By Stephen Seitz
WOODSTOCK – This past weekend saw ideal conditions for an outdoor event like Bookstock, the annual literary festival held in Woodstock.
“We have about 20 people who put a lot of time into making this happen,” said Ron Miller, a volunteer coordinator. “Everything’s gone the way we expected it, and everyone’s having a good time. It really hops here on Saturday.”
Attendees said the experience of holding a real, printed book in your hands is unlike any other.
“Books don’t need batteries, and they won’t crash on you,” said Holly Harris, visiting from Boston. “I grew up with books all around the house, and I like them just the way they are.”
Some visitors looked for specific books.
“I’m into photography and filmmaking,” said Alex Klein, visiting from Brookline, Mass. “When we go into a bookstore, I look for photography books. I have a YouTube channel, and I’m finishing up a film with my dog.”
Plenty of authors also attended the event to give presentations, host workshops, and to meet and mingle with their readers. Miller said Bookstock has a reputation as a good event for authors. One presentation, by former U.S. poet laureate Billy Collins, sold out well in advance. Novelist Anita Diamant (“The Red Tent”), gave the keynote address.
“If you like poetry, this is the place to come,” Miller said. “This year, we have three former U.S. poets laureate, and New Hampshire’s poet laureate. We have some of the best fiction and nonfiction writers from New England.”
Miller said a broad range of interesting writers come to the festival.
“We’re a regional festival, and the facilities here in Woodstock can’t support many hundreds of people, so we’re not looking to get world famous people to come here, but we do get some of the best New England writers and people in Vermont who aren’t as well known, but who are really interesting writers,” he said.
Among those is Steve Delaney. He was best known as a reporter and commentator for Vermont Public Radio before he retired. Delaney has written “Vermont Seasonings,” some essays on the changing seasons in Vermont and how they affect the residents. He’s also written a trilogy set in a fictional Vermont town he calls Nilesburg, which is deep in the heart of Franklin County.
Delaney said that novelists have a singular advantage when they write about Vermont.
“Of course, you’re starting with some of the most vivid characters that you can imagine, because you’re setting the books in Vermont. Vermont has kind of a mother lode of character sketches. Whether you go to the store and listen to them solve problems in the morning, or whether it’s a storekeeper, or whether it’s a cop, the town clerk, the undertaker, they all have something going for them that you won’t find in other places. So you try to find out what that is,” he said.
Jennifer Senior, who lives in Woodstock for part of the year, discussed her book, “All Joy and No Fun: the Paradox of Modern Parenthood.
“It started as a story for New York Magazine,” she said. “There is all this research showing that parents aren’t any happier than non-parents, that children do not improve their parents’ lives. I thought, ‘That’s weird. I’d like to investigate that literature.’”
What she found, she said, is that having children doesn’t seem to make much of a difference in someone’s happiness.
“People are deferring child rearing,” she said. “They’re looking forward to having kids, and they build it up into this very big thing, the way Jane Austen’s heroines build up marriage. Then they think, ‘Wait a minute. Now I’m sleep-deprived, the teen years are complicated, and two is kind of rough,’ and yet it’s a transcendent thing. It’s a book that looks at how kids affect their parents.”
All events were free and open to the public.
For more information, visit bookstockvt.org.