The first online event held by the Milford Readers and Writers Festival, “Doing It Write,” was the very first time for many of the presenters to have a conversation with no audience to react to it.
“I was especially disoriented by the dead silence when she said something typically witty,” Suzanne Braun Levine, co- founder and board member, said about her session with Gloria Steinem. “At first, it was as if the audience didn’t get the joke. Then I realized I would have to laugh for everyone, so for a while, I guffawed really loud. But once I settled in, it was almost like chatting over a cup of coffee.”
Bob Levine, co-founder and board member, said he was “amazed at how, first time out, our tech team created such a smooth and professional program.”
Edson Whitney, festival co- chair and board member, said, “It was a great experiment, showing us what we are able to do in today’s world.”
Carol McManus, festival co- chair and board member, put it this way, “It was exhilarating to know that even during this pandemic, we were able to bring our festival to the world through social media. We reached people well beyond our geography and offered a diverse line-up of authors and conversation.”
And reach people they did. According to the remote live producer for the festival, Tim Sohn, of Sohn Social Media Solutions, there were 7,000 views globally during and after the festival on all social media, including Facebook, Twitter, and You Tube.
● How the women’s vote can shape the election: A conversation with Gloria Steinem and Suzanne Braun Levine
Gloria Steinem returned to the festival for the second time. Many in the online audience were delighted and feeling exhilarated to see these two titans of the women’s movement together. Steinem was co-founder of Ms. Magazine and Suzanne was its first editor. They’ve been friends and colleagues since the ‘70s. They both believe that women friends are one’s chosen family.
Steinem rejects the idea of ranking people because of skin color, gender, or ideas. “We are linked, not ranked,” she said. “Maybe we can use Covid as an example ,because Covid doesn’t care.” She urged people to make sure that others in their circle have information about voting because “your word is the most activating force.”
Steinem’s latest book is “The Truth Will Set You Free, But First It Will Piss You Off.” The film “The Glorias” about Steinem’s life by Julie Taymor is coming to Amazon later this month.
● Humor in Trying Times: World Famous Cartoonists Roz Chast and Matt Diffee in conversation with Bob Eckstein
“Matt and Roz are two of the funniest and accomplished cartoonists in the world, but also friends,” Bob Eckstein said. They have all worked for The New Yorker at various times and showed some of their cartoons and talked about cartoon making. Some of their remarks were as funny as their cartoons.
Eckstein said he started out as a world-famous expert on snowmen. Chast said she was a hypochondria and very nervous about the pandemic, so she carried Dr. Fauci on her shoulder. Diffee said he became a cartoonist because he was interested in both comedy and art, but failed at both, so he took two failures and combined them into a profession.
Eckstein challenged the virtual audience to a trivia question and said the winners would get his new book, “All’s Fair in Love and War, The Ultimate Cartoon Book.”
● Science Fiction and The Milford Connection: Sci -Fi writer Samuel Delany in Conversation with Sci-Fri Magazine Editor Gordon Van Gelder
Delany and Gordon both attended the famous Milford Writers Conference at various times and reminisced about the old days with Damon Knight, and James Bliss and Virginia Kidd -- all founders of the conference. It’s interesting to note that both Kurt Vonnegut and Robert Heinlein were among the participants of the conference. Christine Cohen, of the Virginia Kidd Literary Agency, mentioned that the agency is alive and well and celebrating its 55th anniversary, still in Arrowhead, the old house in Milford .
● All Boys Aren’t Blue: A Conversation with George M. Johnson and Mark S. King
This was an electrifying conversation about activist Johnson’s book for young adults describing his coming of age as a gay Black young man. Johnson is very proud that it is in the schools. He feels that his experiences at the ages of 12 to 14 give poor Black children the language to express their feelings.
The reaction from the virtual audience was raw emotion, and some people said they were crying. Mark King said, “George was such a candid and generous interviewee because he allowed me to admit the limits of my knowledge around race, gender, and how exactly we can be supportive as white friends and neighbors during a traumatizing time for our black friends. Mayor Sean Strub, who fielded the audience’s questions, said it was “George’s perspective on racial equity I found the most interesting and informative. George Johnson is one of the clarion voices rightfully calling us to account.”
Edson reminded folks that there is a “Donate Button” on the Milford Readers and Writers website (milfordreadersandwriters.com). He asked people to donate what they could to this not-for-profit festival. He also said to save the dates of September 17, 18, and 19 , 2012, for the sixth festival, which will be in person in Milford.