Saturday, November 2, 2019

Cuenca International Writers Conference ~ by Scarlett Braden

Image by fernando zhiminaicela from Pixabay

On the coast of South America, hurdling the Equator is a small country with a population midway between that of Pennsylvania and New York. Its landmass is slightly smaller than the state of Nevada. Small but mighty the country’s diverse landscape includes the Andes mountains, the Pacific coast, the Amazon jungle, rain forest, and cloud forest.

The third-largest city in Ecuador is called Cuenca, which means bowl in Spanish and it’s an appropriate name for the city that is a basin surrounded by the majestic green mountains of the Caja National Park, at an altitude of 8400 feet. Cuenca is also the cultural capital of Ecuador. Everywhere you look in Cuenca, you will see evidence of the arts. From fine paintings, to vibrant street art, tribes of dancers in parades that seem to happen on a weekly basis for some occasion or another, to artisans working with metal, ceramic, clay, stone, marble, iron, fabric and musicians of every conceivable instrument and music genre, as well as this secret community of writers and poets.

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay      
Image by Donna B. McNicol from Pixabay

But possibly the most surprising site you might see if you were to walk the streets of Cuenca, are a pack of gringo writers. Writers sharing those streets, tapping on laptops in one of the dozens of cafes, sitting next to one of the four rivers that run through town, soaking up the inspiration and regurgitating enlightened words.

Image by fernando zhiminaicela from Pixabay    
Image by Alois Grundner from Pixabay

You see, Cuenca is also home to a couple of hundred expat writers. Of course, there are also quite a few Ecuadorian writers too. But these expat writers have come from the United States, Canada, the UK, and more. We aren’t really sure what draws these writers to Cuenca. They each have their own story as to how they fell into this place. Some of them even became writers after arriving here. Either they found the time, space, and inspiration to fulfill a long unrequited dream, or they didn’t even know they wanted to be writers until something in this place moved them to become part of a thriving writer’s community.

They even have a yearly writers conference, called the Cuenca International Writers Conference. Not only because the writers come from several continents, but because they welcome writers and speakers from around the world, to come together for a week and share experiences, knowledge, and techniques.

Photo Credit: John Keeble

Maybe it’s the abundant fresh farm to table fruits and vegetables that feed the bodies, maybe it’s the electric blue sky, the spring-like weather year-round, the bubbling rivers, the Spanish colonial architecture, the Inca heritage, the vibrant colors of the art and clothes of the fourteen indigenous tribes. Perhaps it’s the cobblestone streets and sidewalks. Maybe it’s the wild alpacas, sloths, and monkeys of the mainland, or the giant tortoises, sea lions, and blue-footed boobies of the Galapagos. Possibly it’s the famous Ecuadorian roses, chocolate, and coffee. But something sure lights a fire within the muses of these writers and artists.

Photo credits: John Keeble

Photo credits: John Keeble

You don’t have to move to Ecuador to experience it. Speakers and attendees who come to the conference and return to their homelands tell us, a part of Cuenca hitchhiked in their hearts and returned with them. And the Cuenca writers? They’re happy to share a piece of her with their fellow wordsmiths. Deep permanent friendships have been formed among the attendees and speakers of the conference, which is still small enough to feel intimate – even for introverts!

Photo credits: John Keeble
Photo credits: John Keeble

The conference is currently accepting applications for speakers on the website. The line up will be released in December and registration will open for attendees.

If you want more information about this beautiful place or the writer's conference, the website is or you can email Scarlett Braden at

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