Writer Exploits: 2012 Newburyport Literary Festival

Saturday, April 28th—It was a bit chilly on the coast, breezy and sunny, fine for walking between venues of the seventh annual Newburyport Literary Festival.

Our enthusiastic group was comprised of my friend Sarah—a fellow writer, my sixteen-year-old daughter Eva—an artist who also writes lyrics (apparently, she does not like to admit this feeling that people judge her for it-I judge her for thinking that) and her friend, eighteen-year-old Kate who will be a writing major at Iowa U. next year.

We started out the day attending Get Onboard the Online Book Scene: How Social Media Connects Readers, Authors and Reviewers, a panel discussion moderated by Denise Lacey, consisting of Matthew Dicks, Ann Kingman, and Dawn Renner.

I admit, we arrived a few minutes late; I just had to make that DD pit stop. The panel recommended podcasts, answered a question about book trailers, and generally shared how they use social media—blogging, writing reviews, tweeting, etc… It was a fun, lively and informative confab. They each recommended books, their own or others, which were on sale afterwards.

Their selections, Dawn Rennert’s: The Weird Sisters, The Song of Achilles, Ann Kingman’s:  Wild, The Orphan Master’s Son, Matthew Dicks: Something Missing, Unexpectedly Milo, and Matthew gave props to The Tale of Despereaux.

We had a chance to speak to Matthew while he book signing. He is very nice, and now has the distinction of being the author of Eva’s first signed book, his own Unexpectedly Milo.

Next up was to be Christine Lavin, unfortunately for us-and her, she cancelled due to illness. As an alternate we chose poet Charles Martin’s reading from his Signs and Wonders. We enjoyed the warm timber of his voice, wit and lyrical phrasing (the theme of this years festival-The Lyrical Voice) of his work.

Lunch at Szechuan Taste and we were fortified for Songwriting and the Lyrical Voice: Dylan Thomas to Bob Dylan, Lead Belly, to Led Zeppelin. Musicians Scott Alarik and Blake Hazard spoke and performed, moderated by Dan Stone. Both had great stories and perspectives. Too bad we had to sneak out a bit early to get Kate over to The Teen Poetry Slam moderated by Slam Master: Simone Beaubien.

The poetry slam was a hoot and holler. I’m very impressed with the caliber of performance-a majority of the poets are Newburyport High students, their teacher accompanied them-I could tell they had a great supportive relationship. The work these guys performed was funny and moving, raw and smart, fast and loud. Congrats to our Kate, her first slam and she took 4th place.

Lastly, we attended a rollicking, toe-tapping set featuring The Jazz Poetry of Robert Pinsky, accompanied by John Lockwood, Bob Moses, and Stan Strickland. I’m a fan of Robert Pinsky so this was a real treat. I appreciate the initiatives he’s championed to bring poetry back to the people, the ordinary nonacademic lovers of the written and spoken word through the Favorite Poem Project.

We all agreed the festival was a great opportunity to meet and great authors we might not otherwise have had a chance to encounter. There were many other events we wanted to attend, it’s a shame we couldn’t get to more. We’ll be back next year.