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The 2022 Succeed2gether Montclair Literary Festival, which scaled back during the pandemic, returns May 5-9, with more than 70 authors discussing their work in dozens of (mostly) free events for adults and children.

Only three discussions require a ticket purchase. One is a talk between Jennifer Egan, the Pulitzer-Prize winning author of “The Candy House,” a sibling novel to her best-selling “A Visit from the Goon Squad,” and author Garth Risk Hallberg. A second is poet and Pulitzer-Prize finalist Elizabeth Alexander in discussion with feminist author and scholar Salamishah Tillet about her new book “The Trayvon Generation.” Finally, crime writer and political activist Don Winslow will talk about “City on Fire,” the first in his new crime fiction series, with CBS news correspondent Jim Axelrod. 

Many free events also feature bestselling authors. Anna Quindlen reflects on how and why we should write, based on her new book “Write for Your Life,” in a talk moderated by author Elisabeth Egan, an editor at the New York Times Book Review.

Joyce Carol Oates and writers Megan Abbott and Jonathan Santlofer will explain their approach to the mystery/suspense genre. 

Three New York Times bestselling authors — Fiona Davis, Heather Webb and Helen Wan — will discuss the role Manhattan plays in their fiction, in a panel moderated by Laurie Lico Albanese, author of the novels “Stolen Beauty” and the upcoming “Hester.”

One discussion, titled “Authors and the Books That Made Them Writers,” features Pamela Eres, Robin Black and Steve Yarbrough describing how their favorite books (“Middlemarch,” “Mrs. Dalloway” and “The Last Picture Show”) influence their writing. Moderator is New Yorker staff writer D.T. Max.

There are several interactive events for children. Sabina Wasonga-Gitau will tell stories interwoven with song and chants in the Swahili language accompanied by musician Samit Mulondo playing traditional East African instruments.

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Children’s author Zibby Owens will read her new book “Princess Charming” and Victoria Kann will read one of her latest Pinkalicious books, “Rubylicious.” After the readings, children can draw with the authors. Prize-winning author Cat Min will read her book “Shy Willow” and help children make bookmarks.

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For children ages 7 to12, the author of the Mr. Lemoncello series will speak about his books, and author-illustrators Jason Patterson and Dan Abdo will talk about their “very funny” graphic novel “Barb and the Ghost Blade,” and afterward, work with kids on a silly craft project. 

Fittingly for Mother’s Day weekend, Emmy-award-winning journalist, congresswoman and adoptive mother of 11 Marjorie Margolies will speak about her memoir, “And How Are the Children?” along with her son Vu Pham and New York Times journalist and author Kate Zernike.

Sports fans can listen to former CBS staff writer Rich Podolsky, author of “You Are Looking Live!”, deconstruct how the 1975 show “The NFL Today” changed the way America watched football, moderated by author and Wall Street Journal sports reporter Ben Cohen. On another panel, New York Times best-selling author Kostya Kennedy will talk about his new biograhy of baseball legend Jackie Robinson.

Four popular Latinx writers — Cleyvis Natera, Elisabet Velazquez, Rio Cortez and Saraciea Fennell — discuss the representation of Latin voices in the literary landscape with Angela Abreu, founder of the Dominican Writers Association.

And “Pitchapalooza” returns, with writers giving 60-second book pitches to Montclair book doctors David Henry Sterry and Arielle Eckstut and the winner receiving an introduction to an agent or publisher. 

Online events include author Katherine Heiny (“Standard Deviation” and “Single Carefree, Mellow”) in conversation with Kate Tuttle of The Boston Globe about Heiny’s new novel “Early Morning Riser.” There is also an online panel on Italian cooking and culture with mother-daughter duo Sophie Minchilli, author of “The Sweetness of Doing Nothing” and Elizabeth Minchilli, author of nine books, including “Eating My Way Through Italy,” and founder of the Eat Italy app. The panel is moderated by Mark Rotella, director of the Coccia Institute at MSU.

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For a fee, festival-goers can even rub elbows with authors at a cocktail party on Saturday night, and support Succeed2gether’s work providing tutoring and other services to low-income students. 

There will be a poetry cafe, a poetry panel, and a discussion of the history and experiences of oppression of Asian and Black Americans presented in conjunction with the AAPI Coalition of Essex County.

Short story writers Leigh Newman and Halimah Marcus will discuss that genre, along with essay-writing, in a panel moderated by Montclair’s Alice Eliot Dark, whose novel “Fellowship Point” comes out this summer. 

Non-fiction panels include “Addiction and Accountability” with Evan Hughes (“The Hard Sell: Crime and Punishment at an Opioid Start-Up”) and Congresswoman Madeleine Dean (“Under the Same Roof: A Son’s Battle for Recovery, a Mother’s Battle for Her Son”), led by New York Times health reporter Jan Hoffman. A panel on how to transform our criminal justice system, featuring advocates and authors, is co-sponsored by MSU. Authors Andrew Rice and Gal Beckerman will address thought-provoking question about social movements like Black Lives Matter with Andy Rosenthal, former New York Times editorial page editor. 

Gideon Rachman, chief foreign affairs commentator for the Financial Times, will discuss his new book “The Age of the Strongman” and how leaders from Trump to Bolsonaro threaten democracy, with Bloomberg Opinion columnist and MSNBC/NBC political analyst Tim O’Brien.

Proceeds from all events benefit Succeed2gether, a Montclair-based non-profit that addresses unequal access to educational resources for low-income families and children from Montclair and Essex County, New Jersey.

Attendees are encouraged to support the writers, and local businesses, by purchasing their books through Watchung Booksellers.

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Events will be held at the First Congregational Church, the Montclair Library and the Montclair Unitarian Universalist Church. All CDC protocols for COVID-19 will be followed.

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For a full roster of events, visit succeed2gether.org

Julia Martin is the 2021 recipient of the New Jersey Society for Professional Journalists’ David Carr award for her coverage of Montclair for NorthJersey.com.

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Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @TheWriteJulia 


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