‘Come ready to wallow in words’: Exactly what to expect at the inaugural Santa Fe Literary Festival

Ahead of this weekend’s much-anticipated literary event, festival co-founder Julia Platt Leonard tells Kevin E G Perry what attendees should look forward to discovering - and eating - in New Mexico

Kevin E G Perry
Wednesday 18 May 2022 13:20
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For the past few years, literary fans have been starved of gatherings where they can come together and debate the books they love. It’s with some pleasure then that Santa Fe Literary Festival co-founder Julia Platt Leonard has prepared a veritable feast for this year’s inaugural event. “We’ve packed a lot into a long weekend,” she says, “So come rested and ready to – as we say at SFLF – wallow in words.”

The festival’s stellar line-up includes more than 30 events spread across four days, including keynote speeches by the likes of legendary The Underground Railroad author Colson Whitehead and George RR Martin, a Santa Fe resident whose A Song of Ice and Fire series was adapted into the HBO hit Game of Thrones. Other bestselling authors on the line-up include Margaret Atwood, John Grisham, Anne Hillerman and Jon Krakauer. “It’s an opportunity to hear some of the world’s best writers working today,” points out Leonard, herself the author of Cold Case, a young adult mystery set in Santa Fe. “But it’s also a chance to connect with fellow festivalgoers – to talk, discuss and debate, in the best possible sense.”

Leonard promises that there will also be plenty of feasting of a more literal kind. “I’m a food writer and the chefs coming to our Around the Table events are my food heroes,” she explains, picking out the likes of Black Food editor Bryant Terry and Navajo chef Freddie Bitsoie as leading voices. “Great food writing is simply great writing,” she adds. “The chefs we have appearing at our Around the Table events are not only amazing cooks and recipe writers but also storytellers. Reading great food writing can help us understand other people and ultimately help us make sense of who we are and where we come from.”

On top of the festival events themselves, Leonard points out that Santa Fe itself has plenty to offer first-time visitors. “If you’re an arts lover I’d say to block out time to visit the incredible museums – they’re treasure troves,” she says. “Santa Fe is also a town of independent bookstores, so bring an extra suitcase along for books.”

While the festival doesn’t have a formal overarching theme, Leonard says that as the line-up has been assembled she’s noticed the idea of “change” has been a constant. “We’re living in an era of extraordinary change and challenge, and the authors who are taking part tackle those challenges in their work whether they’re writing in fiction or non-fiction,” she explains. “Issues like abortion rights, climate change, pandemics – our realities are being stretched like never before. And it’s at times like these that great writing can provide signposts and help us make sense of the world around us.” In other words, plenty of food for thought.

The Independent, as the event’s international media partner, will be providing coverage across each day of the festival as well as during the lead up with exclusive interviews with some of the headline authors. For more on the festival visit our Santa Fe Literary Festival section or visit the festival’s website. To find out more about buying tickets click here.

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