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Poets, Pundits and Publishers Unbound: The Seventh Annual Burlington Book Festival 

State of the Arts

Like many writers, Elinor Lipman is embracing social media. But this novelist has used Twitter to give herself a new identity — as a political poet. Lipman, the author of popular comedies of manners such as Then She Found Me, has pledged to offer one rhyming mini-commentary per day until the 2012 election. Last Saturday, she tweeted: “I think we know that Ms. Michele/ Won’t be our chief exec/ That vaccine slip? Shoots from the lip/ Allergic to a fact-check.”

Lipman, who lives in New York and Massachusetts, is among the host of writers descending on the Queen City this weekend for the annual Burlington Book Festival. Among her fellow novelists, you can meet Myla Goldberg, author of best-selling Bee Season and The False Friend. Then there’s local writer Yannick Murphy: Her new novel, The Call, takes the unusual form of the journal of a rural Vermont veterinarian undergoing a tough year. While it may sound like “a Robert Frost-lite celebration of old-fashioned virtues,” writes Michael Lindgren in a recent Washington Post review, the book “gets under your skin.”

Prefer verse to prose? This is your chance to rub shoulders with the newly minted U.S. poet laureate, Philip Levine, who’s renowned for writing for and about working-class Americans. Vermont’s own David Budbill and F.D. Reeve will also read in Sunday’s Grace Paley Poetry Series.

If nonfiction is more your speed, check out two readings by memoirists grappling with the topic of autism. John Elder Robison, brother of Augusten Burroughs, returns to the BBF to discuss his new book about living as a “free-range Aspergian.” At the fest for the first time is Bennington College music prof Allen Shawn, whose new memoir, Twin, traces his relationship with his autistic twin, Mary. The son of famed New Yorker editor William Shawn, Allen Shawn tells a sometimes-grim tale of how one brilliant, far from “normal” family dealt with an unmistakably “abnormal” person in its midst.

Another hot topic at the fest is DIY publishing. Champlain College prof Tim Brookes has been guiding students through the process of producing their own books with his Champlain College Publishing Initiative. At the BBF, his protégés will transmit their knowledge in panels and workshops on self-publishing, blogging and “digital storytelling.”

Burlington-based The Salon: A Journal of Poetry & Fiction is celebrating the release of its fourth issue with a Thursday reading and reception at the BCA Center. With funding from the Vermont Arts Council, the journal’s editors have published their first book, local poet Edie Rhoads’ The Day Bat. Look for that and books from other local micro-presses — brand-new Fomite Press, Seven Star Press and the Minimal Press — at the ongoing Local Literature Table.

The BBF has lots more to offer: Check out Bill Morgan discussing his latest book on the Beats; oil industry veteran Bob Cavnar dissecting the causes of the BP spill; and a preview of Burlington playwright Seth Jarvis’ latest, Icon. Author and artist David Macaulay (The Way Things Work) will appear as part of Sunday’s Youthapalooza! kids-themed program. ’Cause you can never start ’em reading too young.

Burlington Book Festival, Friday, September 23, through Sunday, September 25, at Main Street Landing Performing Arts Center and other Burlington locations. Most events are free. For schedule, see

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About The Author

Margot Harrison

Margot Harrison

Margot Harrison is the Associate Editor at Seven Days; she coordinates literary and film coverage. In 2005, she won the John D. Donoghue award for arts criticism from the Vermont Press Association.


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