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LOCAL EVENTS: Spencertown hosts annual bookfest



Spencertown Academy Arts Center’s 18th Annual Festival of Books. Photo contributed

THE 18TH ANNUAL FESTIVAL OF BOOKS (FOB), at the Spencertown Academy Arts Center, runs Labor Day weekend, September 1 to 4. The 4-day event includes 7 authors, who discuss their selected works, winners from the 2023 Youth Writers Contest, who will read from their works, a children’s program featuring Lyle the Crocodile, and a “gently” used book sale with up to 15 thousand titles to choose from.

In a telephone and email interview with The Columbia Paper, FOB co-chair Carl Atkins was asked about the selection criteria for invited authors. “We try to choose speakers who have something to say about contemporary issues and conditions.” Atkins added that selected books, generally, have been published within a year of the festival.

CP asked Atkins how the FOB has evolved and if it was a gamble in terms of audience interest to devote a festival to books and writers.

“Not at all. There’s a tremendous interest in books. Books are the cornerstone of the arts. People just love books!

“We hit on a winning formula from the start and it has grown into a major event because of its quality. We make minor changes each year. [We are adding] a section in both the Children’s Room and the Main Bookroom that we’re calling ‘Diverse Voices.’”

Among this year’s authors are Hudson resident Tamar Adler. In the Introduction to “The Everlasting Meal Cookbook Leftovers A-Z,” Adler writes, “I feel about leftovers as I do empty restaurants and unkempt gardens. I love them because they are unloved.” Adler describes her book as “a leftover encyclopedia.” If you have ever been stumped by what to do with a food item that time and refrigeration have rendered unrecognizable, Adler’s book is for you.

In addition to the alphabetized index, the book is thoughtfully organized by food groups, i.e. vegetables, meat and tofu, etc. Also, it includes a Useful Conversions page, e.g. 1 cup of chopped cooked meat equals a little over 10 ½ ounces. Shaina Loew-Banayan, chef and owner of Café Mutton in Hudson interviews Adler, Saturday, September 2, 1:30 p.m., on the Mainstage.

Playwright/Novelist Wesley Brown

Following Adler, at 3 p.m., is playwright/novelist Wesley Brown. “Blue in Green” is a beautifully written novella based on a true incident, a 1959 confrontation between jazz impresario Miles Davis and New York City police in Harlem, with fictionalized dialogue that explores Davis’ relationship with star ballet dancer/wife Frances and fellow jazz greats Cannonball Adderly, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillepsie, etc. Other luminaries include Eartha Kitt, Billie Holiday and Lena Horne.

Brown’s sensitive writing makes the reader an instrument. He describes a performance of “Porgy and Bess,” “From the get-go, there’s a full-blast orchestral screech of reeds and brass . . . an eye-popping roar, deep in the belly of a tuba gives way to Miles playing an ear-piercing wail, full of fury and worry. . .”

Brown is professor emeritus of English at Rutgers University and has taught at Bard College. He is interviewed by Grammy-nominated record producer Gerald Seligman.

Sunday morning features winners from the 2023 Youth Writers Competition. Atkins said there were 28 entries. Writers received cash awards of $250 – $100 in the categories of Fiction and Non Fiction.

They are:

Mira Pierce, 1st Place Fiction Winner, is a Chatham HS 9th Grader. Mira assumes the persona of a young gay scientist, Arthur Joyce, to tell the imaginative and alarming story of “Lonesome Town.”

WW2 has ended and the U.S. Government is actively looking for spies. The search turns up a document of previously unknown “monsters.” An experimental plan is hatched to round up the monsters and relocate them to an isolated area, dubbed Lonesome Town, for the purpose of testing and studying them. Joyce is assigned to provide therapeutic services to the monsters.

Joyce describes Lonesome Town as a suburban, gated community, where all the houses have homogeneous exteriors. The monsters are categorized as Banshees, Faes, Nymphs, Vampires and Werewolves. Joyce is given strict instructions not to befriend them. But Joyce cannot help but notice their human characteristics. They look and talk just like him. He, also, realizes that the experiments and tests performed on them are akin to torture.

Abira Khair, 2nd Place Fiction Winner, is a Hudson HS 9th Grader. His “Saturn’s Rings” is a sad yet familiar story of unexpressed love between two fellows.

Theo and Andy meet at age 5 when Andy’s family moves to a new neighborhood. The outgoing Theo befriends the very shy Andy. They are an inseparable pair from kindergarten through college. Andy is stunned when Theo announces his intention to marry Alice. At the wedding, the bride cries tears of joy while Andy, the best man, sheds tears of loss. Years later, Theo dies in a car accident and Andy helps Alice raise her 10-year old daughter, Jen.

The story ends with an infirmed Andy hospitalized, regretting that in the 78 years he had known Theo he never spoke aloud the words he thought: “I want him. I love you. I still love you. I’m sorry I couldn’t tell you.”

Ava Young, 3rd Place Fiction Winner, is a Berkshire Waldorf HS 10th Grader. Her “Living For Rose” is a humorous story of sibling envy. “I refused to understand how Rose could look the way she did. We had the same genetics, didn’t we? She had a taut, flat stomach and breasts like round pomegranates. I felt like a whale beside her . . .”

The 1st and 2nd Place Non-Fiction Winners are both 12th Graders and both wrote stories about family.

Amelia Scheriff, Chatham HS, tells a charming story about the origin of several nicknames family members have bestowed on her in “Namesake.” In “El Otro Lado Del Odio” (The Other Side of Hate) Carlos Lopez, Hudson HS, tells of a son who comes to terms with an overbearing father.

The students read from their works 10:30 a.m. on the Mainstage.

According to Atkins, a 24-person committee and 100 plus volunteers begin planning the FOB in February. Also 100+ donate books. Part of the planning includes “lining up cooks and bakers for the FOB Café,” he said.

Festivities begin on Friday, 3 to 8 p.m., with a members only preview of available books. The general public can peruse books Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and Monday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Admission is free. Teachers with ID get a 20% discount on purchases. Also, Monday is bargain day.

The Spencertown Academy Arts Center is located at 790 State Route 203. For more information, go to

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