Literary Festival

From Pulitzer Prize-winners and United States Poet Laureates to cherished local writers, this annual gathering celebrates the oral and written word.

Each of the workshops held throughout the course of LitFest highlights literature beyond what is taught in the classroom. From storytelling to poetry slams, the purpose of this festival is not only to provide entertainment, but to celebrate and emphasize the importance of writing beyond what is required in school. Guests and MA faculty and staff present interactive workshops and students are encouraged to share their own work.

LitFest 2020


Tanya Boteju is an English teacher and writer living on unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations (Vancouver, Canada). Her writing life has mostly consisted of teaching writing for the past eighteen years to teenagers, and she is continually inspired by the brilliant young people in her midst. Her novel, Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens, debuted in 2019 with Simon & Schuster and was named a Top 10 Children’s Book by the American Booksellers Association. Her next YA novel is slated for Spring 2021, also with Simon & Schuster. Tanya is grateful for her patient wife, supportive family and friends, committed educators, sassy students, and hot mugs of tea. She hopes to continue contributing to the ever-growing, positive representation of diverse characters in literature.
A drag queen who’s also an accountant. A seventeen-year-old who loves quiet nights reading in her hammock but also discovers her inner drag king. A greasy bully who has secrets no one would ever guess. Discovering the unexpected and complex in your characters is half the fun of writing stories. In this workshop, we’ll experiment and play with developing characters who spring off the page to surprise both you and your readers. I’ll invite you to treat writing as discovery, lean into the unknown, and be cool with it when you topple over. My hope is that you’ll walk away with some energy and excitement for creating complex characters and at least a smidge of confidence in some of the processes that could get you there. Bring whatever you like to write with and a willingness to let your ideas splatter onto the page.

Greg Dalton is the executive producer and host of Climate One, the leading podcast and radio show. He founded Climate One in 2007 after traveling to the Russian Arctic on a global warming symposium with climate scientists and journalists. Today Climate One is a weekly radio show broadcast on NPR stations across the country and a podcast available on most leading platforms. Climate One conversations engage energy companies and environmentalists, Democrats and Republicans, and explore the scary and exciting aspects of the climate emergency.
Greg previously was a journalist for 12 years covering news in Beijing, Vancouver, New York and San Francisco for the Associated Press, South China Morning Post, McNeil-Lehrer News Hour, and Industry Standard magazine.

Justin Lagera is a passionate individual driven by a multitude of social issues. He joined Climate One in the summer of 2019 to investigate the impact that climate change has on just about every issue out there. Throughout his college experience, environmental issues elevated to the forefront of his priorities.
Justin recently graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, completing a major in Political Science and a minor in Conservation and Resource Studies. He plans to attend law school in the future in order to pursue a career in environmental law. In his free time, Justin enjoys playing the guitar, hiking and watching films.

As the story of climate change continues to unfold, we must recognize our essential role in shaping its development. This workshop will utilize Marshall Ganz’s Public Narrative framework to explain how we can use our personal stories to produce a broader narrative that exemplifies the climate change challenge. By linking three types of stories—a story of self, a story of we and a story of now—we can create a unique Public Narrative that conveys a powerful message for climate action.

Leslie Beach '04, Interim Director of Outings, has worked as an outdoor educator, greenhouse grunt, organic gardener, bookseller, summer camp counselor and naturalist, and graduate teaching associate in English and Creative Writing. She has her B.A. in English from Whitman College, and her M.A. and M.F.A. in Creative Writing from San Francisco State. She recently attended the Bread Loaf Environmental Writers’ Conference, and her poems have appeared in Natural Bridge, Birdland Journal, Narrative Northeast, Red Flag Poetry, and Random Sample. When teaching, she revels in place-based practices and observation of the human and non-human worlds that intersect around us.
Being a naturalist and being a writer may seem like vastly different pursuits, but they have some essential things in common. Both benefit from deep and detail-oriented attention to one's senses, both involve taking a few details and using them to flesh out a narrative or notion of what has happened or what could happen, and both contribute to a heightened awareness of what's going on around the observer. Come to the MA Garden for a chance to respond to a handful of prompts designed to expand your awareness and descriptive prowess, to spend a little time sitting on the ground (tarps provided but optional), and, if you feel so moved, to share a piece of what you've written with the group.


Megan Kallstrom ’11, works as the Legal Coordinator and an occasional contributor for Slate Magazine. Previously, she worked as a Development Consultant at PEN America and as a paralegal at Gunderson Dettmer. She graduated from Columbia University in 2015 with a B.A. in Creative Writing and History; while at Columbia, she worked as a writer, Head Copy Editor, and Staff Director for the campus newspaper. Megan lives in New York City.

“FAKE NEWS!” Since the 2016 election, we’ve all heard this phrase cavalierly tossed around to accuse various publications of inaccurate reporting. In an age of social media bubbles, deepfakes, and a polarized political landscape, how can news consumers actually discern what is fake news? And what is—and what should be—the role of balancing objectivity and editorial perspective in journalism? In this workshop, we’ll explore recent ways that the media has grappled with these questions, read articles from various publications and talk about how to analyze the quality and trustworthiness of the reporting, and discuss the ways that everyone can serve as responsible and critical news consumers in 2020.

Marci Vogel is the author of Death and Other Holidays, winner of the inaugural Miami Book Fair/de Groot Prize for the Novella, and At the Border of Wilshire & Nobody, winner of the inaugural Howling Bird Press Poetry Prize. Her poetry, prose, translations, and cross-genre inventions have appeared in Jacket2,  ZYZZYVA, Seneca Review, FIELD, and other publications. She is the recipient of a Willis Barnstone Translation Prize and scholarships from the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, North Street Collective, and Napa Valley Writers' Conference. A first-generation college student, Vogel earned a Ph.D. in creative writing and literature from the University of Southern California, where she currently teaches creative writing and literary translation.

The Poetry of Translation: "Languages are many, poetry one," asserted legendary Russian poet, Andrei Voznesensky. In this vibrant, hands-on workshop, we'll explore poetry from around the world and import global approaches for making new poems. Cut-ups, cut-aways, and sonic approximations are a few of the translation techniques we'll draw upon to generate a cache of new poems from what the French call "the workshop of potential literature." Knowledge of languages other than English is not required, nor is experience with poetry. All enthusiastic readers and writers welcomed!

Scott Laughlin’s fiction and non-fiction has appeared in Guernica, Great Jones Street, Post Road, The L.A. Review of Books, and other publications. Scott has an MFA from Converse College and is Associate Director of the DISQUIET Literary Program in Lisbon, Portugal. He currently teaches at San Francisco University High School.

Writing The Short Story, Anaïs Nin said, “The role of the writer is not to say what we can all say, but what we are unable to say.” This workshop will be a crash course in writing fiction and ultimately attempt to get what we are unable to say onto the page. In the time we have together, we’ll read examples, write our own stories, and share our work in a low-stakes way. All told, the workshop will provide the necessary foundation to launch you onto the path of writing your own, complete story.

Soman Chainani's debut series, The School for Good and Evil, has sold more than 2 million copies, has been translated into more than 30 languages across six continents, and will soon be a major motion picture. All five books in the series have been instant New York Times bestsellers. A graduate of Harvard University and Columbia University’s MFA Film Program, Soman began his career as a writer-director, with his films playing at more than 150 festivals around the world. He was named to the Out100 and has received the Shasha Grant and Sun Valley Writers’ Fellowship, both for debut writers.

Do you love the dark side? All of us have one. But what truly makes a great villain in a story? In this workshop, we’ll look at “what villains want” and how to use eight essential questions to write memorable antagonists that will keep people up at night.

Marisa Gomez

Marisa Gomez

English Department Chair