The Milford Readers and Writers Festival has been doing it right for the past four years with unprecedented success. This year, the festival had to be postponed until 2021, because of COVID-19.
But that didn’t stop them. Instead, on what was supposed to be this year’s full festival days – September 11-13 – they created a new online format: a three-day Facebook Live event called “Doing It Write.”
“It’s an opportunity for us to maintain some connection to our MRAWF community which we have created over the years, as well as to experiment with an online format which is something we could potentially do throughout the year,” said Sean Strub, one of the co-founders of the festival.
Suzanne Braun Levine and Bob Levine, both festival co-founders, emphasized they wanted this innovative event to convey the feel of the festival’s conversational nature.
“We wanted to have a diversity of subjects and speakers,” Suzanne said. “We paid a lot of attention to balance in an effort to appeal to a broad range of people.”
Bob added, “We didn’t want to let a whole year go by without connecting to our followers and speakers.”
Edson Whitney, chair of Pike Artworks and co-chair of the festival with Carol McManus, brought the idea of global outreach to the forthcoming Facebook Live event. Whitney, who has lived and worked in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, has been posting to his friends and colleagues in these areas for years. He is excited to say, “This year, they will be able to attend no matter where they are, since the festival is going global.”
The interactive connection between writers and readers, a hallmark of the festival, will be reflected in all four sessions, with 45 minutes of conversation and 30 minutes of audience participation in a Q&A format. All sessions are free, although donations will be accepted through a “Donate” button on the page.
The Facebook Live event features alumni from previous years. Three of the four sessions will be at 7:30 p.m.
The timeliness of these sessions to our present-day concerns is eerily prescient. They include:
● Gloria Steinem in conversation with Suzanne Braun Levine on Friday.
Having analyzed why so many women voted for Trump in 2016, Steinem now explores what the gender gap may mean for November in “How the women’s vote can shape the election.”
Amy Ferris will facilitate the Q&A.
● New Yorker cartoonist Bob Eckstein in conversation with fellow New Yorker cartoonists Roz Chast and Matt Diffee on Saturday.
In this session, “Humor in Trying Times,” Eckstein and his fellow cartoonists will discuss trying to create humor in the era of COVID-19.
Carol McManus will facilitate the Q&A.
● George Johnson in conversation with journalist Mark King on Sunday.
Johnson, a prominent journalist and LGBTQIA+ activist, will talk about his new book, “All Boys Aren’t Blue: A Memoir-Manifesto,” which has been named an Amazon Best of the Year and was recently optioned for television. Its powerful story, written for young adults, is about being Black and gay in America. Strub chose King, a well-known AIDS activist and author, for the conversation. “They don’t know each other, so I thought it could be a lively conversation addressing growing up queer, race, and HIV,” Strub said.
Strub will facilitate the Q&A.
● Gordon Van Gelder, the renowned author and editor, in conversation with author Samuel Ray Delany on Sunday at 1 p.m., the one daytime session.
This science fiction conversation is particularly relevant to Milford since the world-famous Milford Writers Conference, started in the 1950s by Damon Knight and Virginia Kidd, created what was known as the Milford Method – a peer review of science fiction writers’ works. Indeed, the Virginia Kidd Literary agency is still active in Milford today. Longendorfer says the sci-fi genre is continually changing to reflect the social, economic, and political trends of the time. We can look at the pandemics explored through the science fiction genre with new eyes.
One thing is for certain about the substance this new Facebook Live series: the Milford Readers and Writers Festival is doing it right, and write, again.
“We didn’t want to let a whole year go by without connecting to our followers and speakers.” --Bob Levine, co-founder