BLUE HILL — As Maine’s COVID surge continues, organizers for Word have decided that the annual literary arts festival will return to the online format introduced last year. The festival’s free events and paid workshops will be available via Zoom Oct. 21-24. Participants must pre-register for all events. Details and registration links are at www.wordfestival.org.
Featured speakers will include novelist Susan Choi, journalist Bob Keyes and an evening of notable poets, as well as some of the region’s most popular food writers. Word also will offer local school visits by children’s author/illustrator Russ Cox and children’s/young-adult author Anica Mrose Rissi, funded by Bar Harbor Bank & Trust.
As always, Thursday night will be devoted to Word.Art, starting with a documentary commissioned from Blue Hill filmmaker Matt Shaw. The film will feature “Close Apart,” a series that links poetry by Beatrix Gates of Brooksville with etchings by intaglio printmaker Tim Seabrook and painter Leslie Cummins of Blue Hill. The film will debut via Zoom Thursday, Oct. 21, at 6 p.m., followed by a brief discussion with the artists.
At 7 p.m., the festival will present Portland journalist Bob Keyes, author of “The Isolation Artist: Scandal, Deception and the Last Days of Robert Indiana,” in conversation with Paul Sacaridiz, executive director of Deer Isle’s Haystack Mountain School of Crafts. A longtime arts writer for the Portland Press Herald, Keyes gained access to key players in the life of the tortured millionaire artist, whose death on Vinalhaven in 2018 left behind a web of fraud accusations. His account offers an inside look into the life of an artist as well as the often-unscrupulous world of high-end art.
Susan Choi, author of the National Book Award-winning novel “Trust Exercise,” will chat Friday evening, Oct. 22, at 7 p.m. with Laura Miller, books and culture columnist for Slate and a Word committee member. Choi is the author of five novels for adults and one children’s book. “Trust Exercise” is about a group of talented acting students and their charismatic teacher at a performing arts high school. Their tangled relationships ultimately lead to a shocking result, but whose version of the events can be trusted?
On Saturday, Oct. 23, author/illustrator Russ Cox will offer a children’s program, “Drawing on Your Imagination,” via Zoom at 10 a.m. Cox most recently was the illustrator for Lynn Plourde’s “The Boy Whose Face Froze Like That” and Michele Kean’s “Rio and Silas in Love.”
That evening’s program will feature readings and discussion by poets from Maine and beyond. The lineup includes Stu Kestenbaum, Arisa White, Maya Williams and Tim Seibles.
Kestenbaum, who lives in Deer Isle, is the former Maine poet laureate He is the author of five poetry collections, most recently “How to Start Over,” a collection of blackout poems.
White, who teaches English and creative writing at Colby College, is author of the poetic memoir “Who’s Your Daddy” and co-editor of the anthology “Home is Where You Queer Your Heart.”
Williams, the Portland poet laureate, is a religious queer Black Mixed Race suicide survivor, most recently a finalist in the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance chapbook contest.
Seibles, former poet laureate of Virginia and a professor at Old Dominion University, is the author of five poetry collections. One of them, “Fast Animal,” was a finalist for the 2012 National Book Award.
Seibles also will offer a poetry workshop, “Personas Are Us: Who Do You Think You’re Talking To?” Other workshops will include “Where to Begin … and How to Continue,” a fiction workshop with Anica Mrose Rissi, “Flash and Micro-Fiction: The Art of Brevity” with Lori Thatcher and a memoir workshop with Elizabeth Garber.
Rissi, a Deer Isle native, is the author of more than a dozen books for children and teens. She just published her first middle-grade collection of scary stories, “Hide and Don’t Seek.”
Thatcher, whose six-word memoir was feature-of-the-day on SMITH Magazine’s website, has published short stories in multiple journals and is at work on a chained flash-fiction novel.
The former poet laureate of Belfast, Garber is the author of “Implosion: Memoir of an Architect’s Daughter,” four books of poetry and her new memoir, “Not As Lost As I Thought: The True Story of a Girl at Sea.”
Alicia Anstead, arts and culture reporter and editor of the national magazine Inside Arts, will moderate Word’s food-writing panel. Featured panelists will be Brooke Dojny of Sedgwick, most recently the author of “Chowderland;” Barbara Damrosch, gardening writer and author of “The Four Season Farm Gardener’s Cookbook,” and novelist and memoirist Deborah Joy Corey, founder of the Castine-based Blue Angel food program.
In addition to Bar Harbor Bank & Trust, Word is funded by the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation, the Thompson Foundation and the Maine Arts Commission, an independent state agency supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as other generous donors. Word’s media partner is WERU-FM. Its fiscal sponsor is Blue Hill Community Development.
For more info, call 374-5632 or visit wordfestival.org.