Authors and Artists Festival begins monthly book discussion groups, workshops ahead of 2021 event

  • Book cover for author Dr. Sherri Mitchell’s “Sacred Instructions.” Contributed Photo

  • This Sunday, Sept. 6, will see the very first free monthly book discussion group meet virtually from 11 a.m. to noon to discuss the themes of author Dr. Sherri Mitchell’s “Sacred Instructions.” Mitchell is an Indigenous lawyer and speaks on the sacred teaching of the Penobscot as a way to help heal the Earth. Contributed Photo

Staff Writer
Published: 9/3/2020 10:12:14 AM

After a successful first year saw the Authors & Artists Festival reach over nearly 1,000 audience members, organizers have scheduled associated programming that begins this week and leads up to the 2021 festival themed “Honoring Nature.” 

These programs begin this Sunday and will continue through the remainder of the year. This Sunday, Sept. 6, will see the very first free monthly book discussion group meet virtually from 11 a.m. to noon to discuss the themes of author Dr. Sherri Mitchell’s “Sacred Instructions.” According to a press release, Mitchell is an Indigenous lawyer and writes about the sacred teaching of the Penobscot as a way to help heal the Earth.

“Drawing from ancestral knowledge as well as her experience as an attorney and activist, Mitchell addresses some of the most crucial issues of our day, such as environmental protection and human rights,” reads the Authors & Artists Festival website. “For those seeking change, she offers a set of Indigenous cultural values that will preserve our collective survival for future generations.”

Registration for the free book discussion and reading groups is available online at authorsandartistsfestival.wordpress.com. The discussions will be held from 11 a.m to noon on the first Sunday of each month between September and the February 2021 festival. Each month will focus on a book written by an Authors & Artists Festival speaker. 

“You don’t have to have read anything,” said Organizer Lisa McLoughlin. “Each book has something really great to say about nature and the environment. We’ll have a conversation using the books as a jumping off point.”

McLoughlin has been hard at work scheduling the programs throughout the Fall, and planning for the February festival. In addition to the reading groups, art-focused workshops will be held once a month starting in October.

Each workshop will be focused on topics from blogging to nature photography or poetry. She said that while the 2020 festival was successful, organizers felt there wasn’t enough participation from artists, and it was mostly authors.

“The workshops will give a chance to showcase dance, photography and more,” McLoughlin said.

While some of the associated programs will see audience members charged for a ticket, McLoughlin said much of the proceeds will be donated by the artists back into supporting the festival. She said this was one of the ways they were trying to become less reliant on grant funding to hold the festival. To apply for a “scholarship” or reduced cost, email McLoughlin at lisa@hemlockhouse.net.

The first workshop, “Writers Listening to Nature” with Christian McEwen will be held next month, Oct. 24 from 1 to 3 p.m. and costs $25. To register, go to bit.ly/3hIJXDm or authorsandartistsfestival.wordpress.com. 

“One of life’s great joys is finding time to listen — whether to the scattered wonders of conversation or to the many voices of the non-human world: birdsong, wild wind, river’s sweep,” reads the festival’s website. “In this bright fall workshop we will identify sources for the listener’s delight, and share ways to grow them into poems, songs and stories.”

In addition to helping audience members get excited for the 2021 virtual festival, McLoughlin said the programming throughout the fall will give residents something to do while they remain inside and socially distant. This year’s 2020 online festival involved 61 adult and children authors and artists, reaching over 800 audience members.

This year all programming will also be online, and will feature headline speakers, poets, and new Associated Programming in the months leading up to the festival, offering the opportunity for speakers and audience members to create and learn over the next six months. This includes the hands-on workshops, some of which require a stipend that will benefit the festival, and the free reading series the first Sunday of each month. More information and a full list of speakers for the monthly reading groups and workshops, as well as registration links, can be found at https://bit.ly/3gLyIsH

Sponsors for the 2021 festival and its events include the Greenfield Cooperative Bank; the Dickinson Memorial Library in Northfield, the Northfield Historical Commission, the New England Grass Roots Environmental Fund, the Northfield Area Business and Tourist Association,  Kiwanis of Northfield, Deerfield Valley Art Association, and the Northfield Parent Teacher Organization. The Erving Public Library will also be a partner this year.

Videos from the 2020 Authors and Artists festival can be found on McLoughlin’s YouTube page at https://bit.ly/2QFH7TQ.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com or 413-930-4579.


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