Yolanda Wisher

Yolanda Wisher


When telling a story, be it fiction, nonfiction, memoir, short or what have you, it’s always helpful to build suspense to keep the reader interested. There’s nothing like a cliffhanger or a whodunit to keep the pages turning.

Knowing this, it makes sense that Aspen Words would want to keep the names of its 2019 Winter Words series authors secret until this evening’s announcement party from 5-6:30 p.m. at the organization’s offices at Aspen’s Red Brick Center for the Arts. But when it is suggested to Aspen Words managing director Jamie Kravitz that this might be the case, she laughs.

“I don’t think, really, the intention is a whole lot of drama or excitement; it’s maybe more boring and practical,” she concedes. “But everything’s a little more fun when there’s a surprise.”

The truth is that Aspen Words needs to be able to hit the ground running with bios, photos, passes and other collateral as soon as the identities of the six authors – including some big-time national names – are revealed. The corresponding author talks, which are slated to begin Jan. 8, are going to be a popular draw when tickets go on sale Nov. 1.

A lower-cost alternative to the annual Summer Words programs, the Winter Words talks start at just $25 a pop, and the authors offer a little something for everyone, from the extreme athlete and memoirist who opens the series; to the wildly popular bestselling authors appearing on Jan. 29 and Feb. 26; to the acclaimed investigative journalist who closes the series on Mar. 12.

“We’ve tried to get a mix of writers to come,” says Kravitz. “Hopefully we’ll give everyone something to think about and help curate a good reading list for the winter.”

This evening’s party kicks off a big week for Kravitz and her coworkers as they bring a close to their extended summer season. Saturday, Aspen Words welcomes award-winning author Daryl Gregory for a day-long fiction-writing workshop – called, ominously, “Running from Bears” – at Pitkin County Library (for more on Gregory see Friday’s daily edition), and next Tuesday, Oct. 16, the final Aspen Words writer in residence of the year, 2016 Philadelphia poet laureate Yolanda Wisher, will sit down for a free talk at Hooch Craft Cocktail Bar from 5:30-6:30 p.m.

Different from the more formal Winter Words events, which take place in Paepcke Auditorium, the Hooch talks are more about works in progress and the process of writing than they are about celebrating finished books. They’re typically casual and laid back, although with Wisher in the house, things could be a little more animated than usual.

Author of the poetry collection “Monk Eats an Afro,” and curator of spoken word at Philadelphia Contemporary, Wisher founded and directed the Germantown Poetry and Outbound Poetry festivals and has served as director of art education for the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. Her poems, described by the Poetry Foundation as “musical, playful and brutal … with blues-informed cadence to engage themes of intimacy, power and identity,” are meant to be presented out loud.   

“I think Yolanda will do more performance-based poetry, which should make for a fun event,” said Kravitz. “And then the residencies will be done until next May.”

And how does Aspen Words plan to reveal the identities of next summer’s artists in residence when the time comes?

“We’ll have a surprise announcement of that, too,” Kravitz laughs.

Stay tuned!

Todd Hartley is the special sections editor for Aspen Daily News. He can be reached at todd@aspendailynews.com.

Special Sections Editor