Woodstock BookFest, an established affair for writers and readers in the Hudson Valley and the Catskills, celebrates its ninth anniversary this weekend with a pleiad of literary figures either teaching, conversing, or otherwise partying at several locations in and around Woodstock. The festival opens Thursday, March 22 with a Story Slam Competition hosted at the Bearsville Theater; the theme this year is “How Could I Resist?” Eighteen storytellers will be randomly pulled from a hat the day of the event. This is one of the festival’s most animated moments when storytellers perform in front of a lively crowd.
Intensive workshops are offered on Friday from 9 am to 5 pm. Lynn Johnston, a literary agent based in New York City, will be teaching “So, You Want to Get Published,” a workshop already sold out. “Writing Your Life,” also sold out, will be led by Beverly Donofrio, and Kaylie Jones. Donofrio is known for her bestselling memoir Riding in Cars with Boys: Confessions of a Bad Girl Who Makes Good, which was published in 1992 by Penguin Books, and was adapted into a movie in 2001 starring Drew Barrymore. Jones is the daughter of National Book Award-winning novelist James Jones, and an accomplished novelist and memoirist herself.
New this year, the festival will offer several mini-workshops including “The Haiku Moment: Creating an Artistic Practice from Poetry” with Sharon Rousseau, and “Revise and Edit Your Writing” with Kitty Sheehan, both held on Friday.
WAMC’s radio personality Joe Donahue will lead The Donahue Interview / Hudson Valley Secrets, a panel discussion hosted at the Kleinert / James Center for the Arts Friday at 8 pm. This year Donahue will be in conversation with three authors Alana Massey, Christopher J. Yates, and Larry Ruhl dissecting the secrets hidden in their books.
Several panel discussions will be offered on Saturday. The Spirituality Panel will be co-moderated by writer Gail Straub and artist Kate McGloughlin, both of whom have explored the Ashokan Reservoir’s transformative power in the lives of those drawn to its beauty. The Poetry Panel will be led by Lissa Kiernan from Poetry Barn, and will feature the works of Cornelius Eady and Marie Howe. Year after year the festival has tapped into larger issues that are important to the community. This year, for instance, the program includes a panel on Autism, and one dedicated to the ACLU.
The keynote address will be delivered by Irish writer Colm Toibin, who will be reading an original story written by Pulitzer Prize winning author John Hersey. The event will be hosted at the Bearsville Theater Saturday at 8 pm.
Sunday activities will be entirely dedicated to women. Martha Frankel, the executive director of the festival, and author of “Hats & Eyeglasses,” will be leading “Memoir A Go-Go” panel, the signature closing event, which features this year Amanda Palmer, Nyna Giles, and Tina Alexis Allen. Earlier in the day Frankel will join fellow panelists Kaylie Jones, Eve Fox, Kathleen McKitty Harris, Kitty Sheehan, and Abigail Thomas in a conversation about women’s choices when it comes to their body image and identity. The conversation will be co-moderated by Amye Archer and Loren Kleinman, authors of “My Body, My Words.”