Poets & Writers

THE ROAD AHEAD

SINCE 2003 the Under the Volcano writers conference has drawn people from around the world to the small town of Tepoztlán, an hour’s drive south of Mexico City, for nine days of workshops and literary events. But this year, with the COVID-19 pandemic turning in-person gatherings into potentially lethal super-spreader events, Under the Volcano’s organizers have had to reimagine the conference, expanding it from one week in January, plus an optional two-week residency, to three weeks of virtual events in April.

But it remains an open question how many writers will sign up for a conference set in a picturesque Mexican village that isn’t actually set in a picturesque Mexican village.

“Our fingers are crossed, our toes are crossed,” says Under the Volcano’s founder and director Magda Bogin. “We think that, yes, it’s going to work because we are inviting people to join in an online adventure that is designed to be a rather different experience.”

By spreading the conference over three weeks, Bogin hopes to slow the tempo of events so participants can attend a full complement of classes, craft talks, and agent meetings without having to be on Zoom all day. She is also excited to use videoconferencing technology to virtually connect writers and thinkers she might never be able to bring together in person in a small Mexican village. Still, after surveying past alumni to gauge

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