from left: Ann Louise Bardach, Mollie Gregory, Kelli Stanley, Kathryn Otoshi, Grace DeSoto Ferry, Gaye Theresa Johnson, and Angela Peñaredondo

Santa Barbara’s artistic communities are constantly thriving, churning out physical representations of diverse concepts and stories. Yet the literary arts are sometimes neglected in the tactile universe of performance and physical manifestation of creativity. This May, on the heels of National Poetry Month and amid the fervent #WhiteWashedOUT social media movement (the goal of which is to bring awareness of, among other issues, the work of artists of color), Santa Barbara will celebrate authors, diversity, and the written word at the 11th Annual Women’s Literary Festival.

The Women’s Literary Festival highlights female writers, both established and up-and-coming, on Saturday, May 14, at the Fess Parker DoubleTree Resort. Festival attendees will have the chance to meet a varied collection of authors, hear presentations on the writing process, and join the crucial, continuing dialogue regarding literacy promotion, social justice, and racial and cultural inclusion. For those interested in literature and its importance in conveying the message of these pertinent social issues, the festival offers insight; not only is this event an opportunity to learn how authors hone and refine their artistic methods, but it’s also a chance to be part of the discourse on significant social issues presented via the written word.

This year’s featured authors include journalists, poets, editors, and essayists, as well as writers of short stories, children’s literature, and novels. Attendees will be treated to readings and discussions with the authors and a chance to share space with Santa Barbara’s vibrant literary community. After opening remarks and introductions, the festival offers guests a chance to browse the book room, where the authors’ works will be displayed and available for purchase, and several 45-minute sessions with the presenting writers. Lunch is provided, as well as coffee and tea to keep participants fueled through their daylong exploration of literature.

The 2016 festival features writers such as Ann Louise Bardach, longtime journalist for publications such as the New York Times, Washington Post, and Vanity Fair. Grace DeSoto Ferry and Mollie Gregory both began their artistic careers in filmmaking: Ferry transitioned to writing short story collections — her work highlights the racial divide she experienced as a Hispanic woman in San Antonio, Texas — and Gregory became a nonfiction writer whose work focuses on the struggles that women face in the male-dominated film industry. The discussion regarding race and cultural history in literature also includes the voice of Gaye Theresa Johnson, professor of Chicana/o and African-American studies at UCLA.

The festival also provides a more creative take on literature: Speakers such as Kathryn Otoshi, Angela Peñaredondo, and Kelli Stanley represent writers of fiction, poetry, and youth literature. Otoshi writes and illustrates children’s books, Peñaredondo is an award-winning poet, and Stanley is the acclaimed writer of historical noir-style crime fiction. The Women’s Literary Festival brings successful purveyors of literature in many genres to share their wisdom, their inspirations, and their individual creative processes. This event continues the conversation about the importance of literature and the greater consequence of creating art in general. —Maggie Yates


The Women’s Literary Festival is $65 for the day (includes parking, morning beverages, and lunch). There is a discounted group rate, so bring the entire book club for a lively conversation that goes beyond the text and into the personal intentions of the author. To find out more about this occasion and to meet like-minded writers and literature enthusiasts, see or email


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