The Lighthouse Lit Fest begins tonight

It seems odd that in a financial storm where massive commercial institutions of all kinds are crumbling left and right, a writer's workshop run out of an old poet's house on Downing street would be unaffected. And yet, Lighthouse Writer's Workshop keeps on growing.

"In times of stress, people go back to alternatives that are more fulfilling," says Meghan Wilson, program associate for Lighthouse. "A lot of people have a desire to write."

Those people will get a chance -- whether it's poetry, fiction, non-fiction or screenplays -- at the Lighthouse Lit Fest, which begins tonight and continues for the next twenty days with workshops, readings and the like. Most take place at the Lighthouse headquarters, in the historic Thomas Hornsby Ferril House, at 2123 Downing Street.

The workshops cover a variety of topics, from writing chapter one to developing characters to getting published (a full schedule is available on the Lighthouse website) and cost anywhere from $75 for a one-day seminar to nearly ten times that for an all-access festival pass, which includes five one-day seminars, one four-day intensive seminar, a handful of parties and receptions, plus exposure to professional agents.

And lest you think those prices are prohibitive, many of the daily seminars are already sold out, as are all of the one-on-one meetings with agents.

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Tonight's kickoff party, from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Ferril house is only $15 for non-members, as are the three evening lectures, called salons, on things like writing in today's uncertain environment and race barriers between writers and readers. Readings by Lit Fest faculty and participants are free.

"We have almost a negative ego here at Lighthouse," says Wilson, emphasizing that the Fest is a place to feel welcome, to connect with fellow writers and find encouragement needed to "kick-start that novel you've been dying to write your whole life."

Past Lit Fest success stories include Sarah Ockler, who worked on her novel Twenty Boy Summer two years ago and subsequently signed a six-figure deal with Little, Brown for a series. Gary Schandbacher met the editor who published Migration Patterns at the Fest. And J Diego Frey met the publisher who eventually bought his collection of poems. More recently, Lighthouse member David Wrobleski's book The Story of Edgar Sawtelle wound up on the top of the New York Times bestseller list.

Wilson started as a volunteer a year and a half ago, and she says the literary camaraderie at Lighthouse has made a big difference in her own writing. It's about, "knowing that there are people out there who do it. That people make writing fit into their lifestyle."

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