On the corner of Main Street and Tioronda Avenue in Beacon stands the Howland Cultural Center, the city's first library. Commissioned by Civil War General and former New York State Treasurer Joseph Howland, the building was the first in Beacon named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973, and it remained a library until 1976. Though it no longer houses books, the Howland Cultural Center is keeping the building's literary heritage alive with the inaugural Beacon LitFest on June 17 and 18. The two-day festival boasts award-winning writers, poets, and playwrights with appearances by New York Times Puzzle Editor Will Shortz and actor Emily Mortimer.
"Our plan with this festival is to highlight Beacon's growing literary community and expose audiences to fresh and thought-provoking work," says Dr. Hannah Brooks, Beacon LitFest co-producer and Howland board member.
Beacon LitFest features readings and authors discussing their work on Saturday and workshops (limited to 12 participants each) on Sunday. A highlight on Saturday will likely be best-selling author Danielle Trussoni discussing her highly anticipated thriller, The Puzzle Master, with Will Shortz. Trussoni worked with Shortz to develop the puzzles central to the plot of the novel. (Read Betsy Maury's review of The Puzzle Master on page 49.) Other writers reading on Saturday include Donna Minkowitz, author of Growing Up Golem: How I Survived My Mother, Brooklyn, and Some Really Bad Dates; Jamie Price, author of Sarge: The Life and Times of Sargent Shriver; and Ginger Strand, who most recently authored her third work of narrative nonfiction, The Brothers Vonnegut: Science and Fiction in the House of Magic. Laura Sims will read from her newest suspense novel, How Can I Help You? Afterward, she'll be joined by award-winning actor, screenwriter, and producer Emily Mortimer to discuss developing Sims's critically acclaimed novel Looker for television.
Poets will take the stage to read from their recent works as well. Indran Amirthanayagam will share Ten Thousand Steps Against the Tyrant, a collection of works expressing the emotion stemming from the 2020 US presidential election and the political and social events that followed. Martine Bellen will read from her 10th book, An Anatomy of Curiosity. Her works explore the curious mind, recounting anything that pops into view. Patricia Spears Jones, poet, playwright, anthologist, educator, and cultural activist will recite pieces from A Lucent-Fire, Pain Killer, and other works.
Playwriting is also celebrted at Beacon LitFest. Award-winning UK and US playwrights Nigel Gearing and Charlotte Meehan will discuss language form and function in drama. Gearing is the author of Dickens in America, The Queen of Spades, and others, and Meehan is the artistic director of the award-winning Boston-based multimedia theatre company Sleeping Weazel.
Day two of Beacon LitFest consists of three limited writing and storytelling intensives. Join poet and curator Ruth Danon for "Live Writing: A Poetry Project." Danon is the founder of Creative and Expository Writing program NYU School of Professional Studies. Journalist, memoirist, and author of the national bestseller, The Dogs Who Found Me, Ken Foster will teach "Is It Memoir? Is It Fiction?" The last workshop will focus on drama. "From Stage to Page: Adding Drama to Narrative" with Shane Bly Killoran, dramaturg, writer, and producer.
Celebrate literature, engage with acclaimed writers, and honor Beacon's literary legacy at the Howland Cultural Center's inaugural Beacon LitFest—a testament to the power of words and the thriving literary community in Beacon.