You probably know Woodstock for the legendary 1969 music festival of the same name – but did you know that Woodstock is also home to an annual book festival?
Now in its eighth year, the Woodstock Bookfest is an annual celebration of both writers and readers, gathering Pulitzer Prize winners as well as up-and-coming authors to the town. Much of the festival’s success can be attributed to long-time Woodstock resident, local radio show host, and well-known author herself, Martha Frankel.
Frankel and several other writers founded the event in 2010, seeking to bring readers and writers together to share ideas and start a conversation.
After four years of successfully hosting this literary experiment and seeing the event grow each year, Frankel decided to intentionally “own it,” noting that as an author, writing teacher, and lover of books, when it comes to writing, “I don’t know how to do anything else.”
Frankel describes the Woodstock Bookfest, formerly known as the Woodstock Writer’s Festival, as an annual “celebration of reading and writing.” Last year, the festival formally rebranded to the more inclusive “Book Festival,” something Frankel wanted to do for years.
“People used to say, ‘Your festival looks great but I’m not a writer,’” explained Frankel. “I feel like we’ve finally got it right.”
Held April 27-30th this year, the festival features panels of writers discussing topics that range from addiction and recovery to spirituality. Visitors can attend intensive workshops that focus on how to be a better writer or editor, plenty of Q & A sessions, and parties where you can meet your favorite authors. A great introduction for newcomers to the Woodstock Bookfest is the Thursday opening night event “Story Slam”— a storytelling competition in which competitors share short stories based on a chosen theme — which serves as an exciting taste of the weekend’s possibilities.
The keynote speaker for Friday night’s festivities is Stephen Tobolowsky, a returning festival speaker. Best known for his acting roles in the 1993 comedy Groundhog Day and ABC sitcom The Goldberg’s, Tobolowsky is also the author of the recently published book My Adventures with God. Based on reviews of his previous Woodstock appearance, the night promises to be, like Tobolowsky’s books, hilarious fun.
Robert Thurman, Woodstock local and professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies at Columbia University, will be interviewed on Saturday by Joe Donahue of WAMC Northeast Public Radio. Thurman is often credited for helping make Buddhism relevant and accessible to Americans.
Even for those who would not describe themselves as diehard bibliophiles, Frankel believes that the Woodstock Bookfest is relevant to everyone.
“People may read a different way than hardcover books, but people are reading more than ever,” she said.
Frankel encourages new visitors to review the website’s list of events, and check out the ones that pique their interest. Who knows? After attending an inspiring panel discussion or listening to fun story slams, even the least likely book lovers may find themselves returning home with a new book and love for reading.