Brattleboro hosts third annual literary festival

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(Host) Here’s a quiz: What do these authors have in common: Russell Banks, James Tate, Stuart O’Nan, Julia Alavarez, Andre Dubus III? The answer is, they’ll all be in Brattleboro this weekend for the third annual Brattleboro Literary Festival.

The three-day literary extravaganza is a celebration of good writing and good reading, as VPR’s Susan Keese reports.

(Keese) Writer Andre Dubus III won international recognition for his novel House of Sand and Fog. He says putting a book into the world is like having children: Once they’re out there they have their own lives in their readers’ imaginations.

(Dubus) “There’s really a profoundly private relationship between the reader and the book. And so it’s poignant to show up and talk in that relationship it’s almost like meeting one of your children’s closest friends you’ve never met.”

(Keese) The coming together of readers and writers is what the Brattleboro literary festival is all about. This weekend Brattleboro will be teaming with people who engage the world through the written word.

Last year 3,000 turned out for at least some of the weekend’s free readings and events. Twenty-eight authors will be reading this year, in venues up and down the town’s Main Street. They include novelists, poets, writers of nonfiction and young adult literature. Most come for no compensation at all.

Scott Browning heads the committee that works almost all year to put the festival together. He says Brattleboro was ripe for a literary feast like this one. It’s a town of bookstores and places to meet for coffee, the center of a region where writing and reading are taken seriously.

(Browning) “More often than not the reaction I get back when I invite an author is, ‘Oh I love Brattleboro.’ They already know this place and those who don’t very quickly fall in love with it.”

(Monique Truong) “It just feels like you’ve entered into this world and this town that actually cares about reading books.”

(Keese) Monique Truong was one of the emerging writers featured at last year’s festival. There are several ‘new’ writers coming this year too. Truong read from The Book of Salt, her award-winning first novel. She says that after most readings, authors are whisked back to their hotel rooms or disappear into the city they’re visiting. In Brattleboro, Truong took in as many other readings as she could possibly attend.

(Truong) “And for the two days or so that I was there it was almost like an alternative universe where writers were actually recognized on the street, and that you yourself would be able to see the other writers who were participating. And we were just sort of all roaming around having a good cup of coffee or going to the next reading or having a meal.”

(Keese) The festival is supported by local donations, grants and a downtown civic organization called Building a Better Brattleboro. Members of the committee say they’re happy to break even when it’s over. They’re already talking about writers they’d like to bring in next year.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Susan Keese.

A schedule of the events is online at

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