2017 Festival

Educational Equality and Social Justice were the themes of the inaugural festival in 2017.  Ideas, opinions, and questions flowed freely as writers and readers came together for two days to celebrate the written word. More than 1500 people enjoyed fascinating talks by 93 authors including Trevor Noah, Paul Auster, Daphne Merkin, Siri Hustvedt, Jayne Anne Phillips, John Keene, D.T. Max, Sam Lipsyte, Marcy Dermansky, Laurie Albanese, Benilde Little, Nancy Star, Alice Elliott Dark, Nicholas Delbanco, Nicole Dennis Benn, Michael Twitty and Garth Risk Hallberg.



Montclair Literary Festival is proud to present the following program for our inaugural festival.

  • All events are free and open to the public unless ticket price is specified.
  • Watchung Booksellers will sell authors’ books at event venues throughout the day.
  • Authors will sign books for 30 minutes after their event.
  • Please note that some details of this program may change.

Register in advance for free events and be entered in a drawing to win a $50 gift certificate for Watchung Booksellers! Click here to RSVP and sign up. 


1:30 pm – 2:30 pm Born a Crime.

Daily Show host Trevor Noah’s memoir Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood became an instant NY Times bestseller when it was published in November 2016.  In this opening event of the Montclair Literary Festival, we are delighted to welcome Trevor Noah and his editor Chris Jackson, who will discuss the book and Noah’s experience growing up in South Africa during the last gasps of apartheid and the tumultuous days of freedom that came with its demise.

Venue: Montclair State University Memorial Auditorium

Tickets $40 including a copy of Born a Crime

Trevor Noah talks with his editor Chris Jackson, and reads from his memoir.   

A packed house at MSU Memorial Auditorium.  

People said: “This was an amazing event. Great interview and inspiring! Feel lucky to have been there.”

2:45 pm – 4:00 pm Poetry and Politics

A joint panel with Montclair State University’s Live Lit series

Jonterri Gadson, Vincent Toro, Vi Khi Nao and Teka-Lark Lo, four accomplished poets whose writing explores power, identity, oppression, and community in beautiful and complex ways, read and discuss their work to mark the beginning of National Poetry Month. Local poet and MSU professor Claudia Cortese moderates the discussion and Q&A. 

Venue: Montclair State University George Segal Gallery

7:00 pm – 9:00 pm Young Writer’s Showcase.

Join us to celebrate the writing talents of Montclair students, as we announce the winners of the Montclair Literary Festival High School Short Story Competition. Middle School students also take the stage in a high-energy poetry slam competition, with guest performances from M.C. Vincent Toro and judges Roger Sederat and Grisel Acosta.

Venue: Montclair High School George Inness Building  


SATURDAY, APRIL 1 — CHILDREN’S PROGRAM — All programming for kids is FREE

Please note that children aged 8 and over may be dropped off for these events, but under-8s require a chaperone to be present.

Story time with local children’s writers.

10:30 – 11:20 am Storyteller Julie Pasqual brings folktales from around the globe to vivid life using a combination of spoken word, movement, acting, and a huge sense of fun! Age 2 – 10

11:30 am – 12:20 pm Dragons Beware! And giants too, when Jorge Aguirre brings his graphic novels to life, with the help of readers aged 5 to 12

12:30 – 1:20 pm Find out what happens when the Tapper Twins go to war, run for President and tear up New York, among other escapades recounted by author Geoff Rodkey. Age 5 – 12

1:30 – 2:20 pm Thrill to the adventures of Mr Particular: the World’s Choosiest Champion, with his creator, Jason Kirschner. Age 5-12

2:30 – 3:20 pm Author Adriana Brad Schanen shares stories of two polar-opposite friends Quinny and Hopper. Warning: features slime and a killer chicken! Age 5 – 12

Venue: The Storytime Room, Montclair Public Library 3rd Floor

10:30 am – 2:30 pm Kids Drop-In Story Games

Roll the dice, flip the cards, and get ready to unlock your imagination. Kids –and adults, too! – will love The Writers Circle’s unique story-building experience. Start a story from the wildly random combinations in our Story Magic card decks, or take a trip around the Plotfoolery board where stories spark at the role of the dice. The Writers Circle’s story games are approachable and interactive, great for reluctant writer as well as born wordsmiths. Age 8 and up. 

Venue: The Green Room, Montclair Public Library 3rd Floor


Art and Literature at Montclair Art Museum.

In cooperation with Montclair Art Museum, we are thrilled to present a series of workshops that explore the synergy between literature and art. All materials provided, so roll up your sleeves and get creative!

Please note that all classes are free and first come, first served, and while children aged 7 and above may be dropped off, under 7s require a chaperone.  

1:00 – 2:00 pm  Stolen Beauty 

A collage workshop inspired by Gustav Klimt’s famous ‘Woman in Gold’ portraits of Adele Bloch Bauer. Laurie Lico Albanese, author of the novel Stolen Beauty, will explain the story behind the paintings and how Klimt created them, while students use gold leaf and collage techniques to create their own masterpieces, with the guidance of guest artist Catherine Lecleire.  Age 7 and up.  Maximum 15 participants. Venue: Geyer Studio at Montclair Art Museum 

1:00 – 2:30 pm Artist Books à la Matisse

Henri Matisse used paper cut-outs for his groundbreaking artist book Jazz, which was published in 1947. Join Montclair-based artist Gwen Charles in using collage techniques and drawing to create your own artist’s book.  Age 6 and up. Maximum 15 participants. Venue: Studio A at Montclair Art Museum 

3:00 – 4:30 pm  Create a Picture Book Character with Kristine Lombardi

Develop your own picture book character in this workshop taught by author/illustrator Kristine Lombardi, drawing inspiration from the sweet and imaginative title personality of her book Lovey Bunny. Age 5-7. Maximum 20 participants. Venue: Geyer Studio at Montclair Art Museum 

3:00 – 4:30 pm Introduction to Comics and Graphic Novels  

Montclair graphic novelist Kevin Pyle leads this workshop, where he will introduce participants to the basic visual storytelling tools of comics and graphic novels. Students will learn to use word balloons and complex facial emotions in comics, as well as how to draw basic anatomy and design their own characters.  Age 8 to 12, teens also welcome. Maximum 20 participants. Venue: Studio A at Montclair Art Museum 



10:00 – 11:00 am Facing History and Ourselves. Bestselling author Stephan Talty, who writes fiction and narrative non-fiction, including the book that inspired the movie Captain Phillips, Ellery Washington, author of a forthcoming book about the Buffalo soldiers, and MSU History Professor Leslie Wilson discuss different approaches to writing about and facing up to history, with Anne Burt, Chief Communications Officer of the non-profit Facing History and Ourselves.   Venue: Montclair Public Library Auditorium

10:00 – 11:00 am The Story of My Life. For a conversation that ranges from reinvention in La La Land, beat-down glares from mamas, and shrinking dads, to selling sex for a living, join our distinguished panel as they share the art of memoir. Meredith Maran (The New Old Me: My Late-Life Reinvention) Ylonda Gault Caviness (Child, Please: How Mama’s Old School Lessons Helped Me Check Myself Before I Wrecked Myself) and Lee Siegel (The Draw: A Memoir etc.), talk with Book Doctor, editor and writer David Henry Sterry (Chicken: Self-Portrait of a Young Man for Rent, Master of Ceremonies: A True Story of Love, Murder, Rollerskates and Chippendales etc.)  Venue: The Guild Room at First Congregational Church  

10:00 – 11:00 am How to Get Published. Have you always wanted to publish a book, but didn’t know how to go about it? Come hear top literary agents Tina Bennett (WME) and Richard Abate (3 Arts Entertainment), Reagan Arthur, the publisher of Little, Brown, and bestselling authors Deborah Davis and Nancy Star, give advice on how to break into the publishing world. Don’t miss this unprecedented chance to hear these industry professionals speak in public.  Venue: The Sanctuary at First Congregational Church  

11:15 am – 12:15 pm Stolen Beauty. Montclair author Laurie Lico Albanese talks about Gustav Klimt’s famous portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer (The Lady in Gold) and the story, the women, the drama and struggles behind the painting, which inspired her new novel, Stolen Beauty. Introduced by Susan Weinberg. Venue: Montclair Public Library Auditorium

11:15 am – 12:15 pm The Character of Song: Writing About Music and Its People. Writing about music involves writing about people. Readers often have an intimate relation with the recordings they love but go to books to find out more about the musicians behind those recordings. Author, musician and Executive Director of Steven Van Zandt’s Rock and Roll Forever Foundation Dr. Warren Zanes, talks with Amanda Petrusich, author of 3 books, including Do Not Sell At Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World’s Rarest 78 rpm Records, NYU professor, journalist and music producer Jason Kingand archivist, musician and music producer Don Fleming about strategies for capturing larger than life characters in the music world. Venue: The Guild Room at First Congregational Church  

11:15 am – 12:15 pm Truth is Stranger than Fiction. How do authors decide between writing particular moments in their lives as fiction or as memoir? Is fiction a disguise, or an enhancement? Acclaimed author Alice Elliott Dark leads a thought-provoking conversation about inspiration and the interplay between life and fiction, with prize-winning novelist Jayne Anne Phillips (Quiet Dell), Benilde Little, author of 4 novels and a memoir (Welcome to My Breakdown), and debut novelists Elisabeth Egan (A Window Opens) and Dagmara Dominczyk (The Lullaby of Polish Girls).  Venue: The Sanctuary at First Congregational Church  


12:30 pm – 1:30 pm Halfway There Reading Series. Montclair’s well-known reading series presents work by five emerging local writers: Katherine Dykstra, Teka-Lark Lo, Joseph Rathgeber, Abby Sher and Lauren Marie Schmidt. A chance to hear and be inspired by the literary voices of the future.  Venue: Montclair Public Library YA Room

12:30 pm – 1:30 pm Creating Compelling Characters. Young Adult fiction is booming, and we are delighted to welcome four successful Montclair YA and Middle Grades authors to share insights into their craft. E.R. Frank, Sharon Dennis Wyeth, Valerie Wilson Wesley and Henry Neff talk with NY Times Children’s Book Editor Maria Russo about creating the characters that bring their stories to life. Venue: Montclair Public Library Auditorium

12:30 pm – 1:30 pm Nature Writing in the Current Climate. Between them, Robert Sullivan, Elizabeth Royte and David Biello have written about everything from bottled water, rats, rainforests and the meadowlands, to the sixth extinction and the U.S. nuclear arsenal. They talk to Scott Dodd, Executive Editor of online environmental journal Grist, about man’s impact on nature and the future of environmental policy under the Trump administration.  Venue: The Guild Room at First Congregational Church  

12:30 pm – 1:30 pm “Nasty Women” in Fiction. Strong, sometimes difficult, female characters come alive in the work of Matthew Thomas, author of the prize-winning debut We Are Not Ourselves, Marcy Dermansky, author of The Red Car, Bad Marie and Twins, and Jillian Medoff, author of I Couldn’t Love You More, Hunger Point and Good Girls Gone Bad. Why are we drawn to these women, and what makes them so interesting to write about? Writer Thad Ziolkowski moderates. Venue: The Sanctuary at First Congregational Church  

Jillian Madoff, Matthew Thomas and Marcy Dermansky talk with Thad Ziolkowski beneath the stained glass windows of The Sanctuary, First Congregational Church. 

2:00 pm – 3:00 pm Flash! Flash fiction stories, narratives under 1,000 words, are everywhere these days, from zines to cell phones. But what works in such a small space? David Galef, the creative writing program director at Montclair State University and author of over a dozen books, including Brevity: A Flash Fiction Handbook, leads you through the possibilities in a flash presentation and mini-workshop to get you writing. Venue: Montclair Public Library YA Room

2:00 pm – 3:00 pm Eyes of the World. Robert Capa and Gerda Taro were two young Jewish refugees, idealistic and in love, who set off to capture the fight against facism in the Spanish Civil War. Marina Budhos and Marc Aronson present dramatic photos and other images from their new book, which tells the fascinating story of how photojournalism began. Moderated by photojournalist Tom FranklinVenue: Montclair Public Library Auditorium

2:00 pm – 3:00 pm The Cooking Gene. Culinary historian and author of the blog Afroculinaria, Michael Twitty, in conversation with food writer Marissa Rothkopf Bates. In his highly-anticipated forthcoming book The Cooking Gene, Twitty sets off in search of a culinary homeland, retracing the steps of his family’s journey from Africa to America and from slavery to freedom, using food as his lens. Among other questions, he asks who really owns Southern food, and how has food changed and been changed by the African and African American experience? Venue: The Guild Room at First Congregational Church  

2:00 pm – 3:00 pm Why We Write. Award-winning author and academic Nicholas Delbanco poses essential questions about the writing life to authors Sam Lipsyte, author of 5 novels including The Ask, novelist, poet and translator John Keene (Counternarratives), Garth Risk Hallberg, author of the international best-seller City on Fire, and Elena Delbanco, who published her first novel, The Silver Swan, at the age of 71.  A rare chance to hear five accomplished but very different practitioners reflect on not only the ‘why’, but also the ‘when’, ‘where’, ‘how’, and ‘for whom’ of their craft. Venue: The Sanctuary at First Congregational Church  

Elena Delbanco, John Keene, Nicholas Delbanco, Sam Lipsyte and Garth Risk Hallberg. 


3:15 pm – 4:15 pm  Sports and Social Protest. While sports are still an escape for many, they also intersect with issues like immigration, taxes and racism. Today sports Writers Filip Bondy, Mike Freeman and Jerry Barca chat with New York Times Assistant Sports Editor Jay Schreiber about how sports reporting has changed in this new, more politicized era and why some sports skew conservative while others are more liberal. Venue: Montclair Public Library Auditorium

3:15 pm – 4:15 pm  Race and Social Justice in the Long Age of Trump. Rutgers Law Professor David Troutt, Mychal Denzel Smith, author of Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching: A Young Black Man’s Education, and Montclair State University Criminal Justice Professor Jason Williams discuss race and social and criminal justice in America with MSU Professor Patricia Matthew.  Venue: The Guild Room at First Congregational Church  

3:15 pm – 4:15 pm Narrative as Medicine. How can storytelling and the written word help us manage our mental health?  Larry Dark, director of the Story Prize, discusses narrative health and the mind body problem with Siri Hustvedt, who has written extensively on the subject and lectures in Narrative Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College; Daphne Merkin, whose new book This Close to Happy, is a memoir of depression; and D.T. Max, author of Every Love Story Is A Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace. Venue: The Sanctuary at First Congregational Church  

4:30 pm – 5:30 pm Tell Us We’re Home. Jaya, Maria, and Lola are just like the other eighth-grade girls in the wealthy suburb of Meadowbrook, New Jersey. But there’s one big difference: all three are daughters of maids and nannies. And they go to school with the very same kids whose families their mothers work for. I like to think of this book as a girl’s friendship novel turned on it on its head, showing an often times invisible perspective.  Tell Us We’re Home is also about how to find a sense of home when you’re an outsider in a new town, a new country,” says author Marina Budhos. Today she talks with readers about her book, which is the current Essex County Big Read YA PickVenue: Montclair Public Library YA Room

4:30 pm – 5:30 pm  Pitchapalooza! Don’t miss the American Idol of Books, and the chance to pitch your idea to literary agents Liza Dawson, Joëlle Delbourgo, and Monica Odom, and receive constructive advice from the Book Doctors, Arielle Ekstut and David Henry Sterry.  Twenty writers will be selected at random to pitch their book so come prepared with a one minute pitch. At Pitchapalooza, judges will help you improve your pitch, not tell you how bad it is. Judges critique idea to style to potential in the marketplace and much, much more. Authors come away with concrete advice as well as a greater understanding of the ins and outs of the publishing industry. This will be New Jersey’s only pitchapalooza event in 2017! Venue: Montclair Public Library Auditorium

4:30 pm – 5:30 pm Here Comes the Sun. Nicole Dennis-Benn’s debut novel of Jamaican life has been  hailed as, “a compelling exploration of exploitation, sacrifice, tourism, poverty and the drive for freedom” and “a magical book from a writer of immense talent and intelligence.”  Come and find out why the New York Times says this debut deserves its ballyhoo, as the author talks with her editor, Katie Adams about the novel’s complex heroines, it’s Jamaican setting and dynamics of race, sexuality and class. Venue: The Guild Room at First Congregational Church  

4:30 pm – 5:30 pm Alternative Facts: Trump and the New World Order. Tim O’Brien, author of Trumpnation: The Art of Being The Donald,  Kate Zernike, New York Times journalist and author of Boiling Mad: Inside Tea Party America, and New York Times Presidential Campaign Editor David Halbfinger sit down with The Daily Beast columnist, author and political commentator Jonathan Alter. Join the conversation as they try to make sense of fake news, enemies of the people and Trump’s attitude to the media. Venue: The Sanctuary at First Congregational Church  

6:30 pm – 7:30 pm  Novel of Chance.  

Paul Auster’s new novel 4 3 2 1 is described as “his greatest, most heartbreaking and satisfying novel – a sweeping and surprising story of birthright and possibility, of love and of life itself.” To close the Montclair Literary Festival, we welcome the acclaimed, New-Jersey born author to talk about his latest work with Princeton Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Emeritus, Michael Wood. Set in Brooklyn and New Jersey locations including Newark and Montclair, the book traces the four parallel and entirely different fictional lives of Archibald Isaac Ferguson.

Tickets $50, including a copy of 4 3 2 1 OR $100 for both Paul Auster’s talk and the author’s cocktail party

Venue: The Sanctuary at First Congregational Church  

Paul Auster and Michael Wood with Siri Hustvedt and festival organizers Jacqueline Mroz, Marcia Marley, Candy Cooper and Catherine Platt. 

7:30 pm  – 9:00 pm  Author’s Cocktail Party. Tickets are limited!

Join our festival writers for drinks and hors d’oeuvres to celebrate the inaugural Montclair Literary Festival.  

Tickets $100, including entry to the Paul Auster book talk and a copy of 4 3 2 1.

Venue: The Guild Room at First Congregational Church  


10:00 am – 1:00 pm Publishing Master Class with The Book Doctors 

Inspired by the amazing events and writers you heard on April 1 and want to get you own work published? How do you get your book successfully published in today’s ridiculously competitive marketplace? Come to this Master Class with the authors of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published, Arielle Ekstut and David Henry Sterry, to find out. Every participant will get the chance to pitch their book idea and get it critiqued kindly and gently.  Whether you are looking to get a deal with one of the Big 5, a great independent publisher, or self-publish, your pitch is the key that unlocks the door to an agent, a publisher, and in the end, a reader. Space is limited, sign up here with The Book Doctors now! 

Ticket price $100

Venue: 11 Pine Street, Montclair 07043. (Office of Succeed2gether, 1st floor of office building with green awning, NOT residential building.)