By Emily Blackner
Elm Staff Writer
Bibliophiles from as far away as France are converging in Chestertown this weekend for the Second Annual Chestertown Book Festival.
Kate Bursick, Assistant Director of the Rose O’Neill Literary House, summarized the festival as “a celebration and discussion of literary life on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. It features thirty regional individuals and nine local venues participating in 23 events.” The event is sponsored by several area businesses including the Literary House, the Chester River Press, Artworks, and the Historical Society of Kent County.
The festival officially kicks off Friday, Oct. 8 with a talk by Washington Post columnist and Pulitzer-Prize winner Michael Dirda at 7 p.m. at the Bookplate. Other events will follow, primarily occurring on Saturday, Oct. 9.
All of this excitement is packed into only two days, but the planning began six months in advance. WC alum Lindsay Lusby, Class of 2008, has been involved in the planning process for the past two festivals. “I got involved through working at the library,” she said. “I’ve worked there since high school. My boss was originally involved in getting the idea off the ground, and I approached him and said I wanted to participate.”
Bursick became involved in a planning capacity out of a love of literature. “In a town with three bookstores, if you don’t find a way to facilitate discussion about literature, especially as a literature person yourself, you’re not doing your job,” she said.
Lusby enjoyed “bringing together people who don’t normally come together or who don’t know each other, particularly for the Faith and Inspiration panel. It was also great to mix and match different concepts and come up with fun and creative titles for events.” She also found it rewarding to “mix big names with smaller, not well-known authors.”
One of the biggest draws to this year’s festival is R. Crumb, known as the father of the underground comix movement. Crumb is traveling all the way from his home in France to participate in the festival, where he will be discussing his work, taking audience questions, and signing books from 1 to 3 p.m. on Saturday at the Prince Theatre.
“R. Crumb[’s discussion] is probably the biggest event going on. But we want him to blend in and not be given too much attention,” Bursick said.
The festival provides an excellent reason to visit Chestertown. “Last year we had very good attendance,” said Lusby. “We took attendance silently at events and counted about 900 non-unique visits.” The influx of people is good for local businesses, who experience boosted sales from travelers from the other side of the Bay and from Delaware. “There are going to be a lot of people visiting town, and they all need to eat,” Lusby said.
“There is also a cerebral benefit for the town, in that for a day people who love literature and art can come together,” Bursick said.
“Many of the authors also have a soft spot for Chestertown,” Lusby said.
WC students may be particularly interested in several of the events because of college staff who are involved. “Michael Kaylor and Katrina Skefos from the Lit House will be doing a bookbinding demonstration,” said Bursick. “Also, [Robbi] Behr and [Matthew] Swanson taught a class last semester, so students might remember them.” The couple, which runs Chestertown-based Idiots’Books, is hosting an event about combining pictures and words in storytelling.
“An event that has been widely popular in the past is the ‘How to Pitch to an Agent in Ten Minutes’ presentation,” said to Bursick.
Kent County Public Library’s immensely popular semi-annual Used Book Sale returns to coincide with the book festival. The sale opens to the public Oct. 8 at 10:00 a.m., and extends past the festival itself to conclude on Oct. 12 at 5 p.m. The library is officially closed for Columbus Day, but the doors will still be open to the part of the library that houses the sale, according to Lusby.
“Hardcover books are $2, and paperback books are $1. The paperbacks in the hallway sell for 25 cents,” Lusby said.
On Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., the library will be having a special $5-a-box sale. “Students show up with boxes and just fill them up with books,” Bursick said. All proceeds from this sale benefit the library, and they will be accepting credit cards as well as cash payments this year.
The event showcases diverse genres of books, from historical to romance to mystery to reference. “When we say there’s something for everyone, we mean it,” said Bursick. For the animal lover, an event at The Compleat Bookseller on Saturday from 4 to 5 p.m. features adoptable dogs from the Humane Society of Kent County.
Communications buffs can join a live studio audience in the Bookplate’s back room at 11:30 a.m. for the recording of author interviews to be broadcast on 103.1FM. Artists can watch a presentation about making modern-day illuminated manuscripts at the Kent County Public Library beginning at 2 p.m.
Music aficionados will enjoy the festival’s musical conclusion at the Bookplate beginning at 5 p.m. Terwana Brown and the Bread of Life Mime Ministry will be the final act.
“We are really excited about the festival, and hope a lot of people come out. Everything is free except books at the sale,” Lusby said.
More information about the event can be found online at www.chestertownbookfestival.org, or in pamphlets available in many area stores.