Festival Fever: The Empire State Book Festival, 4/9-10/10

The inaugural Empire State Book Festival lands at Albany’s Empire State Plaza next month, and it promises to be a real bonanza for readers and writers alike.

Organized by the New York Library Association, the festival kicks off at 6pm Friday, April 9, with a gala celebration and the induction of the inaugural class of inductees to the New York Writer’s Hall of Fame – James Baldwin, Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Caro, Frederick Douglass, Mary Gordon, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Isaac B. Singer, Edith Wharton, E.B. White and Walt Whitman. Tix for the gala – which includes dinner – are $75.

The festival really takes off on Saturday, April 10, beginning at 10:30am and continuing non-stop til 5pm throughout the Empire State Plaza concourse and in the various meeting rooms, as dozens of writers offer author talks, readings, writing workshops, book-signing sessions, panel discussions, tutorials and storytelling. And it’s all free.

You can find the complete schedule here, but here are some highlights that we’re especially looking forward to:

“No Place Like Home” @ Meeting Room 6. Gregory Maguire delivers the fest’s keynote speech about growing up in Albany and writing “Wicked.”

“Judging a Book by Its Cover” @ Meeting Room 4. Moderated by Jessica Loy, some of the publishing world’s top designers – Christopher Brand, Chip Kidd, Julie Metz and Ben Wiseman – discuss the process of creating an effective book jacket.

“Get Graphic: A Graphic Novel/Comic Book Panel Discussion” @ Meeting Room 1. Featuring Jerry Craft, Matthew Dow Smith, Ron Marz and Barbara Slate.

“In the Company of Mary Gordon @ Meeting Room 6. WAMC-FM’s Joe Donahue interviews the best-selling novelist and New York Writer’s Hall of Famer.

“Journalist to Author: Making the Transition” @ Meeting Room 4. The Times Union’s Paul Grondahl moderates a panel discussion with Richard Firstman, Sam Roberts, Charles Salzberg and Beth Whitehouse.

“BLOOK: Going from Blog to Book” @ Meeting Room 4. Times Union arts editor Michael Janairo moderates a panel discussion with Cathy Erway, Joan Konner, Chad Orzel, David Sax and Kevin Walsh.

“Poets Reflect on the Poetry of Leonard Cohen” @ Meeting Room 6. Readings by Jack Locke, Nick Appleyard, Jacob Scheier and Karen Elaine Spencer from the new book, “Leonard Cohen You’re Our Man: 75 Poets Reflect on the Poetry of Leonard Cohen.”

“Lessons in Terror” @ Meeting Room 5. Joseph Bruchac discusses horror stories in American Indian traditions.

There are lots more intriguing sessions scheduled, too, with inside info to help you write about such topics as sports, food, romance, mysteries, pets, poetry, history, memoir and more.

Mountain Jam @ Hunter Mountain, Hunter, 6/4-6
Rhythm On the Ridge @ Maple Ski Ridge, Rotterdam, 6/12
Clearwater Great Hudson River Revival @ Croton Point Park, Croton-on-Hudson, 6/19-20
The Old Songs Festival @ Altamont Fairgrounds, Altamont, 6/25-27
Freihofer’s Jazz Festival @ SPAC, Saratoga Springs, 6/26-27
The WGNA Countryfest @ Altamont Fairgrounds, Altamont, 7/10
The Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival @ Walsh Farm, Oak Hill, 7/15-18
Lake George Jazz Weekend @ Shepard Park, Lake George, 9/18-19/10

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