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Concord Festival of Authors

BY BARBARA GUGLUIZZA

“Concord’s history and literary legacy make it uniquely suited to celebrate the written and spoken word.”

October 2022 marks the 30th anniversary of the Concord Festival of Authors (CFA), a town-wide celebration of the written and spoken word. The CFA is managed by the Friends of the Concord Free Public Library and led by Curator Lara Wilson, founder of Be Well Be Here, who collaborates with local organizations to promote top-notch literary events. This year’s CFA will run October 13 – 30 and will feature over thirty online and in-person events. Barbara Gugluizza, CFPL Head of Reference, interviewed CFA Curator Lara Wilson about the 30th annual Concord Festival of Authors.

What inspired you to take over as curator of the Concord Festival of Authors?

Five years ago, I was introduced to Dawn Rennert, owner of the Concord Bookshop, and former library director, Kerry Cronin, to discuss the CFA just as the founder, Rob Mitchell, chose to retire after his 25- year tenure. They recognized that my experience as a short story author, fiction scholar, writing instructor, and former Grub Street board member had fostered meaningful literary friendships. With Rob’s guidance, Dawn, Kerry and I co-created the CFA Bridge Year in 2018 with a team of volunteers, featuring 40 amazing literary events throughout Concord every day in October. The following year, Rob handed management of the CFA over to the Friends of the CFPL and I was appointed curator.

What are the challenges you face when organizing the festival?

The CFA Team decided that two weeks in October work best and we begin planning in January. It’s complicated to keep track of proposals from multiple organizations, inquiries from authors or publicists, and requests to accommodate changes. An enormous challenge was shifting from in-person events to an online model during the pandemic, but this generated a broader audience. The CFA succeeds as it evolves due to generous support from volunteers, the Friends of the CFPL, and our CFA sponsors.

What distinguishes the Concord Festival of Authors from other literary festivals?

Concord’s history and literary legacy make it uniquely suited to celebrate the written and spoken word. The CFA features author events, writing workshops, and literary tours in remarkable historic spaces. Robust programming for all ages that includes new voices remains of primary importance. In this team effort, I’m grateful to The Robbins House for their leadership in finding presenters, such as last year’s Keynote Speaker, Dr. Clint Smith. Concord’s natural beauty also tells a story, as Thoreau noted, which continues to inspire generations of writers and readers.

Of all the events at the festival this year, is there one that means the most to you?

The quality and variety of CFA events astounds me each year. For the 30th anniversary, the hope was to expand local affiliations while exploring a range of narrative perspectives. This year’s festival features local authors Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked; Alan Lightman, author of Probable Impossibilities: Musings on Beginnings and Endings; Rajani LaRocca, recipient of the 2022 John Newbery Honor for Red, White and Whole; Ray Anthony Shepard, author of Runaway: The Daring Escape of Ona Judge; and Concord historian Robert Gross, author of Transcendentalists and their World. Please join us!

CFA 2022 Team: Be Well Be Here, CFPL Corporation, Concord Free Public Library, Concord Museum, Friends of the CFPL, Orchard House, The Robbins House, and The Umbrella Center for the Arts.

Copies of the 2022 Festival calendar are available at the Concord Free Public Library. Visit concordfestivalofauthors.org to register.

Barbara Gugluizza is the head of reference at the Concord Free Public Library and has been an enthusiastic member of the CFA team since 2018.