Monday, June 17, 2024

What brings Molly Ringwald and Guillermo Arriaga to San Miguel de Allende?

I recently sat down with Tina Bueche, executive director of the renowned San Miguel Writers Conference & Literary Festival, to learn how this event continues to attract top-flight literary talent to central Mexico year after year.

Founded in 2006, the bilingual, tricultural conference has hosted an impressive collection of literary stars, including Sandra Cisneros, Gloria Steinem, Naomi Klein, Barbara Kingsolver, Valeria Luiselli and Paul Theroux, among many other notable writers. This year’s lineup of keynote speakers continues in the event’s tradition of excellence, promising an unforgettable and inspiring experience for attendees.

Hollywood actress-turned-author Molly Ringwald is one of the keynote speakers at the festival. (San Miguel Writers’ Conference/Facebook)

“What this year’s keynoters tell us — and what we always hear — is that our conference has a unique reputation for being particularly fun, intimate, lively and content-driven,” explained Bueche, who is in her second year of running the famed conference. “For speakers and conference attendees alike, it’s all about building community while they’re here, a high-level literary community that they can be quite proud to be a part of.”

“Of course,” she added, “San Miguel de Allende itself is a major draw as well.” Bueche credits the conference’s perennial popularity to the charming setting, world-class faculty, consistently high-quality headliners, highly relevant and contemporary programming and great networking opportunities. 

“I also want everyone to know that this year will be even better than last year,” Bueche continued, “even more inclusive with additional opportunities for dialogue and interaction. We continue to experiment and refine the experience.” Those opportunities include post-presentation Q&A sessions, workshops, master classes, individual consultations, local author readings, a late-night poetry slam, open mic sessions and a storytelling night, as well as informal social gatherings throughout the week.

This year’s keynote speakers include Molly Ringwald, actor, singer and author of “When It Happens to You: A Novel in Stories” and “Getting the Pretty Back.” Ringwald is also the translator of Philippe Besson’s novel “Lie With Me” and the memoir “My Cousin Maria Schneider” by Vanessa Schneider, both originally written in French. This icon of 1980s teen films will share her unique perspective and storytelling prowess.

Mexican screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga will discuss the role of experience in creating autobiographical work. (San Miguel Writers’ Conference/Facebook)

Guillermo Arriaga is the author of “Guillotine Squad” and “The Night Buffalo.” He wrote the scripts for “Amores perros,” “21 grams,” and “Babel,” which earned Oscar, Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations for best original screenplay. In his keynote address, “Narrating Experience,” this celebrated screenwriter and author will discuss how experiences, reading and imagination give rise to fictitious elements that allow the reader to find structures through which to confront their own life experience.

A #1 New York Times bestselling author of eight novels including “The Exiles,” “Orphan Train” and “A Piece of the World,” Christina Baker Kline has been published in 40 countries. She has captivated readers worldwide with her poignant and emotionally resonant novels. Her keynote address, “Rewriting the Past,” will focus on using fiction to illuminate hidden historical narratives. 

Chris Pavone is the author of five thrillers, including “The Expats,” which won the Edgar and Anthony awards, and most recently “Two Nights in Lisbon,” an instant New York Times bestseller. With his pulse-pounding, intricate plots, Pavone has established himself as a master of suspenseful storytelling. His keynote address will explore using the expat experience as inspiration for writing.

The Thursday of the conference, Bueche noted, will offer a special emphasis on the Canadian contingent, with Canadian authors Silvia Moreno-Garcia and C.S. Richardson  serving as keynote speakers. “Both are truly spectacular, illustrating the creativity and diversity of literature currently coming out of Canada,” said Bueche. Representatives of the Giller Foundation, which administers the Giller Prize, will join the conference’s impressive number of Canadian participants. The Canadian Ambassador to Mexico also hopes to attend.

Silvia Moreno-Garcia, a Mexican-Canadian author has seen her novel, Mexican Gothic, selected as a highlight of the festival. (San Miguel Writers’ Conference/Facebook)

Moreno-Garcia is the author of “Silver Nitrate” and “The Daughter of Doctor Moreau,” among many other books. The Mexican-Canadian writer has won the Locus, British Fantasy and World Fantasy awards. Known for her genre-defying narratives, Moreno-Garcia’s keynote address is appropriately titled “The End of Genre.”

Moreno-Garcia’s book “Mexican Gothic” was selected as this year’s conference “Big Read,” with book clubs and individuals around the world invited to participate. Bueche noted that readers who both joined the Big Read and purchased a ticket to the author’s keynote will receive special fan seating.

C.S. Richardson’s novel “All the Colour in the World” was shortlisted for the 2023 Scotiabank Giller Prize. “The End of the Alphabet” won the 2008 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book, Canada & the Caribbean and his second novel, “The Emperor of Paris,” was long-listed for the 2012 Giller Prize.

The Spanish-language track of the conference is directed by Armida Zepeda, who also coordinates with the San Miguel de Allende Literary Festival and Book Fair (FELISMA). This year, FELISMA will take place the week before the San Miguel Writers Conference & Literary Festival, treating San Miguel residents to two consecutive weeks of extraordinary literary events.

The second member of the Canadian delegation is Giller Prize nominee C.S. Richardson. (San Miguel Writers’ Conference/Facebook)

“We are proud to increase the number of scholarships we can offer to local high school and university students to attend the Spanish-language track of the conference this year,” said Bueche, “thanks to the notable generosity of local businesses and other patrons.”

Tim Weed, award-winning author of “Will Poole’s Island” and “A Field Guide to Murder & Fly Fishing,” will be this year’s master of ceremonies. Conference packages and individual tickets are still available at the conference’s website, and the Hotel Real de Minas offers rooms at special rates. Bueche expressed her deep appreciation for the warm welcome given to the conference by the hotel and the San Miguel government.

Based in San Miguel de Allende, Ann Marie Jackson is a writer and NGO leader who previously worked for the U.S. Department of State. Her award-winning novel “The Broken Hummingbird,” which is set in San Miguel de Allende, came out in October 2023. Ann Marie can be reached through her website, annmariejacksonauthor.com.

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