Tuesday, April 9th, 2013
For a few years, one of my favorite free events in Maine was held in Portland at the beginning of every April: the Festival of the Book put on by an organization called Maine Reads. The event featured three days worth of talks and readings given by 40+ published authors– mostly from Maine, but quite a few from away as well.
E.B. White’s granddaughter, Martha, shared slides and stories of her grandparents, parents, and childhood. Science writer Hannah Holmes was paired with fiction author Shonna Milliken Humphrey for a lively panel discussion – I can’t remember the topic, but I know I enjoyed their chemistry. I heard Tony Horwitz, one of my favorite authors, give a talk on his latest book about John Brown.
While walking around Mackworth Island with a friend who has recently published a book, I asked her if she had thought about speaking at this year’s festival. She had not only thought of it, but had asked the organizers for a spot in the schedule. Unfortunately, no – there wasn’t going to be a festival this year.
I didn’t believe it. I went to the Maine Reads website. It hadn’t been updated in a year. Neither had their Facebook page or Twitter account. I sent messages, but received no response.
I ran into an acquaintance this weekend and learned the sad truth. No more Maine Festival of the Book! If my understanding is correct, the Maine Reads nonprofit was run by the wife of our last governor. Once he left office, I guess funding dried up.
Part of the festival continues as the Maine Book Arts Bazaar, a sort of craft fair for print and book artists. I attended this Sunday at the Wishcamper Center at the University of Southern Maine. There were probably fifty tables where craftspeople displayed their art. Some people sold tools, paper, and supplies to people creating these works. Quite a few vendors had blank books for sale.
It was a nice event, but it seemed targeted towards serious print art fans or producers rather than readers.
You can find some of the panel discussions from previous years of the Maine Festival of the Book here: http://mainehumanities.org/index.php