Spencertown Academy Arts Center’s 11th annual Festival of Books takes place over Labor Day weekend, September 3-5. The festival features a giant used book sale, two days of discussions with and readings by esteemed authors and a children’s program. Featured authors this year include Christopher Breiseth, Elizabeth Brundage, Michelle Hoover, Courtney Maum, David Pietrusza, Ruth Reichl, Russell Shorto, Will Swift, Mark Wunderlich and Steve Yarbrough. Admission is free to all of the events, save for the early book-buying opportunities detailed below.
Authors’ books will be available for purchase (at special event prices) and signing. Healthy, delicious snacks and beverages will also be for sale throughout the weekend, including the Academy’s signature “To-Die-For, No-Alarm Vegetarian Chili.” The Festival of Books is funded in part by Poets & Writers with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.
The festival, which began in 2006 as a book sale to raise funds for the Academy’s community arts programs, has grown into one of the biggest and most eagerly anticipated cultural events of the year.
FESTIVAL MAIN STAGE / Saturday, September 3
- The Festival kick-off at 11:30 a.m. — Prizes awarded to the top entries of the Festival of Books Teens’ Short Story and Poetry Contest.
- 12:15 p.m. — Reading by poet Mark Wunderlich
- 1:30 p.m. — Novelists Michelle Hoover and Courtney Maum discuss the narrative strategies of using one voice vs. many voices—how and why writers choose a point of view, along with the rewards and pitfalls of these approaches.
- 3 p.m. — Bestselling author and food writer Ruth Reichl will talk about the joys of shopping for local ingredients, cooking and eating in Columbia County and the Berkshires in conversation with Madaline Sparks, principal of Madaline Sparks Garden Design and Spencertown Academy board vice president.
FESTIVAL MAIN STAGE / Sunday, September 4
- 12 p.m. — Novelists Steve Yarbrough and Elizabeth Brundage will discuss the importance of setting in a novel. They will explore person, place, and thing— the elements involved in creating fictional worlds in novels.
- 1:30 p.m. — Non-fiction author Russell Shorto will give a talk titled “From Amsterdam to New Amsterdam” in which he will discuss the common thread that connects his two most recent books: water. It was the battle to control water with dams and dikes that led the Dutch city of Amsterdam to rise to prominence. Amsterdam in the 17th century gave rise to New Amsterdam, which became New York. And water management is today a vital issue with which both cities—and much of the rest of the world—are grappling.
- 3 p.m. — Sunday’s final program will be a panel discussion titled “FDR’s Legacy From The 1930s” with distinguished scholars Christopher Breiseth, David Pietrusza and Will Swift.
CHILDREN’S PROGRAM /The Festival of Books children’s program on Saturday, September 3 from 9:30 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. will feature a visit from the costumed character Pete the Cat of Eric Litwin’s popular children’s book series. Youngsters will get to shake Pete the Cat’s hand and pose for souvenir pictures with their storybook friend, as well as make book-related art projects in the crafts tent with Chatham art teacher Susan Grybas.
GIANT USED BOOK SALE /At the heart of the Festival is a giant book sale, one of the biggest in the region, featuring more than 10,000 gently used books, including fiction and non-fiction, hard and soft covers—all offered at very affordable prices. There’s a special Kids’ Corner for young readers and a media rack full of CDs and audio books. A first-floor gallery features a handpicked selection of specialty books, limited editions, out-of-print books and new books donated by leading national publishers. The book sale is open to the public on Saturday, September 3, from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, September 4, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and Monday, September 5 (bargain day), from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Admission is free.
In addition, there are two early-buying events. Spencertown Academy members will have first crack at the books and enjoy wine, cheese and shopping at the Member’s Preview Party on Friday, September 2, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Admission is $25. Tickets and memberships will be available for purchase at the door. Please note: This event is for Academy members and their guests only. (Book dealers are welcome at the early-buying opportunity Saturday morning.)
Shoppers and book dealers who want first pick of the stock can take advantage of an early-buying opportunity on Saturday, September 3, from 8-9:30 a.m. Admission for early buying on Saturday is $20 (cash only). Serious bargain hunters will want to return to the sale on Monday, September 5, when all remaining sale books will be just $1, and all specialty books will be half off the already low prices. There will also be closing hour surprise specials.
Housed in a beautifully restored 1840s Greek-Revival schoolhouse at 790 State Route 203 in Spencertown, New York, Spencertown Academy Arts Center is a cultural center serving Columbia County, the Berkshires, and the Capital region. It offers a variety of free and low-cost community arts events, including concerts, readings, theater pieces, art exhibitions, and arts-related workshops and classes. For more information about the Festival of Books, see http://spencertownacademy.org/events.