It’s a bibliophile’s dream.

More than 80 authors, all in one city, ready to converse, answer questions and hold readings.

It's happening in Newburyport this weekend during the sixth annual Literary Festival — an entire celebration of reading, writing and, of course, books.

The theme for this year is "The Freedom Narrative: Celebrating the Life and Work of William Lloyd Garrison," as the program marks the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.

"There's such a buzz," festival co-chairwoman Vicki Hendrickson said. "I just think it's going to be great."

With consistent attention being devoted to the anniversary, and Garrison also drawing much focus, he was "the perfect person for us to honor this year," she added.

With thousands of participants expected to fill the venues, clearly, festival organizers are doing something right.

"It's definitely been growing," co-chairwoman Jennifer Entwistle said.

The festival kicks off tomorrow with an opening ceremony at the Firehouse Center for the Arts in Market Square, followed by Dinner with the Authors. The dinner is the only event during the festival for which admission is charged.

A full day of activities awaits the public on Saturday, beginning with Breakfast with the Poets in the social hall at Central Congregational Church.

All genres of writers — nature, fiction and nonfiction, short story, children's, biographers, critics, screenwriters, poets, novelists and journalists — will spend the day engaging participants in discussions and readings.

Among the authors on this year's program are Pulitzer Prize winner Paul Harding, Andre Dubus III, Jamie Cox Robertson, Hallie Ephron, Ann Hood, Matthew Pearl, John Hanson Mitchell, Glenn Stout, Marilyn Nelson and Rodman Philbrick.

This is Stout's first appearance at the Newburyport festival.

The Vermont resident has authored, edited or ghost-written nearly 80 books on sports. While he's written about just about every sport, his favorite is baseball, he said. His newest book, which will be released this fall, discusses the construction of Fenway Park and the first season at the ball park.

Eager to interact with his readers, Stout said he's preparing for "a free-flowing discussion" at the Greek Orthodox Church on "The Ins and Outs of Sports Writing."

"These things are great opportunities to actually get out and talk to people," he said.

Jana Laiz, who authored the book "Weeping Under This Same Moon" will serve as this year's "author in residence for the day," Each year, a different school participates in the program; on Friday, the River Valley Charter School will enjoy the author visit.

"We were thrilled to be invited by Vicki Hendrickson this year," said Germaine Koomen, the school's literacy coach.

Laiz will discuss her novel "Elephants of the Tsunami" with the students in the earlier grades and how they can make a difference.

With the fourth- through sixth-graders, she will discuss her book "A Free Woman on God's Earth" and introduce creative writing activities.

Each student at the school will receive a copy of her book, through funding provided by the Literary Festival.

"There is a lot of enthusiasm for the program," Koomen said. "Students have been reading their new books and generating questions to ask Jana."

The festival promises to offer something for everyone — including those who no longer read books in the traditional way.

As the publishing world changes and e-books gain more popularity through technology advancements, there will be a panel discussion on podcasts and blogs for the second year, Entwistle said.

Blogs are becoming "more and more influential," she added, as people don't just look to the best-selling list in newspapers to get recommendations, but to websites, as well.

The written word is "so accessible through all sorts of venues," Entwistle said.

"As much as I think e-readers have a place in the world, our bookstores are treasures," Entwistle said. "I do not want to lose those."

Throughout the festival on Saturday, there will be ongoing free activities at the Newburyport library for children and teens.

Organizers want to make sure every age level is engaged in the festival, Entwistle said.

The major funding for the festival is provided by its main sponsors, the Institution for Savings and Newburyport Five Cents Savings Bank, and by the Provident Bank, Newburyport Rotary Club, Massachusetts Cultural Council and the cultural councils of Newburyport, Newbury, West Newbury and Amesbury.

For more information and to see a complete schedule, visit


What: Newburyport Literary Festival and related events

When: Tomorrow through Sunday

Where: Throughout downtown Newburyport

How: Visit

Festival Highlights


Opening Ceremony

6 p.m., Firehouse Center for the Arts, Market Square

"Celebrating the Life and Work of William Lloyd Garrison"

Author/historians Ellen Fitzpatrick, Kate Clifford-Larson and Lois Brown will discuss Garrison's life and times, as well as the struggles he championed.

Dinner with the Authors

7:30 p.m., Nicholson Hall, Harris Street

Buffet dinner fundraiser for the festiva,l featuring many of the weekend's presenters; tickets $50.


Author readings, workshops and discussions

8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., throughout downtown Newburyport

Some of the authors who will be in attendance include: Elizabeth Atkinson, Jacqueline Davies, Lucia Greene, Linda Barnes, Brunonia Barry, Elizabeth Benedict, Anita Diamant, Anne Easter Smith, Paul Harding, Stephen McCauley, Cammie McGovern, Meg Mitchell Moore, Howard Frank Mosher, Kevin Cooney, Denise DeRenzo Lacey, Andre Dubus III, Eric Etheridge, Jean Foley Doyle, John Hanson Mitchell, Steve Puleo, Brenda Wineapple, Ghlee E. Woodworth, David Berman, Charles Coe and Andrew Sofer.

Closing Ceremony

7 p.m., Firehouse Center for the Arts, Market Square

An evening of readings and music inspired by the America of 1861. Poet Marilyn Nelson will lead the way, followed by a polyphony by five of the Powow River Poets.

Classical guitarist John Tavano will play as part of the melopoeia performed by poets Alfred Nicol and Rhina Espaillat and soprano Ann Tucker. Josiah Welch will close the ceremony with the reading of the Gettysburg Address.


Favorite Poem Project of Greater Newburyport

2 p.m., Firehouse Center for the Arts, Market Square

A sharing of favorite poems in all languages and of all topics from area residents of all ages, selected by the creative writing students at Newburyport High School; free.

High Tea

Custom House Maritime Museum, 25 Water Street, Newburyport

4 to 6 p.m.

The Honorable Richard E. Welch III, grandson of John P. Marquand, will present his original work, "The Great Leap Forward: John P. Marquand and The Late George Apley" and award-winning biographer and critic Millicent Bell will be on hand to entertain questions about the novelist whose best-selling fiction of the 1930s-1950s helped to put Newburyport on the literary map.

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