on poetry prompts drew an eclectic group, including published poets, high school Creative Writing teachers, and a novelist whose recent book was a finalist for the upcoming Colorado Book Award in fiction.

After all these years, I was heartened to see firsthand how Lighthouse Writers has evolved, and was pleased to participate in this year’s Lighthouse LitFest. For more information about the organization,

Scroll to Top