The second annual Montclair Literary Festival is packed with some luminaries of literature, including Tom Perrotta, Anna Quindlen, Christina Baker Kline, Meg Wolitzer and the legendary Patti Smith. In addition to being esteemed and bestselling authors, they share another characteristic: all have roots in the Garden State.
Launched last year by Succeed2gether, a non-profit organization that mobilizes community support systems for low-income families, the festival engages the entire local community to celebrate Montclair’s — and the state’s — vibrant literary scene.
More than 90 authors will take part in 50 events, including book talks, panel discussions, author signings, workshops, and children’s activities. The festival runs from March 16-18.
The festival kicks off at the Montclair State University Communications Center with a “Girls Night Out,” featuring a conversation between New York Times-bestselling author Meg Wolitzer and her editor, Sarah McGrath. Wolitzer is known for exploring themes of marriage, sex, gender politics, and family, and her latest book, The Female Persuasion, has been described as “an electric, multi-layered novel about ambition, power, friendship, and mentorship, and the romantic ideals we all follow deep into adulthood.” There’s a Meet the Author at 6:30, followed by the book talk at 7:30. Individual tickets are sold out but room is still available with a Festival Pass.
Saturday brings a morning full of children’s workshops, before renowned author Anna Quindlen starts her national book tour for her latest novel, Alternate Side, in the sanctuary of First Congregational Church at 2:45 p.m.. The novel explores tensions in a tight-knit neighborhood—and a seemingly happy marriage—that are exposed by an unexpected act, and Quindlen will be discussing it with local author Deborah Davis. Tickets are $40, which includes a copy of Alternate Side.
At the same time as Quindlen’s talk, there will be a reading at the Montclair Public Library coordinated by Halfway There, a quarterly reading series founded by Apryl Lee and Nicole Haroutunian in 2015. The aim of the series is simple: to bring together established and emerging literary voices.
“Nicole and I are thrilled to be a part of the Montclair Literary Festival,” says Lee. “We’re proud to be one of the ongoing literary events taking place throughout the year in Montclair, and the literary festival is such a great way to bring us all together in addition to the phenomenal authors the festival brings in.” There will be five local writers reading their work.
But it doesn’t end there for Saturday’s lineup—later in the day, two of the biggest names in literature will be there: Cristina Baker Kline and Tom Perrotta. At 4:00, in the Guild Room of First Congregational Church, Kline—a Montclair local and bestselling author—will present a talk on “The Insider’s Guide to Getting Published.” She’ll be discussing different roads to literary success—something she’s certainly qualified to speak about, given her two wildly successful novels, A Piece of the World and Orphan Train. Little Brown publisher Reagan Arthur and University of Michigan Professor Emeritus of English and former chair of the National Book Awards Fiction Panel Nicholas Delbanco will also be there to discuss the publishing world. Tickets are $30, and the proceeds go to support Succeed2gether’s after-school tutoring program.
That evening, renowned novelist, screenwriter, and New Jerseyan Tom Perrotta will talk with actor Patrick Wilson, who starred in the film adaptation of Perrotta’s novel Little Children. The talk is very aptly called “Sex, Schools and Suburbia,” which are three subjects to which the author continually returns in his work. Perrotta, whose work includes Mrs Fletcher, Little Children, The Election, and The Leftovers, will discuss the process of translating fiction to film and TV. Tickets are $35, which includes a copy of Perrotta’s latest novel, Mrs Fletcher.
On Sunday morning at 10:00, The Book Doctors will be reprising their festival role with another informative Master Class, “How to Locate, Lure and Land an Agent.” The authors of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published, Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry, will once again be holding the very popular “Pitchapalooza:” every participant will get the chance to pitch their book idea and have it critiqued kindly and gently.
Whether you’re looking to get a deal with one of the Big 5, a great independent publisher, or self-publish, your pitch is a critical part of the process and, if done right, can open a lot of doors to the publishing world—and the Book Doctors are experts at crafting them. Tickets are $100, which includes a copy of the book How to Get Published.
Perhaps no one at this year’s festival has a bigger following than the closing act: the great Patti Smith. The artist and author will talk with guitarist, composer, and writer Lenny Kaye and will read from her latest book, Devotion (Why I Write), which explores the mysteries of creativity and details her own creative process. Attendees will then be treated to a musical performance by the two. Tickets are $35, which includes a copy of the book.
(Editor’s note: Dani Fleischer will be participating in the Halfway There reading on Saturday, reading her personal essays “The Wrong Spiritual Experience.”)