“My idea of good company is the company of well-informed people who have a great deal of conversation!”
Jane Austen, Persuasion
I’m writing this from Vermont where we’re up for a bit of bicycle racing and vacationing before dropping Alex off at Middlebury. One of the things I love most about being in Vermont is that it’s a word-loving state. After all, who can resist a place where even the coffee shops have poetic leanings. Here’s the sign in one shop’s restroom I came across: “If you tinkle when you sprinkle, be a sweetie and wipe the seatie.” Well, it may not be Shakespeare, but it certainly gave me a chuckle.
Just about every town here, no matter how small, has a book store — not part of a huge chain — but small independent enterprises staffed by genuine book lovers. Book stores with names like “The Tempest,” “The Raven,” “Phoenix Books,” “Bygone Books,” and “The Flying Pig.” Fantastic! Then there’s The Burlington Book Festival, enthusiastically billed as an “annual festival of words, books, and ideas in picturesque and literate Burlington, Vermont.” Bringing together families, educators, writers and readers for a weekend of words in late September, it will offer readings, signings, panels, and workshops “featuring luminaries from around the world and just around the corner.” All the events are free and open to the public.
It sounds like fabulous, fable-telling fun. There will be programs for kids, including “Words Come Alive!” — a celebration of dance and theater designed to encourage children to express their feelings about the books they read. Then there is an afternoon hosted by the Jane Austen Society of North America, which promises to take the audience “back in time to meet Jane Austen in the flesh, hear her voice, and share her joys and sorrows.” There will be panels on self-publishing, digital storytelling, transmedia storytelling, making video book trailers, book blogging, along with appearances by poets, memoirists, novelists, and writers for children.
Burlington isn’t a big place, but it’s got big ambitions. I just love the idea that the whole town is coming together for a weekend of words. Libraries, colleges, and theater groups will all be acting as hosts for this festival. At a time when publishing is facing so much change, it’s heartening to know that there are people in towns and small cities all across the country like Burlington that are bringing writers and readers together to celebrate words, books, storytelling, and conversation. May a glorious time be had by all! Write on.