Writers and poets taking center stage in Safety Harbor

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Local author Laura Kepner’s second annual writer’s conference, titled Solving the Mystery of Writing, takes place on Sunday, March 12 from 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. at the Kapok Special Events Center in Clearwater. (Graphic courtesy Safety Harbor Writers and Poets.com.)

The City of Safety Harbor is considered a hub for arts and culture in Pinellas County, thanks to its variety of public art projects, the city’s participation in the North Pinellas Cultural Alliance, and numerous talented artists calling the quaint community at the top of Old Tampa Bay home.

But with the second annual Safety Harbor Writers Conference, hosted by local author Laura Kepner, scheduled for this weekend, and the library’s open call to select the city’s first ever poet laureate, it’s clear that Safety Harbor is now a hotbed for writers and poets, too.

“There are so many talented people in Safety Harbor, people who are talented with words,” said Kepner, whose conference titled Solving the Mystery of Writing is scheduled for Sunday, March 12 from 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. at the Kapok Special Events Center in Clearwater.

“The purpose of the conference and naming a poet laureate is a way to respect the written word and to set an example for the importance of words and poetry.”

Perhaps no one in recent memory has done as much to promote the written word in Safety Harbor as Kepner.

As co-author of A Brief History of Safety Harbor, Florida and leader of the Safety Harbor Writers and Poets Group, Kepner has been a key figure in highlighting the importance of putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard).

Safety Harbor author Laura Kepner.

Safety Harbor author and writers conference founder Laura Kepner.

To that point, she is hoping her second writer’s conference is able to benefit the many writers—published and/or aspiring—in the area.

“I have a number of local writers and poets, including Jeff Strand, Lori Roy and Nicole Caron, plus Julie Riddle from Spokane, and they will be conducting roundtable discussions for anybody who is curious about writing,” Kepner said, noting tickets for the all-day conference cost $89 in advance and include a light breakfast and catered lunch from the Sandwich on Main.

“It’s going to be very learning intensive, and everyone will get something out of it. I think it will be a fun day.”

While Kepner is involved with organizing the conference, as well as preparing her “rainy day sidewalks” poetry art project for the upcoming Chalk Fest, library director Lisa Kothe is leading the effort to select Safety Harbor’s first poet laureate.

“At the Library’s annual Poetry Celebration in April last year, several local poet laureates attended and read original poetry,” Kothe wrote via email.

“Library staff spoke with Laura Kepner and threw around the idea of a poet laureate for Safety Harbor to spread the love of poetry. Oldsmar has one, Tampa, and St. Petersburg, so why not us? It made sense.”

The Safety Harbor Public Library has announced a call for nominations for the city's first ever poet laureate. The nomination period ends on Mar. 31, 2017.

The Safety Harbor Public Library has announced a call for nominations for the city’s first ever poet laureate. Nominations will be accepted online only through Mar. 31, 2017.

According to the call for nominations, potential candidates must meet certain criteria, including:

  • be a Safety Harbor resident
  • be a poet of stature recognized in the literal, cultural or educational communities
  • have high-quality published or documented work
  • be willing to make presentations and encourage, advocate and spread the joy of poetry in the community

Kothe said participants may nominate individuals they know, or self-nominate; nominations will only be accepted online, and the length of the term is two years.

The deadline for nominations is Friday, Mar. 31, 2017; the new poet laureate will be announced at the City Commission meeting on Monday, April 3.

“Safety Harbor is a community of the visual and written arts, and the role of the Safety Harbor Poet Laureate is to promote poetry throughout the community and to inspire an emerging generation of literary artists,” Kothe wrote.

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