Montclair Literary Festival
Pre-Festival events March 14
By GWEN OREL
Sophomore slump? What’s that?
Books, words, writing and the people who love them could face FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), its own special brand of writer’s block, mid-March in Montclair.
Sometimes the first year of a festival is the most amazing: the presenters don’t know what they don’t know, and they over-schedule wildly.
Panels? Check. Worskhops? Why not. Children’s events? Sure. And a cocktail party!
By the second year, and definitely by the third, a festival is usually pruned down, manageable and streamlined. And the presenters can actually enjoy themselves.
For the Montclair Literary Festival, which launched in 2017, co-founded by Jacqueline Mroz
and Catherine Platt, that last part is true: they both will be able to attend more of the festival this year. “I was too busy last year,” Mroz said with a laugh.
But as for this year’s festival being pruned down? Not at all.
Where last year’s inaugural Literary Festival was two days, this year’s, which begins on Thursday, March 15, is four. And there’s a pre-festival movie screening and wine tasting on Wednesday, March 14.
About 117 authors – with some events still firming up – will appear. About a third are local. Last year there were 93, Mroz said.
Of course in Montclair, “local” author often means “bestselling,” as with Christina Baker Kline (“Orphan Trains,” “A Piece of the World”), who will appear in two different panels on Saturday, March 17, “How to Write One True Sentence,” at 12:15 p.m., and in a workshop, “How to Get Published, Survive and Thrive as a Working Writer” at 4 p.m. Other high-profile local authors include Garth Risk Hallberg, D.T. Max and Alice Elliott Dark.
Expect to see some not-yet-famous names as well – middle and high school students will
perform a poetry slam on Thursday, and the high school short story competition prizes will be awarded then, as well.
It would be a strong festival if it were limited to New Jersey (and even Montclair) scribes. But, it isn’t.
The headliners include Meg Wolitzer, who will discuss her forthcoming book, “The Female Persuasion,” on Friday at Montclair State University. Anna Quindlen will discuss her latest novel on Saturday at First Congregational Church.
And rocker Patti Smith will close the festival on Sunday, reading from her latest book “Devotion (Why I Write),” and performing with Lenny Kaye.
The headliners and the writing workshops, which include a session on college essays from the Montclair Local’s “College Bound” columnist Pat Berry, a Young Adult novel writing workshop with novelist and psychotherapist ER Frank, and a memoir workshop with Lisa Romeo, thesis director for the Bay Path University MFA program, are ticketed events. All of the money goes to Succed2gether, a one-on-one after-school tutoring program. None of the authors are taking speaking fees.
Most of the events are free.
Children’s events take place at the Montclair Public Library, The Creativity Caravan and the Montclair Art Museum, and have activities geared to children ages 3-14.
The panels cover a range of topics. “Writing Without Boundaries” includes writers from
Matheny Medical and Educational Center’s Arts Access Program.” A panel titled “Women, Sex, Power” will address the #MeToo movement. Author Min Jin Lee (“Pachinko”) will appear in a panel on the immigrant experience.
Some of the panels came about through community suggestions, Mroz said.
A few events to note: Amanti Vino will offer a wine tasting, prior to the screening at Montclair Film’s Cinema505 of “Little Children,” starring Patrick Wilson (Montclairite), based on the book by Tom Perrotta (Montclairite). Perrotta and Wilson will appear in a panel titled “Sex, Schools and Suburbia” on Sunday, moderated by author/actress Dagmara Dominczyk.
A political cartoon panel titled “Engage, Rage or Both?” includes three New Yorker cartoonists and local graphic novelist Kevin Pyle, responding to Trump.
And to put this together, Montclair played a big role: you never know who might be next door: “My neighbor is in a band with Lenny Kaye. His other band is in Montclair.”
That band, the Loneseome Prairie Dogs, played in a block party last year. Kaye was supposed to come out, but didn’t, Mroz said. She told her neighbor, “We’d love for Lenny to moderate Patti’s talk.”
Mroz said, “I think that connection helped.”