Art Notes: Words will be celebrated at Woodstock’s annual Bookstock

By ALEX HANSON

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 06-21-2023 10:54 PM

The world of books is nearly as vast as humanity itself. It’s too big to fit into a three-day literary festival.

But Bookstock, the annual festival opening Friday in Woodstock, is making an effort. While the organizers have always tried to include a diversity of writers, this year’s installment, the 13th, is branching out further still.

“My area of emphasis has been to look not only at the literary arts, but also to integrating the performing and visual arts,” Elizabeth Wilcox, a Fairlee resident and author who is shouldering the program coordinator’s role for the first time this year, said in a phone interview.

Not for nothing is Bookstock called a “Festival of Words.” It encompasses everything from novels and nonfiction to songwriting and children’s programs.

Among the festival’s competing aims are bringing in both local authors and writers from farther afield. The latter group this year includes Susan Page, a longtime journalist who has written biographies of Barbara Bush and Nancy Pelosi; Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Joseph Ellis; poet Carolyn Forché and New York Times columnist Thomas Edsall.

But the roster of writers who live in the Upper Valley is much longer and just as glittering, starting with satirist Andy Borowitz, who kicks off the festival Friday night, journalist Jeff Sharlet, poet Vievee Francis and fiction writer and essayist Peter Orner.

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Those last three all have something in common: They teach at Dartmouth College and they all have new books out.

“What we tried to do this year is first of all, look at what books are coming out from local writers,” Wilcox said.

That list includes Hartland residents Jo Knowles and Sarah Stewart Taylor, who write middle-grade fiction and detective novels, respectively. Taylor’s new book, “A Stolen Child,” launched Wednesday at the Norwich Bookstore.

I’m not going to list all the local writers. That’s what the Bookstock website is for. But I’ll mention Woodstock native Sarah Audsley, who will read from her poetry, and former longtime Meriden resident Gretchen Cherington, whose second book is titled “The Butcher, the Embezzler, and the Fall Guy — A Family Memoir of Scandal and Greed in the Meat Industry.”

Some of the programs mix local and more far-flung presenters, including a conversation Saturday between the Kenyan-born singer-songwriter KeruBo and Liz Stookey Sunde, a Wilder resident who co-founded Music to Life, an organization that leverages the power of music to foster social change. Their presentation is also an example of the festival’s broader emphasis on all manner of storytelling.

Though the Friday night event with Andy Borowitz starts the festival, there’s a slate of events that day, including three workshops for writers, all of which start at 5 p.m. and which feature something unusual for Bookstock: an admission fee.

“There seems to be demand from emerging writers,” Wilcox said. The workshops are a new feature. “There’s a fee for those because it’s instruction,” she added.

Wilcox, who talked about Bookstock on the phone while she was hanging posters for it in Bradford, Vt., said she wants to bring more people from the wider Upper Valley into Woodstock for the festival. It’s safe to say that at no other place or time can an Upper Valley resident encounter more writers who they could also unknowingly walk past in the grocery store.

For more information about Bookstock, go to bookstockvt.org.

Time for art

For most adults, unstructured time is hard to come by. Monday evening, I had to pick up my son at the Chandler Center for the Arts in Randolph. I got there a few minutes early and, happily, the Chandler Gallery was open.

I wasn’t planning on taking notes, but after a walk through the show, I couldn’t help myself. It was so packed with small wonders. There were artists whose work I’ve seen a lot of over the years, including W. David Powell, Peter Thomashow and Deluxe Unlimited. But the artists I didn’t know, including Lyna Lou Nordstrom, who showed a some knockout prints, were the most eye-opening.

In addition to the show at the Chandler, which is up through July 1, the Newport Library Arts Center is holding its annual Juried Regional Exhibition, through Aug. 24. Both shows give viewers a sense of the visual arts landscape.

Alex Hanson can be reached at ahanson@vnews.com.