Newburyport Literary Festival

A Celebration of Literature, Readers, and Writers • In-Person & Virtual Events • April 28–30, 2023

Schedule of Events

Friday, April 28, 2023

Friday 6:00–7:00 PM
Firehouse Center for the Arts

Opening Night Ceremony: The Essential Reading Life

The festival kicks off with a conversation with festival honoree Peter Orner and longtime friend and local author Andre Dubus III (Such Kindness, Townie, House of Sand and Fog). Orner’s most recent book, Still No Word From You: Notes in the Margin, is described as “a unique chain of essays and intimate stories that meld the lived life and the reading life” and was longlisted for the 2023 PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay. The director of creative writing at Dartmouth College, Orner (Am I Alone Here?: Notes on Living to Read and Reading to Live and Esther Stories) looks at reading as an essential part of existence, and anyone who has ever seen Dubus on stage knows he feels the same. The friends and authors will discuss the reading life—and why they, just like the rest of us, can’t live without books.

Presenter: Peter Orner
Moderator: Andre Dubus III

Friday 7:30 PM
The Grog, 13 Middle Street

Join Us for Drinks With the authors!

Tickets $25 at the door or online and cash bar.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Poetry
Saturday 9:00 AM
Newburyport Public Library

Breakfast With the Poets—Powow River Poets Read Their Work

Join us for coffee and pastries—and some strong poetry to get you up and going. These locally based, nationally recognized poets will refresh your palate. Al Basile, Daniel Brown, Rhina Espaillat, Paulette Demers Turco, and Barbara Lydecker Crane will read from books they’ve published since last year’s festival.

Presenters: Al Basile, Daniel Brown, Rhina P. Espaillat, Paulette Demers Turco, and Barbara Lydecker Crane
Moderator: Owen Grey

Nonfiction
Saturday 9:00 AM
Firehouse Center for the Arts

The Heart of a Child; the Soul of a Poet: Robin Clifford Wood Rediscovers Rachel Field

In 1994, Robin Clifford Wood and her husband moved to an island home in Maine, once the retreat of Newbery Award and National Book Award-winning author Rachel Field. Not only did Wood find Field’s spirit in the long-abandoned house but also a treasure trove of her letters, knickknacks, and even hand-monogrammed dish towels. Enthralled with the Field’s legacy, Wood went on a journey to uncover the life of a writer who was well loved in life but all but forgotten in death. The result is The Field House: A Writer’s Life Lost and Found on an Island in Maine, a heartfelt and well-researched tribute to one of the most beloved children’s authors of the beginning of the 20th century. Wood will speak on Field’s legacy, including a historic recording of her voice, as well as Wood’s own long road to uncover it.

Moderator: Robin Clifford Wood

Nonfiction/Fiction
Saturday 9:00 AM
Old South Church

No Place Like Home: House as Character

There’s no place like home—it’s where all our stories begin. Festival authors Namrata Patel (The Candid Life of Meena Davis), Amy Poeppel (The Sweet Spot), and Jenny Jackson (Pineapple Street) each bring to life houses that are central to their novels. Local author Holly Robinson will host a conversation about the impact that setting can have on the characters and on the reader.

Presenters: Namrata Patel, Amy Poeppel, and Jenny Jackson
Moderator: Holly Robinson

Nonfiction
Saturday 9:00 AM
Old South Church, Social Hall

Fur, Feathers, and Scales: A Lifetime of Caring for Pets

Karen Fine has spent her career caring for man’s best friends, whether they were dogs, pot-bellied pigs, or a family of ferrets. Here, she shares her funniest, most heartwarming anecdotes about the animals we share our homes and hearts with and how they can save our lives, both literally and figuratively, in unexpected ways.

Presenter: Karen Fine
Moderator: Emily Fine

Fiction/Nonfiction
Saturday 9:00 AM
Unitarian Universalist Church

Mirror to the Past: Three Memoirists on Childhood, Home, and Ties that Bind

From a writer’s early years on a Rhode Island farm, to a look at the last year of a career as a public school teacher, to a child’s journey home after decades away, these memoirs reflect on the internal lives of the writers as much as the events they lived through. Join Carla Panciera (Barnflower: A Rhode Island Farm); Dennis Donoghue (The Final One Eighty); and M.G. Barlow (Home, My Story of House and Personal Restoration) in conversation about champion Holsteins, schoolyard antics, and home repair as personal salvation—plus all the life that happens in the meantime. Moderated by Jane Ward (In the Aftermath).

Presenters: Carla Panciera, Dennis Donoghue, and M.G. Barlow
Moderator: Jane Ward

Nonfiction
Saturday 9:00 AM
City Hall

The Most Influential WWII Hero You’ve Never Heard Of

Anna Marie Rosenberg, a Hungarian Jewish immigrant, was “the most important official woman in the world” during World War II, according to Life magazine. She was one of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s closest advisers during the war, according to Life, as well as a special envoy to Europe. She remained a political force throughout her life, even organizing John F. Kennedy’s infamous birthday party where Marilyn Monroe performed, and was a champion of causes including racial integration, women’s equality, and national health care. Christopher Gorham tells her story for the first time in The Confidante: The Untold Story of the Woman Who Helped Win WWII and Shape Modern America. In conversation with local historian and journalist Dyke Hendrickson.

Presenter: Christopher Gorham
Moderator: Dyke Hendrickson

Nonfiction
Saturday 10:00 AM
City Hall

Images of Life, Change, and Beauty: Photographs, Poetry, and Art—Selections From the Works of Fran Dalton

This selection of photographs was taken by Fran Dalton, principally in Newburyport, Massachusetts, beginning in the 1960s during a time of great change. Along with a sprinkling of her poems and artwork, they invite the reader to reflect on the importance of having a sense of connection to place, neighbors, and strangers alike, to nature and to one’s true self. The story, in her own words, of her transition in the mid-1980s—at the age of 58—from the male she was thought to be at birth to the female she, in truth, was, provides an opportunity for the reader to gain an appreciation for an extraordinary human being.

Presenters: Frank P. Stririti and Colleen H. Stririti

Poetry
Saturday 10:30 AM
Newburyport Public Library

Out of This World—A Reading From Outer Space: 100 Poems

Throughout human history, poetry has provided stories about what people observe in the sky. Stars, planets, comets, the moon, and space travel are used as metaphors for our feelings of love, loneliness, adventurousness, and awe. Editor Midge Goldberg and contributors Liz Ahl, Robert Crawford, Michael Ferber, Deborah Warren, and Anton Yakovlev will read from the anthology Outer Space: 100 Poems, recently published by Cambridge University Press, which includes poets, astronomers, and scientists from the 12th century BCE to today, from all around the world.

Presenters: Midge Goldberg, Liz Ahl, Robert Crawford, Michael Ferber, Deborah Warren, and Anton Yakovlev
Moderator: Midge Goldberg

Fiction
Saturday 10:30 AM
Firehouse Center for the Arts

Best of Friends: Kamila Shamsie in Conversation With Liberty Hardy

Internationally bestselling and award-winning author Kamila Shamsie joins us to discuss her new novel, Best of Friends, a moving and surprising story of a lifelong friendship and the forces that bring it to the breaking point. The novel takes readers from Karachi to London and explores how the personal meets the political and whether an emphasis on loyalty or principle makes for a better friend. Kamila Shamsie will be in conversation with Liberty Hardy, Book Riot senior contributing editor and co-host of the All the Books and All the Backlist podcasts.

Presenter: Kamila Shamsie
Moderator: Liberty Hardy

Nonfiction
Saturday 10:30 AM
Old South Church
Mass Center for the Book

Dismantling Institutional Oppressions

Margaret A. Burnham, Caleb Gayle, and Donald Yacovone explore the ways in which racist ideology in the United States has been sustained by our institutions. From state-sanctioned racial violence during the Jim Crow era, to government involvement in dividing the marginalized people of the Creek Nation and Black Creeks, to the biases in American textbooks and teacher preparation, the panelists present new evidence and disclose untold stories of the faults of American history and its societal effects. Grace Talusan moderates the panel. Sponsored by Massachusetts Center for the Book, administrator of the Massachusetts Book Awards.

Presenter: Margaret A. Burnham, Caleb Gayle, and Donald Yacovone
Moderator: Grace Talusan

Fiction
Saturday 10:30 AM
Old South Church, Social Hall

History Is Not Just One Thing: Short Story Writer Yvette Lisa Ndlovu in Conversation With Novuyo Rosa Tshuma

Zimbabwean sarungano (storyteller) Yvette Lisa Ndlovu’s new short-story collection, Drinking from Graveyard Wells, is a genre-bending debut that explores African women’s histories, both personal and generational. She delves into a breadth of emotion and experience: heartbreak, pain, joy, flying, and magic, so much magic. Ndlovu’s stories also play with genre, from the softly surreal to the deeply fantastical. Each narrative is wrapped in the literary eloquence and tradition of southern African mythology, transporting readers into the lives of African women who have fought across space and time to be seen. She will be in conversation with Novuyo Rosa Tshuma, also a Zimbabwean writer and the author of Shadows, a novella, and House of Stone, a novel.

Presenter: Yvette Lisa Ndlovu
Moderator: Novuyo Rosa Tshuma

Fiction/Nonfiction
Saturday 10:30 AM
Unitarian Universalist Church

Pass the Wine: Book Club Books to Make You Laugh (and Cry)

Gather ye book clubs, because we’ve got a few novels to tell you about—novels with depth and humor. Robin Homonoff of the Reading With Robin podcast will get to the bottom of stories that perfectly blend light and dark as she leads a conversation with authors Nancy Crochiere (Graceland), Kirthana Ramisetti (Advika and the Hollywood Wives), and Jane Roper (The Society of Shame). You might want to take notes because there will be much to discuss.

Presenters: Nancy Crochiere, Kirthana Ramisetti, and Jane Roper
Moderator: Robin Kall

Fiction
Saturday 11:00 AM
Central Congregational Church Sanctuary

Uncovering the Past With Wyn Cooper and C.B. Bernard

Whether it’s a government secret or a skeleton in our own closet, we all have something to hide. Against the backdrop of Nevada, Arizona, and Disappointment, Oregon, Wyn Cooper (Way Out West) and C.B. Bernard (Small Animals Caught in Traps) confront troubled pasts and how their far-reaching ramifications can still resonate years, even decades, later. In conversation with local writer and storyteller Kurt Mullen.

Presenter: Wyn Cooper and C.B. Bernard
Moderator: Kurt Mullen

Nonfiction
Saturday 11:00 AM
City Hall

Reclaiming the Merrimack

Author-journalist Dyke Hendrickson has a new book out this spring, titled Reclaiming the Merrimack. At his upcoming presentation, the Newburyport writer will talk about how federal funding is now available for communities to improve their sewage treatment plants and thus cut down on the amount of pollution in the river. This is Hendrickson’s eighth book, and his fifth relating to the Merrimack River and Plum Island. His presentation will include color slides showing the dynamic types of wildlife on the 117-mile waterway. Hendrickson is a part-time news reporter for The Daily News of Newburyport and a former journalism instructor at Northeastern University.

Presenter: Dyke Hendrickson

Poetry
Saturday 11:30 AM
Newburyport Public Library

The Poetry of Mary Buchinger and Alfred Nicol

The theme of loss and the heartbreak of it, whether sudden or slow, unites recent poetry by Mary Buchinger and Alfred Nicol. In One Hundred Visions of War, Nicol, whose own poems are known for their sonorous power, has now translated the piercing World War I poems of Julien Vocance from the French into a moving series of haiku. In Virology and the forthcoming Navigating the Reach, Buchinger’s reveries on landscape and human loss move us with their supple beauty. For these poets, the encounter of keenly observing self and world yields visions sensitively drawn and superbly crafted.

Presenters: Mary Buchinger and Alfred Nicol

Nonfiction
Saturday 12:00 PM
City Hall

If This House Could Talk

Come for an entertaining presentation on how the If This House Could Talk book is created. Learn how you can participate this year and how you can create a sign that tells the story of your house (ALL houses have a story!). It could be hundreds of years of its history or the story of your own family living in the house. It’s interesting and fun.

Presenters: Bob Watts, Chris Edmonds and Barb Bailey

Nonfiction
Saturday 1:00 PM
Central Congregational Church Sanctuary

As it Turns Out: Thinking About Edie and Andy

Alice Sedgwick Wohl, author of As it Turns Out: Thinking About Edie and Andy, writes about Edie Sedgwick—best known as Andy Warhol’s muse—as only a sister can. A discourse on both family and fame, the book traces Edie’s life from her childhood on a ranch to her life immersed in the burgeoning pop art scene in New York City. As It Turns Out is a meditation addressed to Alice Sedgwick Wohl’s brother about their sister, about the girl behind the magnetic image, and about the culture she and Warhol introduced. In conversation with Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Megan Marshall.

Presenter: Alice Sedgwick Wohl
Moderator: Megan Marshall

Fiction/Nonfiction
Saturday 1:00 PM
Firehouse Center for the Arts

Craft Class: Authors on the Writing Life

Calling all aspiring writers! In this session we’ll delve into tips and tricks to help you on the journey from idea to publication. We’ll be joined by KJ Dell’Antonia, author of In Her Boots and co-host of the popular #AmWriting podcast; Henriette Lazaridis, who teaches writing at GrubStreet and recently published the novel Terra Nova; and Ben Berman, whose Writing While Parenting essay collection explores combining a pursuit of the creative with raising a family. Helping lead the conversation will be local librarian and A Bookish Home podcast host Laura Szaro Kopinski. Bring your burning questions about all things writing—we’re pulling back the curtain with published authors.

Presenters: KJ Dell’Antonia, Henriette Lazaridis, and Ben Berman
Moderator: Laura Szaro Kopinski

Fiction
Saturday 1:00 PM
Old South Church

Imposter Syndrome: Caught Between High School and Home

Who doesn’t remember the trauma of trying to fit in in high school? Magnify that by 100, and you might end up with something like Imposter Syndrome and Other Confessions of Alejandra Kim. Patricia Park’s debut YA novel is a funny, moving book on being caught between two worlds—in this case, a “woke” high school and a diverse neighborhood in Queens, New York.

Presenter: Patricia Park
Moderator: Natalia Martinez

YA/Fiction
Saturday 1:00 PM
Old South Church, Social Hall

Prodigal Woman: Rediscovering Nancy Hale

Boston-born author Nancy Hale was one of the most acclaimed writers of her time, winning O. Henry Awards. But after her death in 1988, she was largely forgotten. That’s changing, thanks to the re-release of some of her best known works by the Library of America. That includes her bestselling tome The Prodigal Women, recently released and with an introduction by Newburyport native and author Kate Bolick (Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own). Bolick brings Hale back to the literary scene, allowing readers access to her work as well as to the reasons her legacy has been overlooked.

Presenter: Kate Bolick
Moderator: Maggie Doherty

Fiction
Saturday 1:00 PM
Unitarian Universalist Church

Reaching Inside: Acclaimed Authors Reflect on Unforgettable Short Stories

“I hope this reaches inside.” That’s the message novelist Tim O’Brien (Going After Cacciato) gave longtime friend of the festival Andre Dubus III as a young writer. And it stuck. Now, more than a decade later, Dubus has compiled an astounding and enlightening collection of 50 authors writing about 100 “unforgettable” short stories that made a lasting impact on their lives and careers. Authors Ann Hood (Fly Girl), Richard Russo (Somebody’s Fool), and Peter Orner (Still No Word From You: Notes in the Margin) will join Dubus and Joshua Bodwell, editorial director of Godine, the book’s publisher, in a discussion about short fiction with the power to change everything, from the inside out.

Presenters: Andre Dubus III, Peter Orner, Ann Hood, Richard Russo
Moderator: Joshua Bodwell

Poetry
Saturday 1:30
Newburyport Public Library

The Poetry of Wendy Drexler and Andrew Hudgins

Knowing the “mess we’ve made of us… the mass and rush of us,” and in keen sympathy with the animal world, whether herring, bluebird, or screech owl, Wendy Drexler finds in the “mirrored labyrinth” of memory a profound reclamation, as experience refracts memory and memory resonates in experience. The richly entertaining characters of Andrew Hudgins’ monumental body of work derive from his singular childhood in the South. Hypnotic and musical, his poems pivot on moments of unexpected humor, capturing both woe and wonder. For both poets, time shifts the meaning of our remembrance.

Presenters: Wendy Drexler and Andrew Hudgins

Nonfiction
Saturday 2:00 PM
City Hall

The Newburyport Clipper Heritage Trail, Volume II, and the Newburyport Black Heritage Trail

Take a seat and get ready to view more than 60 images of old Newburyport. Ghlee E. Woodworth’s 2022 local history book is titled Newburyport Clipper Heritage Trail, Volume II. This richly illustrated work follows the award-winning Clipper Heritage Trail, Volume I, book, published in 2020, and both books are based on the Clipper Heritage Trail website, www.clipperheritagetrail.com. Ghlee was honored with a Merit Award from the American Association for State and Local History. Clipper Heritage Trail, Volume II, tours will take you throughout the city, including shipyards, authors, a summer camp for disabled children, benefactors, and Plum Island. Learn about the early Black citizens of the 1800s and 1900s, where they lived, their stories, businesses, and final resting places.

Presenter: Ghlee E. Woodworth

Nonfiction
Saturday 2:00 PM
City Hall

Alan Lightman: Science and Spirituality

Can the scientifically inclined still hold space for spirituality? That’s the question MIT physicist and bestselling author Alan Lightman (Einstein’s Dreams) asks in his new book, The Transcendent Brain. Lightman, the first person at MIT to receive dual faculty appointments in science and the humanities, looks to scientists, philosophers, and psychologists to help him find the place where science and spirituality coexist. Lightman has also recently been seen on public television as the host of the television series Searching: Our Quest for Meaning in the Age of Science, based on his book Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine (2018) and his other writings. In conversation with Newburyport native Susan Keatley, a science writer and author.

Presenter: Alan Lightman
Moderator: Susan Keatley

Fiction/Nonfiction
Saturday 2:30 PM
Old South Church

The Maine Idea

Maine leads a double life as a desirable summer vacation spot and a rural, self-sufficient place where the winters are long and the residents are tight-knit, loyal, and sometimes struggling. So it’s no surprise that this New England state has inspired a wide variety of books. We’ll talk to the authors of three of them, including two novels (The Midcoast by Adam White and Vacationland by Meg Mitchell Moore) as well as one nonfiction work (Downeast: Five Maine Girls and the Unseen Story of Rural America by Gigi Georges). Join us as we delve into all things Maine, from lighthouses, lobsters, and summer homesteads to drug running, year-round communities, and rural beauty and isolation. A festival favorite and author of the quintessential Maine novel (Maine), J. Courtney Sullivan, will lead this panel.

Presenters: Adam White, Meg Mitchell Moore, and Gigi Georges
Moderator: J. Courtney Sullivan

Nonfiction
Saturday 2:30 PM
Old South Church, Social Hall

Say It With Flowers: The Secret History of More Than 600 Blooms

Pairing 19th-century botanical drawings with electric photography, author Karen Azoulay has created a contemporary guide to the language of flowers, Flowers and Their Meanings: The Secret Language and History of Over 600 Blooms. The study of floriography can help decode messages (or send secret missives)—did you know honeysuckle means “bonds of love” or marigold translates into despair? It’s also a chance to revel in the beauty of blooms, and just in time for spring. With a foreword by Kate Bolick, who will be in conversation with the author.

Presenter: Karen Azoulay
Moderator: Kate Bolick

Fiction
Saturday 2:30 PM
Unitarian Universalist Church

Thrills, Chills, and Bills

Join king of the historical thriller William Martin (December ’41) and bestselling legal thriller author William Landay (All That Is Mine I Carry With Me) as they talk with local crime novelist Connie Johnson Hambley about their latest works, how they build the propulsive plots that make us turn the pages late into the night—and what keeps them on the edges of their seats.

Presenters: William Martin and William Landay
Moderator: Connie Johnson Hambley

Poetry
Saturday 2:30 PM
Newburyport Public Library

The Poetry of Matthew Buckley Smith and Alan Shapiro

Matthew Buckley Smith imbues his poems with the same subtle wit, knowing heart, and genial, meditative tone he sometimes deploys on his poetry podcast Sleerickets, lending these poems of young romance, written in faultless meter and rhyme, a wry and ruminative tone. In addition to his fine poems, the Festival must also thank Matthew for bringing the poet Alan Shapiro on board this year, with his new book, Proceed to Check Out, which follows on more than a dozen much-lauded collections. Shapiro’s poems sparkle “with formal precision and imaginative openness, social conscience and psychological savvy.” Writing on death and dying—his father’s, a friend’s, his own— Shapiro’s keen eye on the world, whether satiric or deeply empathic, draws on deep currents of personal experience.

Presenters: Matthew Buckley Smith and Alan Shapiro

Nonfiction
Saturday 3:00 PM
City Hall

A Century of Reform: The Long Life of Thomas Wentworth Higginson

The life of Thomas Wentworth Higginson (1823-1911) spans the turbulent years of antebellum America to the eve of World War I. A Unitarian minister, an abolitionist, a soldier, an author, and a literary critic, Higginson is perhaps best known today as the co-editor and occasional correspondent of poet Emily Dickinson. Higginson was actively engaged, however, throughout America’s long 19th century, in a range of reform movements—from radical antislavery and religious reform; to freedmen’s, civil, and women’s rights; to, near the end of his life, efforts such as co-founding the Intercollegiate Socialist Society. Drawing heavily on his unpublished correspondence, this book will examine Higginson within the context of ante- and postbellum activist culture.

Presenter: Sandra Harbert Petrulionis, Ph.D.

Nonfiction
Saturday 3:00 PM
Central Congregational Church Sanctuary

Shaped by Loss: How Tragedy Changed the Lives of Emerson, Thoreau, and William James

Acclaimed biographer Robert D. Richardson explores the way Emerson, Thoreau, and William James forged resilience from devastating loss, changing the course of American thought in Three Roads Back: How Emerson, Thoreau, and William James Responded to the Greatest Losses of Their Lives. Richardson wrote biographies of each of these literary heroes, but this relatively short work focuses on the pivotal moments of their lives and how grief transformed them. Richardson died in 2020, leaving his last work—focused on grief, of all things—unpublished. Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Megan Marshall (The Peabody Sisters), a mentee of Richardson who wrote the book’s foreword, takes up the mantle for the author. In conversation with book podcaster Emily Fine.

Presenter: Megan Marshall
Moderator: Emily Fine

Poetry
Saturday 3:30 PM
Newburyport Public Library

The Poetry of Aaron Poochigian and Amit Majmudar

In the dazzling American Divine, the celebrated classicist Aaron Poochigian happens on the divine everywhere—in a passing mongrel, a roadside totem, the traffic lights reflecting Christmas glory—while with flair, he notes the pretensions to the divine in himself and in certain peculiarly American sects. In What He Did in Solitary, Amit Majmudar, a diagnostic nuclear radiologist and a colossus on the literary scene, shows how ecstasy can cross from pretension to madness when you add in oxycontin. Majmudar explores the cultural nightmares that make solitary confinement a fact of our lives while celebrating with delightful potency the perpetual becoming of the world.

Presenters: Aaron Poochigian and Amit Majmudar

Saturday 7:00 PM
Firehouse Center for the Arts

READINGS

Join us for a night of readings to end the festival’s in-person programming! Andre Dubus III will read an excerpt from his upcoming novel, Such Kindness (coming in June), as will other festival authors, to be announced soon. After a day discussing all things literary, let’s celebrate our homecoming festival with work from our visiting authors.

Presenters: Andre Dubus III

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Nonfiction
9:00–9:45 AM

WATCH NOW!

UNACCEPTABLE: Privilege, Deceit and the Making of the College Admissions Scandal

On March 12, 2019, federal prosecutors in Boston stunned the world by unveiling charges against 50 people from its Operation Varsity Blues investigation into a sprawling college admissions cheating scandal. Wall Street Journal reporters Melissa Korn and Jennifer Levitz covered the daily drama and broke major developments in the case. In UNACCEPTABLE, they dig even deeper into how the scheme stayed uncovered for so long, what led these parents so far astray and why the system was ripe for corruption.

Presenters: Melissa Korn, Jennifer Levitz