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Nantucket Book Festival

Nantucket Book Festival Set to Make Its Mark in 2013

Dennis Lehane
Ann Leary (photo credit Scott Lacey)
Nat Philbrick (photo credit Cary Hazlegrove)

Though its history is short, the festival has become known for its free events featuring nationally-known authors.

In the second year of The Nantucket Book Festival organizers are looking to broaden the horizons set in its initial offering in 2012. With a slate of more than thirty authors, boasting the names of national best-sellers like Dennis Lehane (Gone Baby Gone and Mystic River) and Ann Leary (The Good House), to a crop of Nantucket-based authors such as the equally impressive Nathaniel Philbrick, the second annual Nantucket Book Festival is sure to be a delight for any literary enthusiast when it hits our shores June 21-23.

Staged throughout the downtown area, as are most Nantucket festivals, the book festival differs in that nearly all of its programming is free and open to the public.

“It was so important to us to make sure that in a culture where television, movies and electronics are the norm, we had something that was really accessible to people no matter their economic standing,“ said NBF treasurer Meghan Blair-Valero.  “We wanted to create a marketplace of ideas and enjoyment for people at every level of society.”

Conceived after a gathering of The Nantucket Project in 2011, the Nantucket Book Festival is a collaboration among Blair-Valero, Nantucket summer resident and author Mary Haft, and Mitchell’s Book Corner and Bookworks owner Wendy Hudson (also the NBF president).  The first festival was put together in a matter of months and boasted many well-known names from the local and national literary community.

Blair-Valero said she was pleasantly surprised by the response from the authors, many of whom view Nantucket as holy ground in the landscape of American literature. Author and media personality Christopher Lydon went so far as to say that in our digital age “if indeed the printed word is doomed (Nantucket may be) the very last place that books will not just be read, but they will be read with rapture.”

“Everything is changing and if in fact the written word is diminishing, I think Nantucket will be one of the last bastions to hold on to its literary traditions,” said Blair-Valero. “And for me personally, I think Nantucket is a really special place for arts in general, but for literature in particular. We wanted the opportunity to make people more aware of that.”

Along with the festival’s accessibility, organizers found it appropriate in the early planning stages to solicit and include authors from a wide range of backgrounds, genres and writing styles. One would be hard-pressed to pigeonhole the festival as something only attractive to a specific fan base. With authors of history, popular and historical fiction, poetry, children’s and young adult books scattered generously throughout the programming, the Nantucket Book Festival has found the balance organizers said they were looking for.

“We really had a really good lineup last year and I think this year … I am even more excited. We have some really great people coming,” said Richard Burns, the festival’s literary director. “We are bringing writers who we admire, and there is no real programmatic reasoning other than that they are all great authors and the audience will love them.”

Burns and several others have spent much of the past year contacting agents, collecting contacts and reaching out to dozens of authors, and festival organizers said that through this process they found a very positive response from many along the way. That response is evident in the lineup they have established for the 2013 program that will include appearances by: Ted Bell, Amy Brill, NoViolet Bulawayo, Robert Cocuzzo, Wyn Cooper, Alex Gilvarry, Charles Graeber, Paul Hendrickson, Elin Hilderbrand, Alice Hoffman, David Kirby, Jarrett J. Krosoczka, Ann Leary, Dennis Lehane, Lois Lowry, Christopher Lydon, David Means, Madeline Miller, Charlotte Pence, Nathaniel Philbrick, Kitty Pilgrim, Vaddey Ratner, Jody Redhage, Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya, Rosie Schaap, Will Schwalbe, Maggie Shipstead, Walter Stahr, Nancy Thayer, Evan Thomas, Margaret Wrinkle and a host of Nantucket-based authors.

In addition to the full slate of free offerings, there will also be several ticketed events, co-hosted with local organizations, providing an opportunity for fans to get up close and personal with some of these well-known writers.

Friday morning there will be a breakfast with Ann Leary. Saturday morning will play host to a gathering around The Movement of Stars author Amy Brill, co-hosted with the Maria Mitchell Association. Saturday evening there will be an event co-hosted with the Nantucket Conservation Foundation with Nat Philbrick and Ernest Hemingway historian Paul Hendrickson, featuring cocktails, heavy hors d’ oeuvres and even a story pertaining to Hemingway’s little-known Nantucket history. An author brunch with Alice Hoffman (whose book The Red Garden was the recent One Book, One Island selection) on Sunday morning, co-hosted with Congregation Shirat Ha Yam, is sure to be a delight for island audiences, and that event is to be followed by a pig roast at Cisco Brewery. To get your tickets to these events, click here.

Moving forward, all the festival’s organizers are looking forward to this year’s gathering with great anticipation, but they also hold onto hope that the Nantucket Book Festival will become a much-beloved facet on the island for years to come.

“We absolutely believe the festival has the potential to keep growing,” said Blair-Valero. “One of the visions we have is to create a writers’ retreat and expand the local educational programming that we have been a part of like PEN/Faulkner. And we all acknowledge that the good that happens, happens at a lot of different levels. So we hope that as we continue to contribute locally, we may even someday have an impact in literary and literacy programs nationally.”

For more information, visit the Nantucket Book Festival website.


Really nicely written Josh. Thanks for all of that good info.