BY DYKE HENDRICKSON
---- — The theme of this year’s Newburyport Literary Festival is “The Creative Mind,” and perhaps because the “mind” is in play, numerous sessions will encourage the discussion of the writing craft and how to succeed in bringing literature to larger audiences.
Organizers are expecting more than 70 poets, writers, editors and illustrators over the weekend. Authors of national stature who are returning to the festival include Andre Dubus III, Rhina Espaillat, Hallie Ephron, Ann Hood, Wally Lamb, Claire Messud, Richard Russo and J. Courtney Sullivan.
Local writers, actors and historians who will present and/or moderate include Barbara Bourgeois, Christine Butler, Myfanwy Collins, Ann Dooley, Jean Foley Doyle, Elisabeth Elo, Bethany Groff, William Hallett, Kevin Hunt, Janet Catherine Johnston, Len Krisak, Marge Motes, Skip Motes, Jennifer Pieroni, Holly Robinson, John Sheedy, Anne Easter Smith, Anna Smulowitz, Kate Sullivan and Ghlee Woodworth.
The festival, which runs tomorrow and Saturday in various venues throughout the city, will start with a discussion tomorrow night featuring novelist Andre Dubus III at 6 at the Firehouse Center for the Arts.
Dubus is this year’s festival honoree. Organizers are feting him for his glittering career as a novelist and as an outstanding leader of the literary community. Tomorrow night, he will discuss his craft with Hood, a writer of national stature from Providence, R.I.
His novel “The House of Sand and Fog” was a National Book Award finalist and an Oprah’s Book Club selection. His memoir, “Townie,” was listed by Publishers Weekly and Barnes & Noble as one of the Best Books of 2011. His most recent book, “Dirty Love,” has received strong reviews.
Organizers say Dubus is being honored for his published works and for his generosity with students, audiences and readers. He has been a supporter and presenter at the festival for almost a decade and teaches writing at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.
“Andre has been our guardian angel since we started,” said Jennifer Entwistle, co-chairwoman of the festival. “He’s been a great supporter of the festival as his career has continued to develop.
“We focus on a different genre each year — fiction, nonfiction, poetry and children’s,” Entwistle said. “We honored his father (Andre Dubus II) during our first year, and because this our fiction year, it was our chance to give back a little because he has done so much.”
Hood, an established novelist herself, will query Dubus on the source of his ideas and the techniques that he employs to develop his themes and populate his novels with memorable characters that make his stories work.
More discussion will take place Saturday night, when the editor-in-chief of O, The Oprah Magazine, leads a panel discussion on the business of book selling and the influence of Oprah’s Book Club.
Lucy Kaylin, who oversees the popular national magazine, will host a panel that includes Dubus and writers Jenna Blum, Lamb and Russo.
Festival organizers say this will be a valuable panel for local writers seeking to learn more about the business of marketing their manuscripts and bringing them to the attention of major media outlets. That session begins at 7 p.m. at Old South Church.
Another presentation that will reference the creative mind is “Voices of the Clipper City,” which will be held Saturday at 9 a.m. at Old South Church. Hosted by Marc Clopton of The Actors Studio of Newburyport, the session will feature first-person readings “from three centuries of Newburyport writers.”
A discussion about writing will be “The Story Behind the Story,” at which local authors Elo and Robinson discuss the process of how writers find their story ideas. That will be Saturday at 10 a.m. at Old South Church.
And at noon at Old South Church will be a program titled “250 Years of Newburyport — Student Presentations” with Bethany Groff of Historic New England. Groff, a published historian, will moderate a panel at which local students discuss what Newburyport history means to them.
This is the ninth year of the annual event, and co-chairwoman Vicki Hendrickson says it will be a special weekend.
“This is the first year since Newburyport has been designated by the state Cultural Council as a cultural tourism designation, complete with a cultural district,” said Hendrickson, who founded the event. “Showcasing our beautiful city has been one of our missions since its inception, and we look forward to hosting both locals and those from out of town.”
She added that the festival has been fortunate to have the continued support of the organization’s original sponsors, the Newburyport Five Cents Savings Bank and Institution for Savings.
“We have a particularly deep lineup of award-winning, well-known authors participating in this year’s festival,” said Linda Carpino, another key organizer of the event. “Personally, I am really looking forward to both the Friday night event, which will feature a couple of my favorite authors, Andre Dubus III and Ann Hood, and the Saturday evening closing ceremony with that absolutely stellar group of authors.”
If you go
What: Newburyport Literary Festival
When: Starts tomorrow with opening night ceremony at 6 p.m. and Dinner With the Authors at 7:30 p.m. Continues Saturday at 8:30 a.m., with events running all day and concluding with the closing ceremony at 7 p.m.
Where: Throughout downtown Newburyport
How much: Free for everything except tomorrow’s Dinner With the Authors, which costs $50 at the door
More information: www.newburyportliteraryfestival.org
Tannery Series returns
Two of the Newburyport Literary Festival’s featured local authors, Anne Easter Smith and Rhina Espaillat, will return next Thursday to participate in “Rich, Royal and Powerful,” The Tannery Series’ first event in Newburyport since 2012. Smith, the author of four novels of historical fiction, and Espaillat, a poet and translator, will join poet Susan Rich at 7 p.m. at Jabberwocky Bookshop in The Tannery Marketplace, 50 Water St.