Dorothy Allison at the Hands On Literary Festival

Each year for the past three years my wife and I host in New Orleans a conference for writers, editors, and critics: the Hands On Literary Festival and Masquerade Ball.

It’s always nervous in advance: will people enjoy themselves? Will the program print out not weirdly? Will the wine and food we ordered arrive on time? Will the right books be available?

Despite those usual worries, the two days of panels and readings went really well. One great highlight of the festival was the presence of legendary author Dorothy Allison.

Although she called herself a “ruthless motherfucker,” she was incredibly warm, kind, and attentive, sitting in on almost every reading. And then she gave a spectacular, unforgettable keynote address, speaking to us about place, family, suffering, storytelling — and then reading a short story set in a dystopian future world.

“It was like being in church,” someone said, “only you actually felt inspired.”

I felt sad for everyone who wasn’t there…

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The opening party

Monica Prince

Monica Prince & Dorothy

And the Masquerade Ball is tonight! I’m looking forward to seeing everyone masked.