Author Jessica Pearce Rotondi, a West Newbury native, will discuss her book, What We Inherit: A Secret War and a Family’s Search for Answers, on Saturday during the online Newburyport Literary Festival.
NEWBURYPORT DAILY NEWS | APRIL 23, 2020 | By Jack Shea | The 15th annual Newburyport Literary Festival kicks off Saturday morning as a live, online streaming event with numerous authors broadcasting to viewers from their homes across the country.
The festival had been scheduled for Friday and Saturday in Newburyport, but was canceled in March for the first time since its 2005 debut to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Shortly after, co-organizers Jennifer Entwistle and Vicki Hendrickson announced the festival would be held online with a subset of the fiction and nonfiction authors who were originally scheduled to appear at the in-person event.
Events will run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and will resume for a second day on May 3 during the same timeframe.
Authors will broadcast from their own homes for a mix of readings, interviews and panel discussions. Each session will be approximately 30 to 45 minutes, including time for questions and answers from audience members.
Because of the large number of authors involved, there will be three simultaneous event schedules being broadcast Saturday. On May 3, the festival will have only one series of events.
The festival is free but registration is required for each event. Viewers will sign up for an event on the festival website ahead of time, and will then receive an email with a link to the event’s Zoom Webinar page.
Entwistle said each event will allow up to 500 viewers, and she is not concerned about any of the events reaching capacity.
She said despite being less extensive than the original event schedule, the online Literary Festival lineup will be just as diverse and have something that appeals to all sorts of readers.
“We tried to fit as many people in as we could, and we always try to have a good selection of events,” Entwistle said. “Hopefully, it will kind of feel like the festival even though we’re all in our own homes.”
Among the featured authors on Saturday is West Newbury native and current New York resident Jessica Pearce Rotondi, whose debut book “What We Inherit: A Secret War and a Family’s Search for Answers” was just released Tuesday after a decade of work.
What We Inherit follows Rotondi’s investigative journey of her uncle’s disappearance during the CIA-led “Secret War” in Laos in 1972, which took her across the world and helped her understand her family history and the “Secret War’s” impact on Laos.
Rotondi said on Tuesday that she was looking forward to her program Saturday, which is one of a few online literary festival appearances she has on her schedule with the release of her new book. And while she may not be able to promote it in person, Rotondi said online events’ ability to reach so many people around the globe have proven to be a silver lining during the pandemic.
While Sunday will see her call into an Amsterdam-based festival, Rotondi said she is excited to share her work with viewers from the area where she grew up.
“My grandfather and my mother both read to be connected to the people they love and they miss, and now I get to do the same thing to the Newburyport Literary Festival,” she said.
One author featured May 3 will be Anne Easter Smith, a Newburyport resident who has been part of every Literary Festival since it began.
Smith, a historical fiction writer, acknowledged that this year’s festival will be far different from any previous year. Fittingly, she and author C.C. Humphreys will lead a panel event that discusses the process of writing about plagues, titled, A Plague on Both Your Houses.
“I’m curious how it’s going to go, knowing how long-winded authors can be … but I think we’ll just try and focus on what we researched, and how we decided on what to include in our books and our plots,” Smith said. “I think it’s going to be an odd sensation not being able to see the audience.”
For a complete list of authors and to register for individual events, visit newburyportliteraryfestival.org.