If you have pre-registered for the festival, check your email inbox for a link to early registration (and your discount code). It was sent from info@adirondackcenterforwriting.org. Your early registration discount ends May 15th.

Saranac Lake, NY—On August 19th & 20th, the Adirondack Center for Writing will present the first annual Kickass Writers Festival, featuring writers, poets, comedians, mountaineers, and more. The festival will take place across various locations all over Saranac Lake and will include readings, workshops, talks, publishing programs, special performances, a book fair, speed dating, and more. The Kickass Writers Festival celebrates how writing and storytelling–in all of their forms–are essential to art, entertainment, and social change. 

The two-day event will kick-off Friday, 8/19 at Pendragon Theater with the 2021 New York State Author, AYAD AKHTAR, and the 2021 New York State Poet, WILLIE PERDOMO. The pair will be introduced by former New York State Writer, RUSSELL BANKS along with the award-winning poet CHASE TWITCHELL. 

On Saturday, 8/20 ACW will present memoirist, feminist, and humanitarian, SILVIA VASQUEZ-LAVADO, the first Peruvian woman to climb Mt. Everest, and the first openly gay woman to climb The Seven Summits (the highest mountains on each of the 7 continents). Her debut memoir, In the Shadow of the Mountain tells the story of how an early life of abuse and addiction led her to discover hiking as a method of healing. These pursuits transformed her life and empowered her to not only climb the world’s most challenging summits, but also to found the non-profit, Courageous Girls “...dedicated to healing and empowering survivors of violence and abuse through adventures in nature.” Her memoir is currently being adapted into a major motion picture starring Selena Gomez. 

Saturday afternoon will include publishing panels, manuscript consultations, literary arts workshops, and a reading featuring festival faculty GWEN KIRBY (author of the wild debut collection of short stories, Shit Cassandra Saw) and writers from all over the Adirondack region. The festival will close Saturday evening with an installment of North Country’s favorite storytelling event, The Howl Story Slam. Hosted by comedian GREG BARRIS, who will also open the show with a stand-up set, this event offers anyone the chance to tell a short, true, unscripted story live before an audience.

AYAD AKHTAR is an acclaimed novelist and playwright whose work explores the immigrant experience, Muslim American identity and the world of high finance. He is the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Akhtar is the author of Homeland Elegies, which Dwight Garner of the New York Times called “A beautiful novel about an American son and his immigrant father that has echoes of The Great Gatsby and that circles, with pointed intellect, the possibilities and limitations of American life.” Ayad Akhtar currently serves as president of PEN America, one of the leading defenders of free speech both here and abroad.

GREG BARRIS is an American Comedy Scene Darling who served as a staple in New York’s downtown stand-up scene for years and has opened for comics like Tig Notaro. A frequent Time Out New York Critic’s Pick, much loved by BrooklynVegan and hailed as “Excellent” by The New Yorker, Greg created and hosted the 20 year long-running comedy variety show “Heart of Darkness”. Greg and guitarist / visual artist Dima Drjuchin (Corrupt Autopilot) teamed up to form the Wigmaker’s Son. Together they created a Zappa-meets-Lonely Island pop fantasy comedy album, ‘Greatest Tits’ which also featured friend Reggie Watts. Greg released his debut stand-up album ‘Shame Wave’ on aspecialthing Records and will be releasing a new comedy album on the label in the near future. Greg now lives L.A. where you can find him on stages across the city and beyond.

GWEN E. KIRBY’S debut collection Shit Cassandra Saw is available from Penguin Books wherever books are sold. She hails from San Diego and is a proud graduate of Carleton College. She has an MFA from Johns Hopkins University and a PhD from the University of Cincinnati. Currently, she is the Associate Director of Programs and Finance for the Sewanee Writers’ Conference at the University of the South, where she also teaches creative writing. Kirby’s stories appear or are forthcoming in One Story, Tin HouseGuernica, Mississippi ReviewNinth LetterBlackbirdSmokeLong Quarterly, and elsewhere. Guest editor Aimee Bender selected her story “Shit Cassandra Saw . . .” for Best Small Fictions 2018 and it also appears in the 2018 Wigleaf Top 50. Her story “Midwestern Girl Is Tired of Appearing in Your Short Stories” won the 2017 DISQUIET Literary Prize for Fiction. She has received two Pushcart Prize special mentions and has been awarded scholarships to the Rivendell Writers’ Colony and the Sundress Academy for the Arts. She was the 2018-2019 George Bennett Fellow at Phillips Exeter Academy.

WILLIE PERDOMO is a prize-winning poet and children’s book author who examines and celebrates the Nuyorican and Afro-Latino experience, primarily in his home neighborhood of Spanish Harlem. His poetry collections include Where a Nickel Costs a Dime (1996), a finalist for the Poetry Society of America Norma Farber First Book Award; Smoking Lovely (2004, revised 2021), winner of the PEN/Open Book Award; The Essential Hits of Shorty Bon Bon (2014), a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist, and The Crazy Bunch (2019), which chronicles a weekend in the life of a group of East Harlem friends in the 1990s. Perdomo is also the co-editor of a recent anthology, Latínext (2020), a celebration of work by emerging Latinx poets who represent an array of nationalities, genders, sexualities, races, and writing styles. His books for children include Clemente! (2016), about Baseball Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente, and Visiting Langston (2005), winner of the Coretta Scott King Honor, about a young girl’s visit to the home of Harlem poet Langston Hughes. A core faculty member at VONA/Voices of our Nation Writing Workshop, he teaches at Phillips Exeter Academy.

SILVIA VASQUEZ-LAVADO was born and raised in Lima, Peru as a child she endured a period of sexual violence that would haunt her for much of her adult life. Nearly 30 years later, while attending a meditation retreat in Peru, she had a vision of reconnecting to her inner child and the two of them walking in a valley surrounded by mountains. This propelled her to journey through the Himalayas and reach the base of Mount Everest. It was a revelation –“The shadow of the mountain was the only thing big enough to swallow my shadow.” Silvia developed a sense of resilience, strength, compassion – and finally rediscovered her courage.