Art Books

Encinitas children's author helps organize inaugural San Diego Writers Festival

Jen Laffler
Jen Laffler will oversee children's programming for the inaugural San Diego Writers Festival. Courtesy

As a published author of children's books, Jen Laffler had plenty of ideas to bring literature alive for young readers.

So when the Encinitas resident was invited to oversee children's programming for the inaugural San Diego Writers Festival - to be held at the San Diego downtown central library on April 13 - she jumped at the chance.

"It's a passion project," she said of her volunteer role as coordinator of children's programming.

The day-long event, which is free and open to the public, will include author talks, book signings, readings, workshops, crafts, live music and educational panels. The keynote speaker will be Piper Kerman, author of "Orange is the New Black," which chronicles the 13 months she spent in federal prison on money laundering charges. The book was also the inspiration for a hit TV series of the same name on Netflix.

Also speaking will be Alephonsion Deng, a former refugee and "lost boy" from Sudan, who fled that war-torn nation and made a home in San Diego. Deng will discuss his new memoir, about his first year in America, called, "Disturbed in their Nests."

The festival was the brainchild of Marni Freedman, a published author, and Jeniffer Thompson, a publishing industry veteran.

The event will also include a full slate of activities for the younger set, from arts and crafts to author readings, to a poetry slam and a kids' writer's showcase.

"Kids have fabulous things to say and they deserve a showcase," Laffler said. Young writers ages 6 to 18 are invited to submit a poem, short story or essay by March 13 for inclusion in the KidsWrite! writers showcase. Entries will be judged and winners awarded cash prizes and a chance to read their work aloud at the festival, as well as have their work published on the festival website. For more information, visit sandiegowritersfestival.com/kidswrite-san-diego/

Laffler is working with staff from the Denny Sanford Children's Library, which is on the first floor of the central library. Another event will be the poetry slam, at which children and adults can read a favorite poem from the library's collection, or an original poem, on stage at the children's library.

Another highlight of the festival, said Laffler, will be a performance by teens from the North Coast Rep theater school, who will act out selected highlights from the works of William Shakespeare.

Laffler has been writing poetry for some 20 years, but only recently began showing her work to others. In 2016, she published her first book of children's poetry, "J is for Jitterbug: A Fanciful Animal Alphabet," which is available on Amazon,com. The book merges her poems about animals from A to Z with illustrations by Tony Perrin.

Late in 2018, she published her latest book, "Poem Seeds & Fine Messes." She has also published poems in a number of print and online poetry journals.

In March 2018, she read her poem, "Bring on the Brainstorm," at the March for our Lives rally for sensible gun laws, a gathering of several thousand people in Encinitas.

Laffler said she will read poems from her new book at the poetry slam to be held at the San Diego Writers Festival.

The writers festival will allow writers of many genres - including poetry, books, plays, music, graphic novels and comic books - to share their stories and celebrate their work.

"We've had a ton of interest from beyond San Diego, from all over the country," Laffler said.

For more information on the San Diego Writers Festival, visit sandiegowritersfestival.com.

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