Red Hook hosts Read Local Literary Festival

Suzanna Hermans will conduct a panel discussion with three writers: the wonderful Gail Godwin (above), Valerie Martin and Koren Zailckas on Saturday at 12:30 at the Elmendorph Inn on North Broadway. (photo by Beth Blis)

The upcoming third annual Read Local! Red Hook Literary Festival will take place on Friday and Saturday, April 11 and 12 in venues in the village of Red Hook, with a full schedule of panels, workshops and presentations.

The Friday-evening kickoff and opening reception at the Red Hook Community Arts Network (RHCAN) Artists’ Collective gallery will include the exhibition “Word Works,” a collection of artworks inspired by the written word, from 5 to 7 p.m. At 7:15 p.m., avid readers are invited to join the Big Read book discussion, focusing on Marilynne Robinson’s novel Housekeeping. An in-depth book discussion will be led by Anne Margaret Daniel, teacher of literature in New York City and at Bard College.

Juliet Harrison, photographer and founder of RHCAN, worked for Oblong Books & Music in Rhinebeck for nearly 15 years and is again co-coordinating the festival with Oblong’s Suzanna Hermans. “Our idea was that we wanted to showcase local talent. There’s so much talent here, and we want to introduce that back to the community.”

Early Saturday morning, a discussion for all wannabe writers will zero in on the Business of Writing, with literary agent Bernadette Baker-Baughman, author and publisher Bruce McPherson of McPherson & Company and author/memoirist Abigail Thomas (Three Dog Night and Safekeeping). Nancy Castaldo, children’s nonfiction writer, will moderate this popular panel discussion in the Red Hook Village Hall.

Meanwhile, the youngest book-lovers in town will be entertained by author and illustrator G. Brian Karas and by Iza Trapani at the Red Hook Public Library on South Broadway.

At 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, the Elmendorph Inn on North Broadway will host a Fiction Luncheon. Suzanna Hermans will conduct a panel discussion with three prolific writers: the wonderful Gail Godwin (Flora), Valerie Martin (The Ghost of Mary Celeste) and Koren Zailckas (Mother, Mother). Lunch will be available for purchase with all proceeds going to support the festival.

The Hudson Valley YA Society will meet at the Library from 2 to 4 p.m. with a panel featuring authors Theo Lawrence (Toxic Heart), Tiffany Schmidt (Bright before Sunrise) and Eliot Schrefer (Threatened). “It’s a mixed bag,” says Hermans. “There’s a little bit of something for everyone.”

A nonfiction panel discussion will be held in the Red Hook Village Hall with authors Jenny Brown (The Lucky Ones) and Jack Kelly (Gunpowder: Alchemy, Bombards and Pyrotechnics: The History of the Explosive that Changed the World). Oblong Books co-owner Dick Hermans will moderate this panel from 2:15 to 4 p.m.

Book-signings will take place immediately following each panel at the Bread & Bottle, located on the corner of Main and Market Streets. All titles by participating authors will be available for purchase.

Local literary powerhouse Nina Shengold will direct a special program on Saturday evening: “Stories on Stage: Hudson Valley Actors Read Stories by Hudson Valley Authors.” Shengold, Chronogram books editor, Actors & Writers member and author (Clearcut), has used her influence to gather a conspicuously talented group of actors for this 7 p.m. program, to be held at the Linden Avenue Middle School Café. “Stories on Stage” will star Tony and Obie Award-winner Mary Louise Wilson (Nebraska), Broadway veteran Lori Winter (Fiddler on the Roof) reading Teresa Giordano, Emmy Award-winning film and television actor and writer David Smilow (Racing Daylight and The Price) reading George Saunders and actor/writer and Woodstock Players founder Carey Harrison (Rex & Rex) reading T. C. Boyle. There may be others, depending on the actors’ availability. “Last year, this event was standing room only,” says Hermans – so get there early.

Besides showcasing local talent, what sets this literary festival apart from others is the community effort that goes into its production. Harrison mentions the donation of the printing of festival materials by Bard College, and the hosting of venues and donations of food and advertising by other individuals and organizations in Red Hook – not to forget mentioning all the volunteers who work to produce the event. The draw of attendees brings lots of business to the restaurants and other shops in town, as people walk from one venue to another.

“We’re still evolving. This summer we’re hoping to have a writers’ market, on the same model as a farmers’ market,” says Harrison. “Although we’re showcasing known authors, we know there are lots of people – self-published authors, small publishers, people who do a product that may have to do with writing a book or something – there are a great many people in our area who are struggling. Although we may not have them on a panel, we want to support them in any way we can.”

All events presented by the Red Hook Community Arts Network, the Red Hook Public Library and Oblong Books & Music are free and open to the public. Donations are appreciated.

Read Local! Red Hook Literary Festival on Friday and Saturday, April 11 and 12 in venues in the village of Red Hook, with a full schedule of panels, workshops and presentations. For more information, contact Juliet Harrison at [email protected], call (845) 758-2667 or visit

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