Not so long ago, a community of Benicia storytellers joined together with a common purpose. They launched a non-profit organization devoted to the written word, because they believed in the riches gained when we capture our history, celebrate our creativity, and speak our hearts. Now that organization, Benicia Literary Arts, adds a new facet to our vibrant art scene.
Its mission is three-fold, explains co-president Josanna Berkow: to share the stories that define our community, to help writers hone their craft, and to provide a means to disseminate those stories. In their first year, they sponsored poetry readings, published a poetry anthology and organized professionally led writers’ workshops. Fiction, non-fiction and poetry are all supported. They are currently developing even more ways for outreach, such as writers’ groups and even a publishing arm.
Lois Requist, 2012-2014 Benicia Poet Laureate and organization board member said, “The workshops and the various events that we have allow people to be involved in literary events and learn in the process.”
Benicia Literary Arts formed in January 2012 when two organizations merged—Carquinez Review and The Benicia Literary Guild. Carquinez Review sought to provide a publishing forum for local writers, while the Benicia Literary Guild focused on supporting writers with instruction, inspiration and more.
After a productive first year as one entity, they are turning their attention to the next generation. In late October, and in conjunction with Arts Benicia and local educators, they plan to host the KidLit symposium and launch an outreach to children. The goal is to promote the reading and writing of child and young adult fiction. Inspired by San Francisco’s literary event Litquake, the symposium will feature a panel discussion and plan spin-off events. They hope to foster partnerships with other community organizations, host “community reads,” and sponsor writing contests, among other things.
This summer they invite the participation of anyone interested in the literary arts. Not only do they welcome everyone to their official events, but they can use practical assistance with the upcoming symposium, their website, event set-up, administration and more.
It’s a whole new way to support and be part of the local art scene. As David Badtke, organization co-president, explains, “Our lives and communities would be enriched if we remembered our stories and art, if we chronicled our past and present and our hopes for the future, if we created a lasting record that would celebrate who we are and what we dream.”
For more information on Benicia Literary Arts and their future events, visit benicialiteraryarts.org/blablog or email Josanna Berkow at email@example.com.