Put on some comfortable shoes and bring a tote bag because the sixth annual Montclair Literary Festival is about to start. The festival will feature over 70 international, national, and local authors and will run from Thursday, May 5th to Monday, May 9th. Festival Day, Saturday, May 7th, will feature three different events at various locations in Montclair and run from 10 am until 7 pm.
“We’re excited to share our complete line-up with over 30 book talks, panel discussions, children’s events, and workshops, ” said festival chair Marcia Marley. “There really is something of interest for everyone! Every year I look forward to the festival, it is an exchange of ideas and a celebration of our diverse community.”
In addition, on Saturday, there is a mid-morning Poetry Café of coffee, donuts, and readings from some of New Jersey’s best poets, and an evening of Pitchapalooza — an American Idol-style pitch competition where 20 writers will be selected at random to pitch their book in one minute.
The pitch competition, which promises to be much gentler than Idol, is presented by The Book Doctors, an editorial service company dedicated to helping writers get their books published.
The festival will kick off with an online talk by Katherine Heiny, Author of Standard Deviation and Single Carefree, Mellow, in conversation with Kate Tuttle of The Boston Globe about Heiny’s new novel, Early Morning Riser, on Thursday, May 5 at 7 pm. The event is free but you need to register.
Most of the events are free and will be held in person either outside in tents or inside the Montclair Public Library, First Congregational Church, and Montclair State University. Event organizers have stated that they will follow all Covid-19 safety protocols advised by the CDC.
Some of the authors include Joyce Carol Oates, Megan Abbott, Jonathan Santlofer, Marjorie Margolies, Fiona Davis, M. Chris Fabricant, and Xochitl Gonzales, as well as children’s authors Zibby Owens, Victoria Kann, and Chris Grabenstein
That’s right. Rubylicious and Princess Charming, are coming to Montclair as are Shy Willow, Mr. Lemoncello and Barb the Last Bezerker. Following the children’s events, there will be craft projects.
Panel discussions will include the craft of crime writing, the perspective of Latinx authors, politics, and public affairs.
Some of the festival highlights include:
* Jennifer Egan will hold a highly-anticipated conversation with Garth Risk Hallberg about her new book, The Candy House, on Friday, May 6 at 7 pm. Their conversation will reflect on the quest for authenticity and meaning in a world where memories and identities are no longer private. Eagan will be signing books after the event
* Elizabeth Alexander will discuss her new work, The Trayvon Generation, a meditation on the power of art and culture to illuminate America’s unresolved problem with race, on Saturday, May, 7 at 12 pm
Don Winslow. Photo by Robert Gallagher
* Bestselling crime writer and political commentator Don Winslow will have a Q&A discussion with CBS News Chief Investigative and Senior National Correspondent Jim Axelrod on Sunday, May 8th at 6 pm. Winslow will discuss his book, City on Fire, the first volume in his new American crime saga. The event will be at the First Congregational Church on South Fullerton Avenue. Winslow will be signing books after the event, part of his final tour after recently announcing his retirement
“This year I’m particularly looking forward to former US Congresswoman Marjorie Margolies’ discussion about women having it all based on her book And How are the Children? Timeless Lessons from the Frontlines of Motherhood, and also Judge Victoria Pratt talking about the criminal justice system reform,” said Marley.
Honorable Victoria Pratt, Newark Municipal Court Chief Judge (ret.) and law professor, author of The Power of Dignity: How Transforming Justice Can Heal Our Communities, will be a panelist in the discussion “Transforming Our Broken Criminal Justice System,” which will discuss the American criminal justice system with Montclair State University Associate Professor of Justice Studies, Dr. Jason Williams. With Pratt on the panel will be M. Chris Fabricant, the Innocence Project’s Director of Strategic Litigation and author of Junk Science and the American Criminal Justice System, and Kristin Henning, criminal justice advocate and author of The Rage of Innocence: How America Criminalizes Black Youth.
The festival aims to promote ideas, inspire future literary works and engage with different perspectives. Working in partnership with the Montclair Public Library, Watchung Booksellers, and local volunteers, the festival hopes to establish relationships between arts institutions, schools, and the local community.
Cleyvis Natera, a Montclair resident and author of the upcoming book, Neruda on the Park, is thrilled to be a featured guest at this year’s festival after spending many years having been an attendee.
Cleyvis Natera. Photo by Beowulf Sheehan
"I’m very proud of this novel. It is immersive, propulsive, funny, sexy and heartfelt. I can’t wait to hear what my neighbors and friends think of it once they read it,” she said.
“Neruda on the Park is a labor of love! I wrote it over 15 years of my life, and more than half of that time was spent working on it here in Montclair. I’m excited to introduce my community to a story that meditates on universal themes of home, love, family, and sacrifice — all told through the lens of an immigrant community in NYC under the threat of gentrification,” said Natera.
The event benefits Succeed2gether, a nonprofit organization that addresses unequal access to educational resources by providing high-quality enrichment and academic programs to children in need in Montclair and throughout Essex County.
In the event Voices of Tomorrow: Creative Writing Readings by Montclair High School and Montclair Kimberley Academy, students will have a chance to showcase their poetry, fiction, and essays to the public. It is moderated by Mark Rotella.
“Our hope is that this event will continue to be a part of the annual Montclair Literary Festival, and that the relationships will grow and that the students will have the year to work on their collections of creative writing and submit them for this event. Who knows, perhaps down the line it will grow to include other local high schools,” said Rotella.
The festival will conclude with Gideon Rachman, chief foreign affairs commentator for the Financial Times, discussing his new book, The Age of the Strongman: How the Cult of the Leader Threatens Democracy Around the World. From Putin, Trump, and Bolsonaro to Erdoğan, Orbán, and Xi, Gideon will take an intimate look at the rise of strongman leaders around the world, with Trump biographer, Bloomberg Opinion columnist, and MSNBC/NBC political analyst Tim O'Brien. The discussion will take place on Monday, May 9 at 7 pm at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Montclair, The Sanctuary, 67 Church St, Montclair.