Have you been to the Newburyport Literary Festival? Why not reserve an hour or two and attend one of the events on April 29 or 30th? Read on for our Q & A with Vicki Henderickson, co-chair of the festival. You might even see me listening to Kate Bolick, Newburyport native and author of Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own, at her presentation on Saturday. Check out her New York Times article on the famous Pink House here.
ND: How did the Newburyport Literary Festival begin?
The idea for the Newburyport Literary Festival came from a visit I made to Oxford, Mississippi the week after their Conference for the Book had taken place. I kept seeing material about this festival they’d had, with many, many authors. It was also around this time that the National Endowment for the Arts had conducted research on the state of literary fiction and found it to be in decline–writing from which readers not only call on their imaginations but from which they gain great human insight into all manner of universal and specific challenges. And from which empathy is or can often be the end product.
When I got back to Newburyport, I put together a team of interested people. We worked for two years and had our first festival in 2006. I also consulted with Richard Howorth, owner of the Oxford, Mississippi Square Books—a store with an amazing reach and history.
ND: Why Newburyport?
Newburyport is amazingly well suited for this kind of event. We have many venues in our downtown. It’s a great destination point. We have MANY readers and excellent writers living here and close by. The town bought into it immediately.
ND: Tell us about this years honorees.
We have two honorees this year. We make an effort to honor someone who has lived here, or is closely associated with the area. This year we are celebrating poetry. Edna St. Vincent Millay was a super star in her day—a poet extraordinaire. She lived for a while on Lime Street and also on Ring’s Island. Debbie Szabo lives in Newburyport, teaches English at Newburyport High School for a number of years, founded the Newburyport version of the Favorite Poem Project, started Poetry Soup, advises the High School’s literary magazine, and is involved with any manner of poetry-related projects with students.
ND: For someone who has never been to the festival before, where do you suggest they start?
Friday night we’ll have the Overture with Senator George Mitchell followed by a discussion about Millay. Dinner with the Authors will begin at 7:30 at the Masonic Temple on Green Street. Saturday’s first event is Breakfast with the Poets –coffee and bagels. What could be a better way to start the day? A first time attendee might want to look at the schedule before arriving and considering which events speak to them.
Thanks to Vicki Henderickson and Linda Carpino for their help on this post, and make sure to attend the Literary Festival at the end of this month!