Review: Flint Writers Fest displays depth, diversity of Flint talent

‘Writing is the painting of the voice.” …Voltaire

The latest iteration of a local festival that elevates the literary arts displayed the depth and diversity of Flint-based writers Sept. 13-14. This year, its third, the event premiered a new name, date, location, and talent.

Formerly the Flint Literary Festival, the Flint Festival of Writers featured a program of talented Flint writers at the Ferris Wheel building in downtown Flint. Flint-born LaTashia Perry, whose children’s books have sold more than 60,000 copies since 2015, was “featured reader” at the event. “What I Wish I Knew” panel opening the Flint Festival of Writers Sept. 14. From left, moderator Sarah Carson, Jonah Mixon-Webster, Ben Pauli, LaTashia Perry, Bob Campbell (Photo by Jan Worth-Nelson) What I Wish I Knew:

The festival’s first Saturday event—a panel discussion titled “What I Wish I Knew”—featured four Flint-based writers who reflected on their literary journeys for an audience of about 30,

The panel included Perry, author of six children’s books; Jonah Mixon-Webster, author of Stereo(TYPE) , a gritty award-winning book of poetry, prose, and essays; Bob Campbell, a journalist with stints at East Village Magazine, The Flint Journal, Detroit Free Press , and other publications; and Ben Pauli, the panel’s newest Flint resident, who recently authored a personal, historical, and sociological reflection on Flint’s water crisis, Flint Fights Back, Environmental Justice and Democracy in the Flint Water Crisis .

[While this review focuses on the four aforementioned writers and three events they participated in, the festival also featured award-winning and much-published fiction writer and essayist Kelsey Ronan, a Flint native who presented a workshop on “Writing Our Stories: A Nonfiction Workshop,” and a broadside making workshop with Elizabeth O’Connell-Thompson. )

The festival also featured a kickoff party Friday night, a book fair, and an open mic celebration Saturday night at Totem Books–Ed.] LaTashia Perry, talking about and reading from one of her books at the Flint Festival of Writers (Photo by Harold C. Ford) LaTashia Perry

“Don’t allow fear to dominate you,” advised Perry, a graduate of Flint’s Southwestern Academy. “Don’t be afraid to be different and unique.”

It was the relative uniqueness of her eldest daughter’s African-American hairstyle in a ballet class that inspired her first book. When her daughter reported being teased about her hair, Perry searched the library for a children’s book about diversity but, alas, could not find one that suited her needs. So she wrote one, Hair Like Mine.

Then Perry’s second daughter began asking about the different skin tones among her family members. That inspired Perry’s second book, Skin Like Mine, whose message is surely intended for her daughter and children everywhere: “Skin like mine is quite divine. In fact, I’d say it’s one of a kind.”

Four more books followed from Perry, who prefers pen and paper to computer keyboards. “I’m old school; I like paper,” she said. “I need to write that stuff down.”

Perry told student panelists Jay McDowell, a 9th grader at Grand Blanc High School, and Evynne Ye, a 6th grader […]

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