Bookstock slate has high-profile authors tackling diverse topics

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    An excerpt from Emily Zea's book "A Bird's Eye View of Woodstock's History." The cartoonist will be speaking at Bookstock in Woodstock, Vt., on June 24, 2022. (Courtesy Emily Zea)

For the Valley News
Published: 6/22/2022 10:40:42 PM
Modified: 6/22/2022 10:40:22 PM

The last time Bookstock, the annual literary festival initiated in 2009, was held in person, it was the summer of 2019. Three years later, after a long hiatus due to COVID-19 restrictions, Bookstock: The Green Mountain Festival of Words returns to Woodstock starting Friday and running through Sunday morning at five venues in town.

Sixty authors from the Upper Valley, New England and beyond, are scheduled to converse with one another and audiences on such wide-ranging subjects as mysteries, poetry, politics, history, humor, graphic novels, war memoirs, hiking and gardening, memoirs, addiction, and children’s literature post-COVID.

This year’s festival, which is free and open to the public, has been designed to embrace the intimacy of in-person interaction, said this year’s guest programmer Joni Cole, writer, editor and founder of The Writer’s Center in White River Junction.

“I wanted it to be a real festival you go to, and you meet these people and you get a signed book and the authors get to meet each other. We’re a bit Zoomed out,” she said.

(There will be no streaming of the events.)

It also helps that the COVID-19 case numbers in the area have begun to come down, Cole said. Nonetheless, the festival does have a “strong mask policy,” Cole added in a phone interview. Masks will be required in all indoor venues.

Cole has arranged the talks thematically. The list of writers is a who’s who in their respective fields. Ayad Akhtar, the author of the novels American Dervish and Homeland Elegies, and Pulitzer Prize-winner for drama for his play, Disgraced, will speak at 5 p.m. Saturday at the Town Hall Theatre. Mystery writers Flynn Berry, Sarah Stewart Taylor, Archer Mayor, Edwin Hill and Linda Landrigan, editor of Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, and agent and writer Pauline Muniere speak to the enduring power of the crime novel.

Former CIA covert officer Valerie Plame, author of Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House, will talk with both Robert Kerbeck, an award-winning journalist and author, and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, and Vermont resident, Thomas Powers in “In From the Cold,” an examination of secrets, lies and ruses.

A heady group of Vermont Poets Laureate, including Chard DeNiord, Mary Ruefle and Sydney Lea, discuss — what else? — poetry. Joseph Ellis, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for History, talks about “The American Revolution and Its Discontents.”

Other local and regional writers on the schedule include: journalist and Dartmouth professor Jeff Sharlet; Rolf Diamant, former superintendent of the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park and author of Olmsted and Yosemite: Civil War, Abolition, and the National Park Idea; writer and photographer Shanta Lee Gander, whose book GHETTOCLAUSTROPHOBIA: Dreamin of Mama While Trying to Speak Woman in Woke Tongues was named 2021 Vermont Book Award winner; Hanover resident Marjorie Nelson Matthews, talking about her first novel Hawai’i Calls; and Vermont spoken word poet Rajnii Eddins.

And that list only scratches the surface.

“We’re the real deal. We have so much talent right here. There is a strong representation of Vermont and New Hampshire authors,” Cole said.

One of them is graphic novelist and illustrator Emily Zea, who grew up in Norwich and now lives in Thetford. A graduate of the Center for Cartoon Studies, Zea will talk Friday about using comics to illustrate the stories of both Norwich and Woodstock. It will be her first appearance at Bookstock.

A Bird’s Eye View of Woodstock’s History, with text by Jennie Shurtleff, was done in conjunction with the Woodstock History Center; Becoming Norwich was written by Sarah Rooker, director of the Norwich Historical Society, which also published the book.

“I always loved history and living in New England, there’s so much of it. Every single small town has a tale to tell. ... When you have a visual representation, it’s much easier to picture what it might have been like,” Zea said in a phone interview.

She is excited to meet the audience and acquaint them with the idea of learning something about history through comics. “Maybe they’ll get in touch with the parts of Vermont they maybe didn’t know anything about, and learn about their hometowns,” she said.

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