The LIT Party of the Year: Wordplay 2023 Preview

the bookish brand with rachel werner

 Words can be influential. They are also playful. And WORDPLAY 2023 will bear witness to both realities, along with a wide array of topics in between. Why? Because writers tell stories. Life-changing ones at that. Each stage throughout the event will be a platform to hear directly from and converse with the featured authors. I am already anticipating the wave of high energy the attendees will be infusing into the dynamic discussions taking place all day on July 8.

YA author Ari Tison (Saints of the Household) is equally as hyped up for this year’s event. "It's no understatement that the field knows Minnesota as 'The Literary Twin Cities.' I couldn't be more honored to be returning home to welcome Wordplay back to the same community that helped me find my way in this world of books and reading,” she says. Ari’s conversation with Marcie Rendon (Cash Murder Mystery Series) and Vanessa Riley (Queen of Exiles) will kick off the conversations happening on The Loft stage that Saturday morning. This “Writing Sovereignty” panel is one of the chats I am most looking forward to. If it’s on your “must-see” list as well, keep an eye out for me in the crowd.

'Narrative Power' is the unifying thread connecting all of the programmings during the lit fest; it was inspired by Toni Cade Bambara's quote, 'The job of the writer is to make the revolution irresistible.' Thus, our author chats—as well as several others—will be a moment for us to examine together how we exercise narrative power in our work as individuals, or in collaboration with other artists, to address historical and contemporary social issues. Currently, I am also preparing to moderate a panel discussion that afternoon taking place on the Youth Stage between myself, Adrian Matejka, and Frank X Walker.

Not one to shy away from intensity, I am ready for us to candidly address questions from the audience as we hold space for all present to safely speak their truth about the tales and poetry in which they’ve been seen, erased and/or taken on an unexpected adventure. The books we have written are meant to inform, inflame, and invest in our communities. Please come to listen, but also to engage. Transformative progress is not made via sermons to the masses. Constructive dialogue lies at the heart of this arena of authentic discourse because The Loft recognizes that by allowing us to gather and dream together, our writing becomes better from it.

Don’t get it twisted though—there will be plenty of time to cut loose too! The only times I’ve previously stayed out until well past midnight in Minneapolis were at house parties back in the day. But that may no longer be a true statement after the Kick-Off Concert on Friday, then the Wordplay After Dark activities at a few locations around downtown Saturday evening. Another confession? I’ve already decided what to wear at Hotel Emery that first night. Once I knew there was going to be a DJ (YHANTE), a live band (Rhino Shrine), and a rapper (Carnage the Executioner) rocking the mic, I immediately started coordinating my outfit.

Once I’m officially “off the clock” Saturday, The Wordle Cup Tournament at Radisson Red or the Green Card Voices’ Story Stitch at Tattersall Distilling are where you are most likely to find me. But 'you do you' in terms of what to prioritize for your own itinerary. Just be sure to squeeze every second out of being in close proximity to so many sensational authors within 24 hours. I can guarantee, after a weekend like this, the only thing I’ll still be craving by sunrise on Sunday is a hot cup of coffee—preferably an oat milk latte, please.