Virtual Bookstock 2020 announced, stellar literary lineup kicks off tomorrow

7 mins read

WOODSTOCK — Bookstock, the Green Mountain Festival of Words, recently announced Virtual Bookstock 2020, a series of free, monthly live-streaming author talks beginning September 17, with poet and jazz historian Reuben Jackson and continuing through the end of the year.

Now in its 12th year, Bookstock supports the cultural richness of Vermont and New England and celebrates a wide range of literary talent across genres. From regional writers to Poet Laureates and Pulitzer Prize winners, to emerging young writers and those who have found their compelling voice in midlife.

Virtual Bookstock 2020 will continue the festival’s tradition of presenting a stellar lineup on Thursday when Reuben Jackson will read from his newest book of poetry, Scattered Clouds.

Jackson, who is a poet, jazz historian, music critic, and educator, is widely known to Vermont audiences as the former host of Vermont Public Radio’s Friday Night Jazz.

To register for tomorrow’s free event, follow this link.

The series will continue with cartoonist, game designer, and author Jason Lutes, of Hartland, on October 15, reading from and discussing his graphic novel Berlin, which has been published in 15 languages.

Dr. François S. Clemmons of Middlebury, is scheduled for November 19. The Grammy Award-winning founder and director of the Harlem Spiritual Ensemble is also the author of Officer Clemmons, his memoir titled after the role he created on the PBS television series “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

Finishing up the series, New York Times reporter and author Nikita Stewart is set to speak on December 17th.

Virtual Bookstock 2020 will broadcast authors in their homes wherever they may be, and audiences will meet and engage with them in an on-line Q&A in real-time.

“We’re excited to connect our returning audiences and new ones with some of the authors originally slated to appear at our 2020 festival,” said Bookstock Festival Coordinator Alison Hankey. “We also see this as an opportunity to explore the benefits of this technology for future Bookstock festivals.”

Founded in 2009, Bookstock is a community-wide celebration of books, authors and poets with an emphasis on those connected with Vermont, and their role in helping us explore a wide range of human experiences.

Bookstock’s reputation has flourished and, in recent years, has attracted award-winning authors and poets including Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Russo and MacArthur Fellow poet Ocean Vuong, former Vermont Governor Madeleine Kunin, and poet Carolyn Forché.

In 2019, about 1,200 people attended a Bookstock event.

The annual festival held on the last weekend of July was approaching its 12th year when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

After months of planning, including having booked 45 authors to present live, the Bookstock Committee made the difficult decision to cancel the festival to do their part in preventing the spread of COVID-19.

It’s a familiar story that’s been echoed at festivals throughout the world.

And, while plans are in the works for a live Bookstock in 2021, the Bookstock Committee knew their decision to cancel would have a profound effect on visiting authors, local businesses and innkeepers, as well as festival attendees who, every year, mark Bookstock on their calendars.

Coordinator Hankey along with Programming Director Pam Ahlen and the all-volunteer Bookstock committee immediately began exploring possibilities for connecting Bookstock authors with audiences online.

At the same time, Meg Brazill, Director of Communications and Events at the Norman Williams Public Library (NWPL), contacted Bookstock about how the library might help keep the festival “alive.”

NWPL, housed in a historic building on Woodstock’s Village Green, has been a key partner with Bookstock in planning and hosting the festival for more than a decade.

Library leaders played a crucial role in expanding the festival from a one-day event to a three-day weekend.

And, since 1883, the library has been Woodstock’s “living room.”

“We’ve been doing this long before there was the internet,” Brazill said. “We were here during the pandemic of 1918 and we’re going to keep finding new ways of bringing good things to our community.”

Pam Ahlen added, “We want to tailor each event to what the author wants to present – whether that’s new work or a reading combined with a conversation about another area of their expertise, or a discussion about writing or current events, we want them to help drive this ‘brave new’ online experience.”

About Reuben Jackson

Reuben Jackson is a poet, radio commentator, educator, and music critic.

He served as curator of the Smithsonian Institute’s Duke Ellington Collection in Washington, D.C., for over 20 years (1989-2009) and he was host of Friday Night Jazz on Vermont Public Radio (VPR) from 2013-18.

His radio essays have aired on National Public Radio (NPR) and WAMU FM; his music reviews have been published in The Washington Post, Washington City Paper, Jazz Times, and on NPR’s All Things Considered.

Jackson has also been an educator and mentor with The Young Writers Project.

He taught poetry for 11 years at The Writer’s Center and taught high school for two years in Burlington, Vermont.

A founding member of the New Music-Theatre Workshop, Jackson currently works there as a librettist and is an archivist with the University of the District of Columbia’s Felix E. Grant Jazz Archives.

His poems have been published in over 40 anthologies, and his first volume, fingering the keys (1990, Gut Punch Press), was selected by Joseph Brodsky for the Columbia Book Award.

His new book, Scattered Clouds, was published by Alan Squire Publishing. Mr. Jackson currently lives in Washington, D.C.