For 37 years, TWFest has brought award-winning writers, historians, scholars, journalists, actors, musicians, and cultural experts together to present five days of literary revelry in New Orleans.
Thousands of book and theatre lovers come to New Orleans from all over the country and abroad for our writer's craft sessions, literary panels, theatre events, literary walking tours, culinary events, author interviews, and music events. And don’t forget our Stella and Stella Shouting Contest!
Our first TWFest was held April 3 - 5, 1987, with a lecture, two theatre productions, two panels, a jazz memorial mass for Williams, a literary walking tour, a Tea with Tennessee birthday celebration, a book fair, and a plaque dedication at 632 St. Peter Street, where Williams completed his Pulitzer Prize-winning play, A Streetcar Named Desire.
Since then, we have grown into a five-day Festival with over 100 events celebrating the written word. TWFest has always been more than a book festival, with our writing workshops, culinary and cocktail events, theatre events, music events, and a special focus on the history and culture of New Orleans. Our lineups include debut writers alongside Pulitzer and National Book Award winners. Read our full history HERE.
We are also the hosts of the Saints & Sinners LGBTQ+ Literary Festival held the same weekend as TWFest, and in 2023 we launched The Last Bohemia Fringe Festival as part of our theatre programming. We partner with Baldwin & Co. Coffee and Bookshop for a free writing workshop series, Coffee & Craft, and we are committed to promoting New Orleans writers.
The Festival’s mission is threefold: to serve the community through educational, theatrical, literary, and musical programs; to nurture, support, and showcase regional, national and international writers, actors, musicians, and other artists; to honor the creative genius of Tennessee Williams, who considered this city his spiritual home.
Commitment to our Community
TWFest believes a diverse representation of voices, equitable access, and inclusive practices are all vital to sustaining a vibrant arts and culture community. Our staff and board of directors are committed to promoting, supporting, and celebrating the culturally diverse voices that make up the New Orleans literary landscape.
Awards and Accolades
- Received the prestigious Louisiana Governor's Art Award for Outstanding Nonprofit Arts Organization in 2008.
- Earned the James Patterson Page-turner Award for excellence in finding innovative and effective ways to spread the joy of reading to the public in 2006.
- Named one of the top ten literary festivals in the nation by USA Today.
- Named one of the "Six Literary Festivals Around the World You Can't Miss" by Afar Magazine.
- Named one of the Best Writing Conferences in America by The Writer magazine.
- Executive Director Paul J. Willis awarded the Triangle Publishing Leadership Award, 2019.
- Managing Director Tracy Cunningham awarded the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities "Light Up for Literacy" Award, 2022.
Board of Directors
PRESIDENT - Lawrence Henry Gobble
PRESIDENT-ELECT - Gregory Gajus
IMMEDIATE PAST PRESIDENT - Peggy Scott Laborde
VICE PRESIDENT - Sara W. Woodard
SECRETARY - Michelle Nelson
TREASURER - Terry Verigan
MEMBER AT LARGE - Amelia W. Koch
C. Morgan Babst
D. J. Johnson
Errol Laborde, Ph.D.
Mary Niall Mitchell, Ph.D.
Paul J. Willis, Executive Director, has over 27 years of experience in nonprofit management. He earned a B.S. degree in Psychology and a M.S. degree in Communication. He started his administrative work in 1992 as the co-director of the Holos Foundation in Minneapolis, an alternative high school program for at-risk youth. Willis has been the executive director of the Tennessee Williams & New Orleans Literary Festival since 2004. He is the founder of the Saints & Sinners LGBTA+ Literary Festival (established in 2003), and has edited various anthologies including the annual Saints and Sinners: New Fiction from the Festival and the award-winning Love, Bourbon Street with his partner Greg Herren. He was the 2019 recipient of the Triangle Publishing Leadership Award, which recognizes contributions to LGBTQ literature by those who are not primarily writers, for his work with SASFest. Photo by Ride Hamilton.
Tracy Cunningham, Managing Director, has a long history as an educator, an event planner, and working with non-profit organizations. She holds master’s degrees in both English and in Educational Leadership and has been a national speaker and teacher-consultant with the National Writing Project. She taught high school English, creative writing, and journalism, as well as composition at the university level. Tracy is also Co-Director of the New Orleans Writing Marathon, a writing experience for teachers and writers of all levels. She won the Light Up for Literacy Award from the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities in 2022.
Reine Dugas, Ph.D, Festival Publicist, is a native New Orleanian, an English professor at Southeastern Louisiana University and Tulane University, and editor of Acadiana Profile and Louisiana Life magazines. She is Editor-in-Chief of Hot Redhead Media and co-host of the literary podcast Booktails. Her work has appeared in Louisiana Life, Deep South Magazine, Arkansas Review and South 85 Journal.
Susan Larson, Literary Programming Consultant, is the host of The Reading Life on WWNO, New Orleans’ NPR affiliate, and the author of The Booklover’s Guide to New Orleans, recently published in a second edition. She is the past president of the Women’s National Book Association of New Orleans, which presents the Pinckley Prizes for Crime Fiction, and she is a former member of the boards of the Tennessee Williams & New Orleans Literary Festival and The New Orleans Public Library. Susan was the book editor for The New Orleans Times-Picayune from 1988-2009. In 2007, she received the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities lifetime achievement award for her contributions to the literary community.