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Bold Strokes Book Festival Co-Founder on the Importance of LGBTQ+ Literary Representation

19 November 19 interview: Caroline Barry

Author, development editor and one half of the writing-consultancy collective Global Wordsmiths, Victoria Villasenor, discusses her work...

Victoria Villasenor

What led to the creation of the Bold Strokes book festival?
Bold Strokes Books is a publishing house. Ten years ago, one of our authors wanted to do a book signing and reading, so we got several of our UK authors together. That was the beginning, and a decade later it’s the longest running LGBTQ book festival in the UK. Last year we collaborated with Waterstones and Writing Proud to extend the festival into the whole week before. We had independent authors, Polari workshops and panels, poets, and children’s fiction authors. 

What has the response been like?
The festival has grown year on year; we have people who come every year, and lots of new people too. I think the most amazing response is from the people it means so much to – those reading about LGBTQ+ characters they can connect with and connecting with other people who understand what it feels like to be seen and accepted. It’s incredibly powerful. 

How has the market changed since the festival began?
We’ve seen so many young readers coming along. Uni students get really excited about the books, even though they’re living in a society that is arguably more accepting than the one our older readers came out in twenty years ago.

How did your collaboration with the National Justice Museum come about?
Through our writing consultancy, Global Wordsmiths, Nicci Robinson and myself work with lots of great organisations to get their staff and students writing. The British Museum chose Nottingham and the NJM as one of its four exhibition stops – we came up with a book of stories told by members of Nottinghamshire’s LGBTQ+ community, loosely based on their experience of the exhibition. We had forty people take part, and 28 stories published.

How did you find working with first-time writers for the book?
At Global Wordsmiths, we believe everyone has a voice and everyone has a story. The only things people are lacking is confidence and maybe some of the tools. We help with the tools, and confidence always follows.

We’ve worked with the LGBT+ kids at OutBurst, and we’ve also done a book with the young people at Transforme; both groups were outstanding. They really laid their hearts on the table, and the support they gave each other through the process was beautiful.

What are you planning for the 2020 festivals?
The festival will take place Saturday 6 - Sunday 7 June, and we’ll have authors from all over Europe, as well as some from the US and from Australia. If anyone wants to be involved we’d love to hear from them. Thom Seddon at Writing Proud does an annual festival as well, which often features lots of great poets.

Global Words website

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