Kweli International Literary Festival is presented and hosted by Times Reads/The New York Times. The festival will take place over four days from July 18 - 21, 2019 and include readings from debut and award winning authors, master classes and workshops, lyric film screenings and panel discussions, live music and more. The main event takes place at the New York Times Conference Center on Saturday, July 20, 2019; 9AM-5PM.



Kali Fajardo Headshot.JPG

Kali Fajardo-Anstine

Kali Fajardo-Anstine is from Denver, Colorado. She is the author of the debut short story collection, Sabrina & Corina from One World/ Random House, a historical novel to follow. Her fiction has appeared in The American Scholar, Boston Review, Bellevue Literary Review, The Idaho Review, Southwestern American Literature, and elsewhere. Kali has been awarded fellowships from Yaddo, MacDowell Colony, and Hedgebrook. She has an MFA from the University of Wyoming.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Susan Muaddi Darraj and John Paul Infante
The Writers Room
740 Broadway at Astor Place, 12th Floor
New York, NY 10003
6:30pm - 8:30pm

The Writers Room is the nation’s oldest and largest shared work space for writers. This event is free and open to the public. 

Friday, July 19, 2019

Registration required. 

4:00pm - 6:00pm

Demystifying the Process: Craft Elements of Fiction with Kelli Jo Ford

When we first experience the final lines of a story that moves us—one that is going to stay with us—it can feel as if we’ve been put under a spell. The way a good writer utilizes the elements of craft to create an effect on a stranger who may live in a different era can, indeed, seem mystical. In this workshop, we will use readings and exercises to demystify the process, paying close attention to elements such as characterization, place, point of view, and dialogue, as well as skills such as scene building. Even the books that offer us a glimpse into something mysterious began with a writer and a blank page.


7:00pm - 8:30pm
McNally Jackson Books
52 Prince Street
New York, NY 10012

Kali Fajardo-Anstine
Jaquira Díaz
Bassey Ikpi
Novuyo Rosa Tshuma
Tiphanie Yanique

This reading is free and open to the public. 

Saturday, July 20, 2019

9:00am - 9:10am

9:15am - 9:45am
Keynote by Kali Fajardo-Anstine

10:00am - 10:45pm
A. Community Track
All This Was Once Ours. Indigenous & Latinx women are rarely centered in discussions of the American West beyond the usual myths. Three authors will bring truth and nuance to the conversation as they introduce the audience to their new and forthcoming work. Featuring: Kali Fajardo-Anstine, author of Sabrina & Corina; Kelli Jo Ford, author of Crooked Hallelujah; and Kevin Maillard, author of Fry Bread. Moderator: Laura Pegram

B. Craft Track
The Personal is Political with Jaquira Díaz
Personal stories and essays can often be political, especially those that come from marginalized or silenced experiences. For some of us, our existence alone is political. In this craft talk, I will discuss writing about complex familial relationships in memoir or personal essay; the intersections of poverty, race, mental illness, and sexuality; the process of writing real people as multi-dimensional characters; and the challenges of doing so in the current literary culture. Finally, the talk will lead to a guided writing exercise to generate ideas for personal essays or memoirs.

C. Publishing Track
What Agents & Editors Look For.
A panel of respected literary agents and editors will discuss their manuscript wish list, and share passages from recent or forthcoming books which pulled them in as close readers. Featuring: Caroline Bleeke, senior editor, Flatiron Books; Chelcee Johns, editorial, 37 Ink/Simon & Schuster; Serene Hakim, agent at Ayesha Pande Literary; and Rachel Kim, agent at 3 Arts Entertainment. Moderator: Iwalani Kim

11:00am - 11:45pm
A. Community Track
Writing Trauma
Jaquira Díaz in Conversation with Anna Qu

“[A]nd I am going to keep telling this if it kills me.” Jaquira Díaz uses this quote by Audre Lorde as epigraph in the Secrets chapter of her memoir Ordinary Girls. True to her word, Diaz digs deep and tells us about “growing up a black sheep in housing projects in Miami and Puerto Rico,” and struggling with “depression and drug abuse as a queer, biracial, displaced daughter of an often absent Puerto Rican father and a white mother who fought her own battles with mental illness.” This conversation will look at how Díaz structured her memoir, the challenges in exposing closely kept secrets, both historical and familial, and more.

B. Craft Track
My People: Writing Within and Against the Canon with Tiphanie Yanique

When we begin to write stories or persona poems we often look to other writers as our guides. We ask: Are these writers prestigious? Did my teacher recommend these writers? Does this writer write from my socio-economic or cultural reality? These are valuable questions, to be sure. But in a literary world where many writers themselves have the same models due to similar educational backgrounds (MFAs, BFAs, ivy league schools) are we really getting the richest models for how to build character on the page? In this craft class, Tiphanie Yanique will get us to ask what we, as people, believe it takes to make a person. She will discuss how we can broaden our personal canons to reach beyond bland ideas of character building so that we can truly do the work of making people.

C. Publishing Track
Kweli Alum on Life Before & After Signing with an Agent.
Newly signed authors will share insights on how the editorial feedback they received from agents shaped their decision about who to sign up with; their surprise by the level of revisions that were requested by their agents before their manuscript went out on submission; how they keep busy during the nerve wracking submission process AND MORE. Featuring: Angeline Boulley (represented by Faye Bender, The Book Group); Eunice Kim (represented by Johanna Castillo, Writers House); and Samuel Kolawole (represented by Julie Stevenson, Massie & McQuilkin). Moderator: Serene Hakim

12:00pm - 1:00pm

1:00pm - 1:45pm
A. Community Track
Mitchell Jackson in Conversation with Edyson Julio
“Be careful when you fight the monsters,” Nietzche once wrote, “lest you become one.” Test this as a hypothesis in Mitchel S. Jackson’s “Survival Math,” and you will learn that it is almost always true. He became a “monster.” He doesn’t deny it one bit. But as much as this memoir is an uncomfortable confessional, it’s also a poetic indictment of the system that produced him. During this conversation, we’ll discuss the war between emotion and reason when you’re black and Latinx in the hood, negotiating morality in a place that incentivizes cruelty, and how writing helps us make sense of it all.

B. Craft Track
Lean Writing and Micro Edits with Weike Wang
To write is to fall in love with the sentence. Some writers can fill page after page, while other writers require very little space. When in the prose should we expand and then contract? How can we make better transitions but still invite the reader to do more ‘work’? This is not just about brevity but about sharpening the prose and thus a writer’s style. The lecture will include excerpts from published works, followed by discussion of how small edits and cuts can bring out the fresh and new.

C. Publishing Track
Race, Power & Storytelling
Tiphanie Yanique in Conversation with Vincent Toro
Tiphanie Yanique's fiction is deeply rooted in the culture of the Virgin Island. Vincent Toro's poetry draws from the traditions of Puerto Ricans on the mainland and on the island. Together, in conversation, these two authors from the Caribbean diaspora discuss how their work, and the work of writers that have influenced them, blends history and myth to create counter-narratives that push back against the imposed revisionist stories of colonial enterprises.

2:00pm - 2:45pm
A. Community Track
Coloring Outside the Borders
Discussion of the United States and Latin America often separates and flattens perceptions of the two when most of us experience the Americas as interconnected, dynamic, and multiple. desveladas is a visual writing collaborative project made up of a Dominican-American novelist Nelly Rosario, Mexican-American journalist Macarena Hernández, and Honduran-American poet Sheila Maldonado, who all write across borders of genre, disciplines, and nationality. Sheila Maldonado will present from desveladas's fotonovela in progress, born from conversations between themselves and the Americas. Featuring: Sheila Maldonado and John Paul Infante

B. Craft Track
Tell It Slant with Bassey Ikpi
How a story is told is just as important as what story is told. Author Bassey Ikpi offers access to how her genre-bending collection of nonfiction short stories, I’m Telling The Truth But I’m Lying, was created. 

C. Publishing Track
The Debut Novel.
Listen to the stories of fellow writers who have recently published their first novel, or whose novel is scheduled for publication in 2020. From the biggest writing challenges, to how to make their book stand out in the market, to what they’d do differently. Featuring: Novuyo Rosa Tshuma, author of House of Stone; Melissa Rivero, author of The Affairs of the Falcóns; and Kelli Jo Ford, author of Crooked Hallelujah. Moderator: Laura Pegram

3:00pm - 3:45pm
A. Community Track
The Art of the Essay. Emily Raboteau “does a deep dive in this photo essay on the greatest threat to the poor and communities of color.” Catastrophic climate change. This doesn’t get more personal for a mother of two who wants her kids to live and Mikael Awake, “a hardworking son of Ethiopian immigrants.” Featuring: Emily Raboteau, author of Searching for Zion; and Mikael Awake, co-author of Dapper Dan Made in Harlem, A Memoir.

B. Craft Track
Violence in the Age of Voyeurism with Novuyo Rosa Tshuma
Inherent in the writing of history as fiction is the question of how to capture violent periods in history. Which violence to portray and how? How not to wear down the reader with “violence-fatigue?” We will discuss how some of the finest novels have tackled these questions. This lecture will look at lessons I have learned from writing my novel, House of Stone, as well as strategies that have been utilized by writers such as Toni Morrison, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi and Paul Beatty, among others. We shall end with a discussion section, open to all.

C. Publishing Track
Latina Outsiders in Conversation. Latina Outsiders Remaking Latina Identity, the new anthology from Routledge, is a literary conversation about Afro-Latinas, Indigenous Latinas, hardcore chicas and others who do not conform to the stereotypical depiction of Latinas in the media. Latinas on the periphery of Latinx culture transform the culture with their unique perspective on issues like ableism, immigrant rights, and sexism. Their outsider perspective often is connected to queer identity, racial identity, subculture identity, and a multitude of intersecting identities. A slide show of art by Marina Gutierrez, Nova Gutierrez, Tania Romero, Jessica Pabon-Colon and others will be shared during this conversation. Featuring: Grisel Acosta, editor of Latina Outsiders Remaking Latina Identity; Stephanie Jimenez, author of They Could Have Named Her Anything; and Connie Pertuz Meza

4:00pm - 4:45pm

Exit left

6:00pm - 8:00pm
After party

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Registration required.

Creative Nonfiction and the Larger World: Expanding the Personal Narrative with Jaquira Díaz

In this Creative Nonfiction Master Class, we will examine how personal narrative can speak to something larger, more expansive. How does a news story become a vehicle for a personal story? How are personal stories connected to the larger world? How can personal narrative engage with music and history and place and culture and science? We will read and examine poetry and essays that incorporate music, art, history, science, the news, and discuss ways to expand personal essays.

Click here for details on the festival presenters. 

Click here for the scholarship application. 



Times Reads/The New York Times
Victoria Sanders & Associates
Childrens Book Council







Click here for details on the 2018 festival presenters.

Click here for details on the 2018 program.


Times Reads/The New York Times
Barry Goldblatt Literary LLC
Victoria Sanders & Associates



Click here for more highlights from Kweli festivals over the years at Dumbo Sky and Poets Den Theatre.