While working alone on a long project like a novel, it’s easy to feel lonely, disconnected from readers and isolated from peers. The best antidote I know for this malaise is a literary festival. And even though I’m not feeling particularly lonely, disconnected or isolated at this time, I am nevertheless looking forward to the annual Brattleboro Literary Festival, which takes place Thursday through Sunday, October third through sixth of this year.
Brattleboro, Vermont, is a literary town. It is home to at least four independent bookstores, despite a population of only 12,000. In addition, it’s home to the Brooks Memorial Library, a full-service resource for stories and information in all formats, from the old-school hardcover to the on-demand digital download.
Rudyard Kipling and Saul Bellow both lived in the hills around Brattleboro, hills that continue to be heavily populated by writers of all genres and styles. The area has a strong creative economy, and the literary arts thrive here, especially during the festival, when writers from away come to town.
As always, there are more readings than it is possible for any one person to attend, so I always pick and choose carefully. It’s tempting to attend only readings of fiction, but I’ve learned that hearing poets read aloud illuminates their work, allowing me an almost magical understanding of language. I also like to hear from at least one non-fiction writer. These researchers often tell the story of their research, a story that reveals their passion and perseverance, which is inspiring. And of course, I love to hear fiction, too. This year, I’m looking forward to hearing Megan Mayhew Bergman, Sophie Cabot Black, and Christopher Castellani. I haven’t yet decided between Patrick Donnelly, Amy Dryansky or Patricia Fargnoli. In addition to readings, there are panel discussions, workshops and other literary events – like so much candy.
Despite careful planning, I know from prior experience that no matter how carefully I schedule my days, I may not make it to all the readings I aim to. I may fall into an interesting conversation, wander into a different reading, change my mind at the last minute, or become engrossed by the books for sale at the River Garden, where publishers and book vendors display their wares.
Saturation is another possibility, and something I’ve experienced before. After listening to several wonderful readings followed by Q and As, I don’t want to hear another word. I just want to go home – and write.
In addition to the festival, Brattleboro is home to several good restaurants and some purveyors of fabulous local foods. If feasting on words leaves you hungry, stop in at any of the eateries along Main Street, Flat Street or Elliot. And if you want to see how food and drink are made, check out the Grafton Village Cheese Factory and Sapling Distillery, both less than a mile north of town on Route 30.