“Every year there have been changes,” said Woodstock Bookfest organizer Martha Frankel, “and I’ve changed with them.” The tenth annual edition of the festival will be held from Thursday, March 28, through Sunday, March 31, with writer panels and interviews scheduled for the Kleinert/James Center for the Arts. Workshops, parties, and other events will be held at various locations around Woodstock.
The most noticeable change came a few years ago when the original name, Woodstock Writers Festival, was revised. This year, said Frankel, she has learned to delegate more than usual, giving up control of much of the panel selection process, and she’s delighted with the results.
She always gets suggestions on what writers to invite to the festival from editorial director Kitty Sheehan and from the proprietors of the Golden Notebook Bookstore, Jackie Kellachan and James Conrad. Gail Straub, who heads the spirituality panel that opens the Saturday events, takes responsibility to select the authors in her genre. This year, Frankel approached local mystery writer Alison Gaylin and asked if she had an idea for a panel. Gaylin immediately suggested “Write like a Girl.” In the past, female mystery writers either used pseudonyms or wrote cozy mysteries and romantic suspense, while the big money went to men for gritty crime novels. All that changed with thrillers like Gone Girl and gripping works by novelists such as Gaylin, who recruited Marlene Adelstein and Frankie Bailey for what promises to be a lively panel.
When someone told Frankel the festival was “too white,” she had to agree. “I reached out further to find out what’s going on with people of color.” A number of African-American writers are featured on this year’s panels, including Bailey, memoirists Jodie Patterson and Emily Bernard, and Joe Okonkwo, who will discuss The LGBTQ Writer and Place with novelist Tim Murphy.
On Friday night, WAMC radio personality Joe Donahue will interview Sigrid Nunez, whose novel The Friend won this year’s National Book Award for fiction. The Saturday night keynote speaker will be writer, speaker, and actress Reema Zaman, author of the critically acclaimed memoir I Am Yours. She will be interviewed by NPR host Jacki Lyden, who also teaches a Friday intensive on the art of the interview.
An intriguing idea came from Joseph Luzzi, a Bard College professor who teamed up with the Bookfest six months ago to bring a One Day University to town, speaking about eight books that changed the world. On Sunday morning, he will discuss books that shaped six of our most illustrious U.S. presidents. “It’s going to be different from anything we’ve done before,” said Frankel.
Some things don’t change. As always, the festival will open on Thursday night with the Story Slam competition, for which the line-up has already been chosen by lottery. Friday morning and afternoon are devoted to workshop intensives on subjects ranging from haiku to publishing. Two early evening parties allow attendees and writers to mingle. Local favorites Abigail Thomas and Bar Scott hold their customary Sunday morning breakfast at Joshua’s, and Frankel closes the festival with her panel on memoir, entitled Memoir A Go-Go.
The Woodstock Bookfest will be held from Thursday, March 28, through Sunday, March 31. For details and tickets, visit https://woodstockbookfest.com.