by Grant Cousineau
The packages began arriving on my front porch back in mid-February, just after the announcement. The Great Believers. The Man in My Basement. Black Star Renegades. Then I called up The Reader’s Loft and pre-ordered Little Faith. I downloaded Montaigne in Barn Boots and The Hundred-Year House onto my Kindle app. For me, UntitledTown is both the ultimate book club – and a second Christmas.
Once that thoroughly vetted list of book and author recommendations is posted online each year, I give myself two months to read as much as possible before the big weekend. Then, once UntitledTown officially begins, I spend three-plus days listening to the authors themselves describe how they bring these books to life.
Last year, I listened to Nickolas Butler talk about his personal brand of faith and Rebecca Makkai speak to the unspoken voices of gay men in the 1980s dying of AIDS. I listened to the gracious Susan Orlean talk about discovering the massive destruction of the Los Angeles Central Library fire in 1986 and how investigating that story rekindled her love for all libraries. I also took a world-building class for fiction writers and attended a panel of sci-fi, fantasy, paranormal, and horror authors to learn more about the craft of writing itself. And I loved every minute of it.
But when I talk to friends and read others’ stories about UntitledTown, it’s as if we all attended different festivals. I’ve come to learn that UntitledTown is a sort of shapeshifter, somehow able to be many things to many people. Scan the schedule and you can find:
- A headliner-filled weekend of bestselling authors
- A build-your-own masterclass in writing and publishing your own stories
- Performance events like breathtaking poetry readings or intimate music concerts
- Career development into journalism, freelance writing, book marketing, literary agencies, or nearly any other writing-adjacent field
- A weekend for kids with readings, children’s theater, and a host of middle-grade and teen writing workshops
That’s the beauty of UntitledTown: you make it your own.
You can learn how to write, workshop, publish, market, and physically bind a book. Maybe your Young Adult novel could use a little more historical research – there’s talks on topics like that, too. Maybe your heart yearns for the poetry of African female refugees or prominent Great Lakes writers. Bring the kids for a children’s book reading over at the library (or leave them at home for an hour of romance bingo).
Or if you’re like me, you just want to find a friend or two, go listen to someone who wrote something that changed your life, meet them, talk to them, get their autograph – then go home and start counting the days until the next festival.
[all photos courtesy of UntitledTown 2019’s official photographer Kara Counard]