(SPENCERTOWN, N.Y.) – With more than 20 authors, 2,000 book lovers expected to attend, and 10,000 books for sale, Spencertown Academy Arts Center’s Festival of Books truly earns its name as a festival. This is no mere book sale, but a celebration of all things literary. The sixth annual event takes place this coming Labor Day weekend, September 3-5, 2011. The Festival features three days of free readings and book signings by nationally known and local authors, a giant used book sale, a book-themed gallery exhibition, and children’s events – including visits from favorite storybook characters Curious George and Clifford the Big Red Dog.
The Festival, which began in 2006 as a modest book sale to raise funds for the academy’s community art programs, has rapidly grown into one of the biggest and most eagerly anticipated cultural events of the year.
Last year nearly 2,000 people attended the Festival of Books – a number the Academy hopes to increase this year. “The reputation of the festival continues to grow,” says academy executive director Mary Anne Lee. “We are proud to be known for outstanding literary programming and thrilled to be able to make these programs available to the whole community free of charge.”
GIANT USED BOOK SALE
At the heart of the Festival is a giant book sale, one of the biggest in the region, featuring more than 10,000 used books including fiction and non-fiction, hardcovers and paperbacks, at affordable prices. There’s a special Kid’s Corner for young readers and a media rack full of CDs and audio books. New this year is a first-floor gallery featuring a hand-picked selection of specialty books, limited editions, out-of-print books, and new books donated by leading national publishers.
The book sale is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday September 3 and Sunday September 4, and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Monday September 5.
Books are donated by members and friends of the Academy and a dedicated band of volunteers spend countless hours throughout the summer carefully sorting and organizing the books in preparation for the sale.
Book sale co-chairs Allan Davidson and Shawn Hartley Hancock report that the quality of this year’s donations is exceptional, including a special collection of hundreds of volumes on sports, and a large number of gardening titles.
Shoppers and book dealers who want first pick of the stock can take advantage of an early buying opportunity on Saturday September 4 from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Admission for early buying is $20; admission at all other times is free.
Serious bargain hunters will want to return to the sale on Monday September 5, when all remaining sale books will be just $1.00 and all specialty books will be half-price.
Proceeds from the Festival book sale help support the Academy’s programs including artsVOYAGE, an extensive arts-in-education partnership with local schools. The Academy has partnered with the Chatham Central Schools for seven years and this year will expand the program to schools in Hudson, NY.
FESTIVAL MAIN STAGE
SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 3
Distinguished authors Sena Jeter Naslund and Scott Spencer headline the weekend’s program on the Festival Main Stage. “The Festival is showcasing an exceptional group of authors this year,” reports Academy Board member David Highfill, an executive editor at William Morrow. “The program offers something for book lovers of every stripe with historical fiction, family sagas, inspiring memoirs, suspenseful mysteries, and gritty thrillers.”
On Saturday, September 3 at 11:00 a.m., authors Nina Sankovitch and Celia Blue Johnson deliver the keynote for this year’s Festival of Books theme, “A Celebration of Books and Reading.” Sankovitch is author of Tolstoy and the Purple Chair, Celia Blue Johnson is editor of Slice, a literary journal, and author of the forthcoming book, Dancing with Mrs. Dalloway. Miriam Parker of Hachette Book Group will moderate the conversation.
The death of her beloved sister was the catalyst for Nina Sankovitch’s “year of magical reading” during which she read a book a day for a full year. With grace and insight, Sankovitch weaves poignant memories of her sister into her discussion of the books she devoured. This elegant memoir is a love letter to writers, a testament to the wisdom found in books, and proof of the all-encompassing power and delight of reading.
In Dancing with Mrs. Dalloway, Celia Johnson offers stories of the inspiration behind fifty classic literary works, from Jane Eyre to Winnie-the-Pooh. Johnson’s delightful stories are full of fascinating trivia, such as what the real Sherlock Holmes did for a living, and reveal the often-unknown reasons our literary heroes put quill to parchment, pen to paper, or fingertips to keyboard to write some of the world’s best-loved books.
At 12:30 p.m. a panel of three authors who have garnered critical acclaim for their works of historical fiction take the stage: David Ebershoff, author of The 19th Wife, Daphne Kalotay, author of Russian Winter, and Talia Carner, author of Jerusalem Maiden.
Sena Jeter Naslund, one of this year’s Distinguished Authors, appears at 2 p.m. in conversation with local writer Wesley Brown. Naslund, author of eight books including national bestsellers and NY Times Notable Books Ahab’s Wife, Four Spirits, and Abundance, will talk about her dazzling new work, Adam & Eve, a book that’s part thriller, part romance, adventure and idyll.
Saturday’s programming concludes at 3:30 p.m. with a conversation with authors Ghita Schwarz and Jackson Taylor, who draw on dark chapters from their own family histories to create deeply moving stories of ordinary people caught up in the tides of history.
SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 4
Sunday’s program opens at 11 a.m. with the inspirational story of Conor Grennan’s ongoing effort to save innocent children from child traffickers in war-torn Nepal as detailed in his memoir, Little Princes.
While volunteering at the Little Princes Orphanage, Grennan discovered that many of the children weren’t orphans at all, but the victims of children traffickers. Committed to reuniting the children with their families, Grennan encounters a host of natural and man-made obstacles. Part Three Cups of Tea and part Into Thin Air, Grennan’s epic adventure is soon to be a major motion picture.
At 12:30 p.m. award-winning journalist turned novelist, Sebastian Rotella, discusses his just-published book, Triple Crossing, a fast paced and gritty thriller about the criminal underworld at work along both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.
At 2 p.m. the Festival welcomes Scott Spencer, the second of this year’s Distinguished Authors, to discuss his latest book, Man in the Woods, a gripping psychological thriller that asks the reader to ponder the question; can we ever get away with murder?
Sunday’s final program at 3:30 p.m. brings popular author J. Courtney Sullivan for a conversation with writer Paige Orloff to discuss Sullivan’s latest book, Maine, this summer’s must-read family saga.
Maine tells the story of the Kelleher family in their Down East summer community from the point of view of four female family members whose ages span a half century. Sullivan’s debut novel, Commencement, was a New York Times bestseller; she is also a contributor to the essay anthology The Secret Currency of Love and co-editor of Click: When We Knew We Were Feminists.
SPOTLIGHT ON LOCAL AUTHORS
SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 5
On Sunday September 5 beginning at noon the spotlight shines on two local authors.
Karen Jahn will interview Judy Staber, former executive director at Spencertown Academy and creator of the popular holiday Panto at the Ghent Playhouse. Judy shares stories from her childhood in England in the touching and amusing memoir, Silverlands: Growing up in the Actors’ Orphanage.
To close out this year’s program, artist and author Howard Saunders joins Wesley Brown at 1p.m. to discuss Saunders’ “faux graphic memoir,” Axeman Who Will be 70 in the Year 2010. Original artwork from the book is on display in the Academy’s main gallery throughout the Festival.
This year’s Festival of Books offers expanded programs for children including readings from new and classic children’s books, book-themed art projects, face painting and balloons. There will also be visits from Clifford the Big Red Dog and Curious George, and youngsters can pose for souvenir pictures with their storybook friends in the Festival photo booth.
On Saturday September 3 at 10 a.m. children are invited to come dressed as their favorite storybook character for breakfast with Bobo. The author/illustrator team Eileen and Marc Rosenthal read from I Must Have Bobo, their charming book about a well-loved sock monkey and a wily feline.
The Young Readers’ Pavilion will be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Admission for all main stage programs and children’s events is free. Complete details of the schedule for the Festival of Books are available on the Academy’s website or by calling 518-392-3693.
Spencertown Academy Arts Center, housed in an 1847 historic landmark building that was once the village school, is located at 790 Route 203, Spencertown, N.Y.