Martha Frankel wants Woodstock Bookfest to bring different points of view together

Executive director Martha Frankel (photo by Dion Ogust)

The Woodstock Bookfest is in its eighth year of entertaining and inspiring writers and book-lovers alike. Since its conception, the festival has drawn speakers, panelists, and literarians from across the country as well as locally.

The 2017 festival lineup includes keynote speaker Stephen Tobolowsky, writer Francine Prose and spirituality authority Robert Thurman, among others. Panels on spirituality, music, and addiction and recovery will take place primarily at the Bearsville Theater and the Kleinert/James Center for the Arts.

This year is the debut of a new name: the Woodstock Bookfest, formerly known as the Woodstock Writers Festival. Executive director Martha Frankel hopes this switch will make the Festival more exciting to those who do not necessarily identify as writers, but rather as book enthusiasts and readers.


Frankel has additional goals for this year’s Bookfest. Influenced by the tumultuous events of this year as well as the current political climate, Frankel chose the tagline “Ignite the Conversation.”

“I heard a lot this year that really upset me about people drawing lines,” she said, adding, “I was a fireman for a long time, and I understand that it’s your neighbors who are going to take care of you in times of crisis. If my neighbors voted for Trump, I want to know why. I want to understand what’s going on.”

Frankel believes that continuing conversations with those who have different ideas is essential moving forward. “I want it to be an open dialogue, an open conversation about where we are and who we are as a society. I know I’m not alone. This society seems to be fracturing in a really bad way,” she said.

Frankel notes the important role of books and art in having these conversations, as well as the ways in which we can learn from them. “Books can really change your life. I feel like I’m slowing down a little bit … and I’m not making the judgments that I always make,” she said.

Overall, Frankel hopes that the bookfest will be a place in which attendees can engage in dialogue with others, as well as challenge their own beliefs, something she describes as “turning inward.” She added, “I’m really tired of everybody taking sides and drawing lines and saying what they will and won’t do. We’re complicated people, and we’re not going to get anywhere if we don’t keep talking to each other. I want people who don’t agree to be able to sit down and talk and shake hands and go on. I’m hoping there’s that at the festival this year.”


To purchase tickets for the Woodstock Bookfest or find more information, visit



Woodstock Bookfest next week

The four-day 2017 Woodstock Bookfest will kick off with the Story Slam at the Bearsville Theater next Thursday, April 27 at 7:30 p.m. It will continue on Friday, April 28 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with a variety of writing intensives led by Abigail Thomas, Kim Wozencraft and others, and will close with a cocktail party and keynote speaker Stephen Tobolowsky at the Bearsville Theater at 8 p.m.

The event will continue next Saturday, April 29 at 9:30 a.m. with a spirituality panel at the Kleinert/James Center for the Arts. There will be a variety of other hour-and-a-half panels throughout the day. The day will conclude with a second cocktail party at Oriole 9 and the Donahue interview with Robert Thurman at 8 p.m. at the Kleinert.

The final day will kick off on Sunday at 9:30 a.m. with a breakfast at Joshua’s Café with Abigail Thomas and Bar Scott, followed by a biography panel, and concluding with a memoir panel at 2 p.m. at the Kleinert.