Writers gather in Rensselaerville with words and photographs

The Enterprise — Marcello Iaia

The Rensselaerville Library, tucked in the old hamlet of the Albany County Hilltowns, benefits from the proceeds of its Festival of Writers, held from Aug. 15 to 18 this year.

RENSSELAERVILLE — The streets of Rensselaerville are beckoning talented writers and actors who orbit New York City from less congested places, to drink beer and apprise.

“It’s people who’ve been brought together by New York City,” said Mark Lewis. “But they all live up and down in this region, and they all know each other and say, ‘Hey, kids, let’s put on a show.’”

The 2013 Festival of Writers, held this Aug. 15 to 18, will benefit the Rensselaerville Library, of which Lewis is a trustee. In its fourth year, the festival is hosted in the hamlet, with numerous readings each day in Conkling Hall, and larger, media-based events at the Carey Center for Global Good.

Joan Walsh, editor-at-large for Salon.com, will be the keynote speaker on Aug. 16. She will read from her book, What’s the Matter with White People: Why We Long for a Golden Age That Never Was, using memoir and policy analysis to describe the fall of the liberal working-class in the mid-20th Century.

Peter Trachtenberg, author of Another Insane Devotion: On the Love of Cats and Persons, will give a keynote speech on Friday night at 6:30. Lizz Winstead, a creator of The Daily Show, will host “Night Owls: Believe it or Not,” a Saturday night event, with short, true stories written by upstate writers and told by David Hill and David Rees of Public Radio International’s This American Life.

The actors will perform outdoors at the Carey Center. “Mosquito spray will be provided,” said Lewis.

Portraits of authors, like Joyce Carol Oates and Tennessee Williams, will be shown at the Hilltown Café on Route 353, with an opening on Thursday, Aug. 15, from 4 to 6 p.m.

“It involves 12 local photographers — Len Prince and Dudley Reed, who are both local and internationally known photographers,” said Lewis.

For anyone who would like to meet with the festival’s guests, an authors’ reception will be held at 5 p.m. on Saturday, and a bookshop will be set up in Conkling Hall, where authors can sign books for their readers.

“It’s our little public place in Rensselaerville,” Lewis said of the hall. “It’s a former Methodist church that’s become our community hall.”

The festival ends with a large, multi-course, family-style meal, under a tent at the Palmer House Café on the hamlet’s main street, with beer pairings hosted by craft-beer writers Craig Gravina and Kevin Burns.

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The schedule for the 2013 Festival of Writers can be found at www.festivalofwriters.org. Tickets may be purchased online, and donations will be accepted at the door of any festival events. 

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