A Special Invitation to the Salem Literary Festival for our Readers

by Jacquelyn Malone

The city that welcomes tens of thousands of witches and ghouls to its streets on October 31 is opening its gates a weekend later to a less raucous crowd. November 6 through 9 are the official dates of the Salem Literary Festival. The city may not see tens of thousands of visitors, but it will definitely see more than the “around 75” who attended the first Festival in 2008.

Of special interest to readers of masspoetry.org is an invitation and special discount on the ticket for the all-day events on Saturday at the House of the Seven Gables. A ticket, which includes lunch as well as the events of the day, normally costs $45, but our readers get a $20 discount. The lunch includes a reading by our own January O’Neil (Executive Director of the Massachusetts Poetry Festival) and Salem State University faculty member J.D. Scrimgeour, who has also been involved in many Mass Poetry activities. Mass Poetry readers can reserve a ticket on the Festival's Eventbrite site and using the code BRU will receive the discount. Read on to see other reasons why you’ll want to attend.

Beth Simpson, who was working at Cornerstone Books in 2008, and the owner of the bookstore felt the city had the literary history and the active arts community to enjoy and support a dedicated festival. Beth says, “It started out with a wing and a prayer (and some paper clips and bubblegum), and we were very excited to have about 75 attendees.”  By 2011, when it went into a hiatus for a few years, more than 450 people attended the festival over the weekend and were delighted with 50 authors and presenters. The Festival is back this year with an expectation of an even larger crowd.

Brunonia Barry

Brunonia Barry

Though Beth is still involved in the Festival, she credits Brunonia Barry with being the prime mover behind this year’s event. Brunonia and her husband, Gary Ward, began a non-profit organization called Readers and Writers, Inc. to bring outstanding programming in the literary arts to the Salem community, including the Salem Literary Festival.  Brunonia, who lives in Salem, is the New York Times and international best-selling author of The Lace Reader and The Map of True Places. Her work has been translated into more than thirty languages. She was the first American author to win the International Women’s Fiction Festival’s Baccante Award and was a past recipient of Ragdale Artists’ Colony’s Strnad Fellowship as well as the winner of New England Book Festival’s award for Best Fiction. Her reviews and articles on writing have appeared in The London Times and The Washington Post.

Besides the luncheon with a poetry reading, Saturday’s events will feature these prose writers: Brunonia Barry, Jennifer de Leon, Suzanne Palmieri, Lynne Griffin, Therese Walsh, Anjali Mitter Duva, Randy Susan Meyers, Barbara A. Shapiro,  Henrietta Lazaridis, William Martin, Catherine McKenzie, Katherine Howe, Donald Maass, D.C. Monahan, Ann Hood, Dawn Tripp, Laura Harrington, Sharon Bially, Jewel Beth Davis, and Wendy Dubow Polins. Here is more information on each of the writers.

Beth names some presenters from 2008: “Our headlining authors were Erin Morgenstern (whose novel The Night Circus was huge that fall) and Joshilyn Jackson. We've had Brunonia Barry, Julia Glass, Lily King, Steve Almond, Jenna Blum, Katherine Howe, Michelle Hoover, Elyssa East and many others on the prose side, and have featured Jan O'Neil, Jill McDonough, Colleen Michaels, Dawn Paul, David Blair and other Massachusetts writers on the poetry side.”

All Festival events can be registered for through the Festival's Eventbrite site. Saturday's event is a one-price entry, includes lunch, and is an all-day event where attendees can stay for the full day or come in and out of panels as they choose. It will be held at The House of the Seven Gables, from 10am -5pm, includes 20 authors plus the poetry luncheon, and is $45. MassPoetry attendees can use the code BRU to checkout and receive $20 off that price!