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Blue Hill
Originally published in Castine Patriot, October 7, 2021 and Island Ad-Vantages, October 7, 2021 and The Weekly Packet, October 7, 2021
Word literary arts festival to return via Zoom

Stuart Kestenbaum

Former Maine poet laureate Stuart Kestenbaum of Deer Isle.

Photo courtesy of Word

As Maine’s COVID surge continues, organizers for Word have decided that the annual literary arts festival will return to the online format introduced last year, according to a press release. The festival’s free events and paid workshops will be available via Zoom, October 21 through 24, with pre-registration required. For event details and registration links, visit

Featured speakers will include novelist Susan Choi, journalist Bob Keyes and four notable poets, as well as some of the region’s most popular food writers. Word will also offer local school visits by children’s author and illustrator Russ Cox and children’s and young adult author Anica Mrose Rissi, funded by Bar Harbor Bank & Trust.

The opening evening on October 21 will begin with a documentary commissioned from Blue Hill filmmaker Matt Shaw that features “Close Apart,” a series that links poetry by Beatrix Gates, of Brooksville, with etchings by intaglio printmaker Tim Seabrook and painter Leslie Cummins, of Blue Hill. The film will debut at 6 p.m., followed by a brief discussion with the artists.

At 7 p.m., the festival will present Portland journalist Bob Keyes, author of The Isolation Artist: Scandal, Deception, and the Last Days of Robert Indiana, in conversation with Paul Sacaridiz, executive director of Deer Isle’s Haystack Mountain School of Crafts.

Susan Choi, author of the National Book Award-winning novel Trust Exercise, will chat Friday evening, October 22, at 7 p.m., with Laura Miller, books and culture columnist for Slate and a Word committee member. Choi is the author of five novels for adults and one children’s book.

On Saturday, October 23, author and illustrator Russ Cox will offer a children’s program, “Drawing on Your Imagination,” at 10 a.m. Cox was the illustrator for Lynn Plourde’s The Boy Whose Face Froze Like That and Michele Kean’s Rio and Silas in Love.

Saturday evening’s program will feature readings and discussion by four poets, including former Maine poet laureate Stuart Kestenbaum of Deer Isle; Arisa White, who teaches English and creative writing at Colby College and is author of the poetic memoir Who’s Your Daddy and co-editor of the anthology Home is Where You Queer Your Heart; Maya Williams, the Portland poet laureate, a religious queer Black Mixed Race suicide survivor, most recently a finalist in the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance chapbook contest; and Tim Seibles, former poet laureate of Virginia and a professor at Old Dominion University, as well as author of five poetry collections. Seibles will also offer a poetry workshop, “Personas Are Us: Who Do You Think You’re Talking To?”

Other workshops include “Where to Begin…and How to Continue,” with Anica Mrose Rissi; “Flash and Micro-Fiction: The Art of Brevity,” with Lori Thatcher, and a memoir workshop with Elizabeth Garber.

Alicia Anstead, arts and culture reporter and editor of the national magazine Inside Arts, will moderate Word’s food writing panel. Featured panelists include Brooke Dojny of Sedgwick, most recently the author of Chowderland; Barbara Damrosch, gardening writer and author of The Four Season Farm Gardener’s Cookbook and novelist and memoirist Deborah Joy Corey, founder of the Castine-based Blue Angel food program. or call 374-5632.

Tim Seabrook and Beatrix Gates

Printmaker Tim Seabrook and poet Beatrix Gates.

Photo courtesy of Word
Stuart Kestenbaum

Former Maine poet laureate Stuart Kestenbaum of Deer Isle.

Photo courtesy of Word
Maya Williams

Maya Williams

Photo courtesy of Word
Anica Mrose Rissi

Anica Mrose Rissi.

Photo courtesy of Word