NORTH SHORE AND BEYOND – Since its intrepid founders created the Newburyport Literary Festival 17 years ago, it has been one of the rites of Spring in Newburyport. Authors and poets interacted with enthusiastic readers, darting about downtown venues from the Firehouse Center for the Arts to coffee shops and churches.
Thanks to the Pandemic for the last couple of years, including this year, the in-person events have been replaced by remote sessions. But appealing to a much larger audience has proven not all bad for the authors and poets and for the reputation of the city.
The annual Newburyport Literary Festival this weekend — from April 29 to May 1 — has become a global event, where authors from as far away as Australia and as close as West Newbury can present not just to North Shore book lovers, but also to readers anywhere who can turn on their computers.
That means the popular dinners with authors have to be virtual. You must make your own coffee as you tune into Coffee with the Poets. Newburyport shops, restaurants and hotels don’t get the revenue they used to. And Jabberwocky Book Store in the Tannery probably does not sell as many books written by the featured authors and poets.
“When we can be in person again, we want to be in Newburyport,” said Jennifer Entwistle, who with Vicki Hendrickson co-chairs the festival. “We want to have that buzz again,” she said, with authors and readers having lunch or dinner in Newburyport restaurants, shops and park benches as they discuss books.
While no decision has been made, the chairs believe future literary festivals will be hybrid – part in person, but with a remote component, which will allow writers and readers from near and far to join in the fun.
The festival is again this year working with A Mighty Blaze, a social media initiative created by authors Jenna Blum and Caroline Leavitt to help promote new books. Together, they are bringing events to the public from opening night at 6 p.m. Friday with Young Adult author Kim Johnson, the author of This Is My America.
For 2022, the festival will welcome back favorites such as novelists Elizabeth Strout and Andre Dubus III, whom Hendrickson described “as great together.”
Also featured are journalist Wil Haygood, Lily King and Ann Hood. Other attending authors include poets Marilyn Hacker, Regie Gibson and Geoffrey Brock, sportswriter Christopher Clarey, writer and professor Azar Nafisi and novelist Sameer Pandya.
On Saturday, April 30, events will begin at 8:30 a.m. with a virtual Coffee with the Poets and conclude with author Charlotte McConaghy coming to the festival live from Australia for a panel discussion focusing on climate fiction. Sunday’s events run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The festival also promotes several local authors, including the Powow Poets – Midge Goldberg, Don Kimball, Jean L. Kreiling, Zara Raab, Paulette Demers Turco and Richard Wollman.
A newcomer to the festival is Clarey, a tennis writer for the New York Times and resident of West Newbury, who has recently published his biography of Roger Federer, entitled The Master: The Long Run and Beautiful Game of Roger Federer.
Returning to the festival this year are two local historians and authors. Ghlee E. Woodworth discuss her second book on Newburyport history, entitled Newburyport Clipper Heritage Trail, Volume II. And Dyke Hendrickson will talk about his upcoming book, Plum Island: A Vulnerable Gem.
In addition to interviewing Clarey about his Federer Book, Hendrickson will also show slides, about the changing conditions at the island.
Sessions run 45 minutes to an hour, including time for questions and answers. The festival is free, but registration is required for each event.
Official bookstores of the event are Jabberwocky Bookshop and The Book Shop of Beverly Farms. Books bought from Jabberwocky will be shipped free of charge to anywhere on the east coast. For more information, visit https://www.jabberwockybookshop.com/.
Prior to and during the Festival, The Book Shop of Beverly Farms will donate 10 percent of the proceeds from sales of featured authors’ books to BINC (Book Industry Charitable Foundation). For more information or to purchase a book, please visit https://bookshopofbeverlyfarms.com/?q=p.newburyport_lit.
For a complete list of authors and to register for events, please visit the festival website, newburyportliteraryfestival.org, friend us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter or Instagram.
The NLF is made possible through the generosity of our founding sponsors, the Newburyport Bank and the Institution for Savings. Additional support is provided by the Massachusetts Local Cultural Councils in Newburyport, Newbury, West Newbury, Georgetown and Merrimac.