Author Laura van Prooyen reads at Viva Tacoland for Gemini Ink. Photo courtesy of Gemini Ink.
Author Laura van Prooyen reads at Viva Tacoland for Gemini Ink. Credit: Courtesy / Gemini Ink

Writing can play a significant role in reflecting and driving social change and personal transformation.

Delving deep into this subject, Gemini Ink, San Antonio’s independent literary arts center, will present its second annual Writers Conference from Friday, July 21 through Sunday, July 23 at El Tropicano Riverwalk Hotel.

Attendees of all ages and experience levels can explore this year’s theme, “Writing for Change,” in a variety of panels, workshops, readings, and a small press book fair. The three-day conference will allow writers from San Antonio and other regions to come together to discuss themes that impact contemporary American literature, increase their knowledge of the literary world, and generate meaningful connections with one another.

Last year’s conference saw around 200 attendees, more than three times the anticipated amount, and Gemini Ink expects even more this year. To register, click here.

The featured writers, panelists, and guests this year exhibit a diversity of voices and backgrounds and will add their expertise to the conversations on “Writing for Change.” The 2017 featured writers include New York poet and recent recipient of the Jackson Poetry Prize Patricia Spears Jones; noted poet and assistant professor of English at Our Lady of the Lake University Octavio Quintanilla; fiction writer and recipient of numerous awards such as the John Dos Passos Award for Literature Helena María Viramontes; acclaimed poet and memoirist Brian Turner; and talent and literary manager and award-winning film producer Marilyn Atlas.

The conference also will highlight several speakers, each with their own take on how writing can enact change in one’s life or community, be it locally or globally. The keynote speaker will be Pablo Miguel Martínez, co-founder of CantoMundo, with featured talks by publishing industry experts Clay Smith and Tom Payton.

Conference attendees will get the opportunity to share their original works with an audience at Viva Tacoland on Friday night. On Saturday night, the featured authors will read excerpts from their work at the Centro de Artes in the Historic Market Square in downtown San Antonio. Both readings are free and open to the public.

A small sampling of this year’s panels reflects the diversity with which writers will be interpreting this year’s theme, with the titles ranging from “Writing La Familia” and “Politics with Your Fiction or Memoir, Anyone?” to “Interviewing Female Elders: An Act of Storytelling and Subversion.” Featured workshops will cover various genres, including one class geared toward both screenwriters and fiction writers.

Patricia Spears Jones Credit: Courtesy /

Patricia Spears Jones’ workshop “Democratic Vistas: Poetry-Making Now” will offer writers strategies for tackling the challenges of their times while staying true to their poetic voice. The author’s work frequently touches on the notion of writing as a means to surviving great losses and becoming more whole and more human. It reminds readers to be empathetic toward others and seeks to redefine damaging cultural standards.

“I was trying to think about what survives complete devastation,” Spears Jones once told BOMB Magazine. “The only thing that survives is art … As far as I can figure out, art’s the only thing that distinguishes us from the rest of the animals.”

Brian Turner. Credit: Courtesy /

Like Spears Jones, Brian Turner’s writing largely stems from one of the most difficult times in his life: his seven years as a soldier in the U.S. Army, during which he served in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Iraq. His experiences in Iraq prompted his first book of poems, Here, Bullet, which served as inspiration for the 2009 Academy Award-winning film The Hurt Locker. At the conference, Turner will teach non-fiction workshop titled “Memoir as Interior Renovation.”

“Sometimes, when we find ourselves within one of life’s tremendously intense experiences [the death of a loved one, for example], we might lift the pen and put words to the page,” Turner said in an interview in the Valparaiso Poetry Review. “… In a sense, we act as a type of witness to the moment, to the experience, when we choose to write during these times.”

Octavio Quintanilla Credit: Courtesy /

Octavio Quintanilla, a CantoMundo fellow and the South Texas regional editor for Texas Books in Review, will also weigh in on the topic of writers as witnesses in his workshop, “The Poet as Witness: Writing to Inhabit the World.”

“I am excited about the conference, which will bring top-notch writers to San Antonio to read, lead workshops, and engage in conversations that I am sure will interest audiences,” the bilingual poet said. “I look forward to gaining new insight about the writing process and about the ways writers write to change the world.”

Courtney Justus is a senior English major and creative writing minor at Trinity University. She is a summer intern at Gemini Ink and served as co-editor for The Trinity Review during the 2016-2017 school...