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Write on!

New Bedford Poet Laureate Patricia Gomes reading to the Hollihock crowd.

New Bedford Poet Laureate Patricia Gomes reading to the Hollihock crowd.

The 2016 Hollihock Writers Conference is now in the history books – and it was, as expected, one hell of a weekend in downtown New Bedford.

Hollihock embellishes the city’s reputation as an arts destination and builds on its deep literary roots. Those roots are well-known thanks to a certain Great American Novel. What may be of lesser renown is the rich vein of words being meticulously mined now throughout the greater New Bedford region by writers of talent and imagination.

This Writers Conference invites many of them to the CVPA UMass Star Store campus downtown for three packed days of panel discussions, readings, book signings and networking. Groundwork! is happy and proud to have played a role in nurturing Hollihock in New Bedford.

As usual, it begins with relationships. In this case, the friendship between Groundwork! co-founder Dena Haden and Hollihock creator Dominic Perri. Though a Somerville resident, like so many others Perri finds himself drawn to the SouthCoast regional hub, New Bedford. Thanks to Dena and Groundwork!, Hollihock’s new role on the cultural landscape here was facilitated and assured.

That’s the spin-off effect of a dynamic co-working center like Groundwork!; it becomes a lightning rod for creativity. Sparks literally fly!

They certainly did this past weekend. Only in its second year, Hollihock is well on its way to establishing itself as a must-attend weekend in New Bedford for writers of all kind. At Hollihock this year were children’s books authors, writers of thrillers and surrealism, screenplay writers for games and podcasts, and on and on.

This writer was happy to participate on a panel, concerning itself with the importance of community when writing. In a perfect illustration of the power of events like this to draw people to the city, in the audience was a former resident of New Jersey who was acquainted with the newspaper I wrote for and edited when I lived there! She now lives in Concord, NH – but made the trip down for Hollihock.

That somewhat circuitous journey to New Bedford is becoming increasingly common as the city’s beacon to the creative community burns ever brighter. The city that once lit the world is finding new ways of doing just that in 2016.

The light is drawing people like Dominic Perri and bathing all the writers of Hollihock, members of Groundwork! and many, many others in its glow. Organizing and promoting a writers conference from scratch is no easy feat, but the hard work of Dominic, his partner Kelsey Knoedler and their supporters combined with the fertile ground they find here makes the task fun and enjoyable.

Their accomplishment and contribution to city can’t be over-stated. Attracting people like Dominic Perri to New Bedford is critical to the city’s future growth and ongoing cultural renewal. Renewal has always been part of the New Bedford narrative; the city found purpose in whaling then textiles then manufacturing. Now, it is poised to become a leader in renewable energy and is at the forefront of the information economy – fueled by its creative economy.

Hollihock and its writers – as well as the authors of the upcoming Fall New Bedford Book Festival at Groundwork! on Saturday, Oct. 15 and Sunday, October 16 – are writing the next chapter in the city’s storied history together.

The result is the greatest of all Great American Novels.

Steven Froias