Nov 122015

You don’t write because you want to say something… you write because you have something to say —F. Scott Fitzgerald

Salem LitSo many, many people have had such a great deal to “say” over the years that a regular gathering of writers and readers was inevitable to share and discuss those thoughts put to words. These gatherings are called Literary Festivals and Salem has its own taking place right now, Nov. 12-18.

Among the highlights of this year’s Salem Literary Festival will be guest lecturers Frank Bidart, Stacy Schiff and Brunonia Barry, plus a full day of activities for writers that features an open mic session, a scavenger hunt and playwriting advice from the creators of the critically acclaimed local mainstay Cry Innocent.Salem Lit Fest

11/12/15 – Frank Bidart
Kick off the festival at the Salem State Writer’s Series with a reading from poet Frank Bidart whose first books, Golden State and The Book of the Body, gained critical attention and praise. His reputation as a poet of uncompromising originality was made with The Sacrifice, published in 1983. The 2007 recipient of the Bollingen Prize for Poetry, he teaches English at Wellesley College.

(Time: 7:30pm at Salem State University, Martin Luther King Room, Ellison Campus Center. Admission is free of charge.)

11/13/15 – Stacy Schiff
Join Pulitzer Prize winning author Stacy Schiff for the keynote address and presentation of her new historical work, The Witches, Salem 1692 which she researched at Peabody Essex Museum’s Phillips Library. Schiff is the author of Véra (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov), winner of the Pulitzer Prize; Saint-Exupéry, Pulitzer Prize finalist; A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America, winner of the George Washington Book Prize. Named a 2011 Library Lion by the New York Public Library, she lives in New York City.

(Time: 7pm at Peabody Essex Museum, East India Marine Hall. Admission: PEM Members $7; nonmembers $10. Reservations must be made by November 12. For more info go to or call 978-542-1511.)

11/14/15 – A Day For Writers
Nestle into the beautiful Salem Athenaeum for the day. It will begin by bringing you prompt sessions to wake up your writer’s brain. Choose your guide from among fantastic local writers, such as Jaffa award-winning poet Danielle Jones-Pruett or Audrey Mardavich. Keep the creativity flowing with panels on writing adolescent characters for adults, YA, sci fi / fantasy, and poetry.

Learn how to start and run a literary magazine with The Critical Flame and Buck Off Magazine, and gain insights to the page-to-stage process of playwriting with Mark and Kristina Stevick, creators of the Salem theatrical institution, Cry Innocent.

Share your own work at the afternoon open mic, investigate Salem’s literary history and hidden gems as part of an ongoing scavenger hunt, and stay for a Movietelling Reading where fresh young poets will read their own versions of the script over such favorites as Disney’s Cinderella and Return to Oz.

(Time: 10am – 1pm and 2:30pm – 6pm at Salem Athenaeum. Admission is free of charge.)

Brunonia-Barry-RGB-273x30011/18/15, Brunonia Barry
End the Salem Literary Festival by attending the last of the “Seven Lectures at Seven Gables” series with New York Times bestselling author (The Lace Reader) Brunonia Barry who will lecture on her book, The Map of True Places. Set in Boston and Salem, this well-crafted novel has been described as immersive and beautifully written as it explores finding one’s true place in the world.

Barry was the first American author to win the International Women’s Fiction Festival’s Baccante Award and was a past recipient of Ragdale Artists’ Colony’s Strnad Invitational Fellowship as well as the winner of New England Book Festival’s award for Best Fiction.

(Time: 6pm at House of Seven Gables. Admission: House of the Seven Gables members are free; Non-Members pay $7. For more info email, or call 978-744-0991 ext. 104.

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed – Ernest Hemingway

Come to the Salem Literary Festival where you will meet those who have achieved success as writers and mingle with those (such as yourself?) thirsting for that success.

Nov 022014

Words, words, words. Just because you can string a few words together does not mean that you can create a sentence. BUT…. but, if you can create a sentence, then the world awaits, for if one sentence can be ushered from your mind, others will follow. And if they can be of a common purpose, then perhaps you have a story to tell.

Salem Lit FestThis all leads to the return this week of the Salem Literary Festival. Multiple events are scheduled to run Nov 6-9 at various historic venues in Salem. The goal is to unite published authors, book lovers and storytellers.

And this year it is extra special as the festival has joined with New York Times bestselling author Brunonia Barry and her organization, Readers and Writers. Inc. This should attract more authors and attendees.

You can pick up additional details about the overall schedule at their website. But we wanted to touch on one new aspect this year, live storytelling: “The Tell Tale Arts: Live Storytelling Event” at the Peabody Essex Museum (East India Marine Hall, 161 Essex Street), Nov. 9, 3-5pm.

Each person has up to 10 minutes to spin true-life tales on a chosen theme without the aid of notes or a script. In a casual cafe atmosphere, you will relax and listen as bold storytellers share revealing moments from their own lives.

Michelle Moon, is the Assistant Director for Adult Programs at the Peabody Essex Museum, where she oversees PEM events and activities for all adult audiences. In that capacity she also serves as program collaborator with the Lit Festival.

She explains, “PEM had been looking for an opportunity to participate in the live storytelling movement. Many museums have experimented with this format – for example, The Moth at the Met. PEM is a museum that celebrates individual creative expression, and first-person storytelling offers a powerful channel of creative communication to individuals who reshape their life experience into a story.”

The evening’s theme, “At the Movies,” is inspired by the PEM exhibition “The Woods” by internationally renowned video artist Candice Breitz, which delves into the cinematic culture of three centers of global filmmaking — Hollywood, Bollywood (India) and Nollywood (Nigeria) — to reflect the culture of stardom and movie fame.

But the submission process was a bit different than what we might have expected. Storytellers had to use a one-sentence elevator-like pitch to be selected for this event.

Moon reveals, “One of the most powerful aspects of live storytelling is the feeling of spontaneity. By asking for only a one-sentence pitch, storytellers get to identify one of the most intriguing nuggets of their tale and use it to entice us. But they don’t have to write it all out in advance, which might take away from the energy of crafting the tale on the fly and drain it of some of its potential life.”

“Many writers who have done live storytelling,” she adds, “use the experience as a way to reveal the compelling heart of a story, and later on take some of what they have discovered in the live experience of telling to work out ways of presenting material on the page. Live storytelling and story writing are different but related arts.”

(By the way, Michelle also produced the successful live story series “A Winter’s Tale” in Portsmouth, NH, for three years, ending in March 2014. So, she knows what she’s talking about.)

Audience members will also be invited to share anonymous brief versions of their own “At the Movies” story; a few of the most interesting will be selected to read during the intermission and between speakers.

Deadline for submissions is Nov. 3. Send the one-sentence pitch to Michelle Moon at Make your reservations by Nov. 7th by calling PEM at 978-542-1511 or visiting Admission: Members $5, nonmembers $7 (plus museum admission if applicable).