Thanks to a local author, Harriet Grayson, Westerly is experiencing a rebirth of “literary salons.” For those unfamiliar with the term, Wikipedia explains that a salon “is a gathering of people under the roof of an inspiring host” and “a cultural event linked to literature, art, or discussion.”
Harriet has started not one, but two literary salons, where writers as well as the public, are invited to attend. The literary salons meet once a month at The Malted Barley and once a month at The Tapped Apple. Harriet is the “inspiring host” for both events. A published author, Harriet writes nonfiction under her given name but also writes fiction novels under a pen name, Anastasia Goodman.
According to Harriet, some of the salons held in centuries past featured musicians as well as writers and were both literary and musical in nature. Harriet said this provided a “chance for people to directly interact with artists.”
Literary Salons began way back in the 16th century in Italy and grew in popularity in France during the 17th and 18th centuries as part of a movement of philosophical and literary thinkers. The name came from the Italian word “salone.” Salones were large reception areas in mansions where the literary events first took place. Eventually salons were held in other places too – small rooms, alcoves, and even bedrooms where local ladies would rest on their beds, surrounded by people in chairs and they discussed intellectual topics, partly for amusement and partly for educational purposes.
Literary salons were one of the things human beings did before televisions and computers were invented. They offered a platform for socializing, education, and enlightenment. Some salons became quite famous. Wikipedia mentioned that the very first Salon that became well known was held in a Hotel in France, near the Louvre in Paris, which was hosted by a noblewoman named Catherine de Vivonne beginning in 1607. Perhaps we can say that while Paris had its Catherine, Westerly now has its own noblewoman and her name is Harriet.
This is what typically happens during our local literary salons: People gather at 7 p.m., and they will usually order a beverage or a snack, and will also take some time to mill around and meet the other attendees. Harriet gives an explanation the purpose of the salon and then introduces the writers who are sharing their work. Authors can bring their books to display and sell. After each reading people are welcome to ask the authors questions or make comments. The entire salon is about 1 ½ to 2 hours long, an early night for a midweek event, and it is always a pleasant atmosphere.
Harriet said her “goal is simply to provide local authors the opportunity to read and develop a larger audience. When I started I contacted local authors through my membership in CAPA (CT Authors and Publishers Association) and ARIA (Association of RI Authors) and sent a message on the groups’ Facebook pages informing them that I was organizing Literary Salons. I got a big response by local authors looking for places to read and since then other authors have learned about the events and have contacted me.”
Here are dates of the next Literary Salons:
“Books & Brews” held at the Malted Barley, upstairs. It meets the fourth Tuesday of each month. The next one is May 22nd at 7 p.m.
“Wine & Words” hosted by Tapped Apple Cidery and Winery meets on the third Wednesday of each month. The next one is May 16th at 7 p.m.
If you are writer and would like to contact Harriet about reading at one of the Salons, you can contact her at [email protected]