She’s on a mission to reinvent literary history.
Belizean writer and author Joey Garcia is launching her country’s first ever writers conference next spring. The Belize Writers Conference is set for April 23–28, 2018 and is going to give 30 writers a chance to a retreat on a resort and receive advice from literary experts about their work. It will be the first time a gathering of such is happening because in the past there were meetups for writers but none bigger summits, said Garcia.
“There have been maybe one or two writing workshops but I did all the research and none has ever been held,” she said.
And as a writer she also took notice that other Caribbean countries in the region are well-known for their literature leaving out Belize.
“I think the literary arts have not been as emphasized and celebrated in Belize as other countries,” said Garcia. “It hasn’t been pushed in any way although we have talented writers — but we haven’t had any celebrated writers since Zee Edgell.”
To change this narrative, the conference will be aimed at bringing writers of all ages — Belizean and non-Belizean — who want to share their work and connect with other writers. The five-day getaway will be on a resort on Ambergris Caye — an island off the coast of mainland about 45 minutes from Belize City. The trip prices range from $1629–2099.
Everyday groups of 10 writers will meet with Carrie Howland from Empire Literary and Kate Johnson of Wolf Literary Services, and get feedback from them about their work. They also get to attend panels about self-marketing and entrepreneurship.
“The goal is to allow the writers the opportunity to have their fiction and nonfiction work critiqued at a professional level and I’m bringing two agents to look at their manuscripts,” said Garcia.
The conference has been a goal of Garcia’s for a considerable time. As a writer and educator based in California, she frequently visits Belize and also founded her non-profit Rise Up Belize, to provide impoverished children throughout the country with access to educational programs.
“It’s been a dream of mine for 10 years. I was born there and I’m working on raising the advancement of education in Belize,” she said.
During the conference guests will even be treated to cultural experiences such as the music and history of the Garifuna people and Mayans, according to Garcia. The full-fledged conference offers yoga classes along with developmental workshops — and calming experience for the writers who can benefit from de-stressing event.
“It allows people to relax and unplug, and focus on something else in this fast paced world,” said Garcia. “And they’ll get time to work on the critiques they get and relax — they’ll feel replenished.”
Garcia said she wants the Caribbean community to come out in support of her mission, and help lift Belize into literature conversations about Caribbean writers.
“We have stories from Belize and we deserve as much attention as anywhere from the Caribbean Diaspora,” said Garcia. “So what I want from my Belizean brothers and sisters is an opportunity to raise their stories and get published to become part of the national and international literature community.”
After the conference each writer will get a chance to write something for a journal that will be published several months after the event.