Woodstock has lent its name to three music festivals and a thriving film festival. Now it’s the writers’ turn.
Shalom Auslander is among dozens of nationally known authors slated to appear at the new-minted Woodstock Writers Festival from February 12 to 15. Though future festivals will embrace other genres, this inaugural outing celebrates the art of the memoir.
The “Valentine’s weekend literary love affair” will kick off Friday night with a tapas party and keynote speech by New Yorker writer Susan Orlean, whose book The Orchid Thief inspired the film Adaptation. On Saturday night, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jane Smiley (A Thousand Acres) will discuss fiction and memoir. Sunday’s headliner is Julie Powell of Julie & Julia fame, whose new memoir Cleaving explores fleshly pleasures, including studying butchery at Fleisher’s Meats in Kingston.
Writing workshops will be led by Festival founders Abigail Thomas (A Three Dog Life), Laura Shaine Cunningham (Sleeping Arrangements), and Susan Richards (Chosen by a Horse). New York Times bestseller Richards says, “When my first book was published, I promised myself I would help others the way I had been helped. I’m here to share what I know about craft and keep the publishing dream alive for anyone who feels discouraged.” Cunningham, author of two acclaimed memoirs that first appeared in the New Yorker, will demonstrate “how to take some of the angst out of writing memoir. There are ways to overcome emotional barriers and find the release and pleasure.” Thinking About Memoir author Thomas offers advice on “what to do about that delicious improvising imp that is our memory.”
Award-winning writer Martha Frankel (Hats and Eyeglasses) will teach “Marketing Your Book,” a workshop that solves the mysteries of Twitter and Facebook and helps writers use the web to promote their books. “Finally, something to do in Woodstock in winter that doesn’t involve shovels or skis!” Frankel grins. “The idea of writers and readers getting together in an informal setting is such a thrill.”
“Aspiring and established memoirists will find inspiration and bonhomie at the Woodstock Writers Festival,” agrees Cunningham, who’s also hosting a family-memoir themed panel entitled “The Home Front” featuring Auslander, John Bowers (Love in Tennessee), Dani Shapiro (Devotion), and Marion Winik (First Comes Love.) Other panels include “The Family Politic” with Cornelius Eady (Hardheaded Weather), Charles Laurence (The Social Agent), Katherine Russell Rich (Dreaming in Hindi), and Douglas Rogers (The Last Resort) discussing memoirs driven by international and racial issues, and “The Heart of the Business” with noted agents, editors, and publishers.
Additional offerings include video screenings, a multi-author dramatic reading, a performance by singer/songwriter/memoirist Bar Scott, a talk with renowned artist Mary Frank, and a “Moveable Feast” Monday brunch with festival authors. Events will be held at the Kleinert/James Art Center, Center for Photography at Woodstock, and the Bearsville Theater, with book signings sponsored by Golden Notebook. Registration is limited. For a full schedule and author list, visit www.woodstockwritersfestival.com.