Portland celebrating festival of the book

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 PORTLAND – Readers and writers are essential to each other and they have many opportunities to come together at the fourth annual Maine Festival of the Book, set for April 9-11, Friday through Sunday, in Portland.

 It’s billed as a “literary extravaganza” and the weekend’s events include more than 30 readings, signings, performances, and panel discussions with a range of subjects from fiction thrillers to biography and children’s stories.

 Best-selling authors Tess Gerritsen and Anita Shreve will speak at a kick-off program at 7 p.m. Friday at the Abromson Center at the University of Southern Maine. There is a charge for this, but admission to all events on Saturday and a dramatic reading Sunday evening are free.

 “I am excited that we have such a great mix of authors this year,” said Sarah Cecil, executive director of Maine Reads. That organization, a nonprofit dedicated to the fight for a more literate Maine, produces Maine Festival of the Book.

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 Cecil said, “ We really reached out to fans of all types of books.” Some of the authors will be familiar to attendees, while others are less known.

 “It is our intent to present reading and writing in a way that’s interesting, lively and fun,” Cecil said.

 She said both Gerritsen and Shreve are residents or frequent visitors to Maine and New England.

 Gerritsen will talk about how she created her two most popular heroines, Jane Rizzoli and Maura Isles, and how they evolved from an idea to the printed page, and now to an upcoming TV series starring Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander.

 Gerritsen’s first medical thriller, “Harvest,” was released in hardcover in 1996, and it marked her debut on the New York Times Best-seller List.

 Shreve will read from her work and discuss the writer’s life.

 Her novel “The Pilot’s Wife” was selected by the Oprah’s Book Club in 1999 and a movie has been adapted from “The Weight of Water.”

 Tickets for the Gerritsen and Shreve appearance are $10 in advance and $15 at the door, and may be purchased through the Maine Reads Web site www.mainereads.org. A complete schedule is listed there.

 Saturday’s events run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on April 10 at the Abromson Center. They run concurrently for about an hour each, giving attendees a chance to spend the day immersed in new literature and meeting some of their favorite authors, Cecil said. The programs cover biography, writing novels, gardening, and historic preservation.

 Mark Griffin, a Lewiston resident, discusses his new book, “A Hundred or More Hidden Things: The Life and Films of Vincente Minelli,” at 11 a.m. Saturday. He has written for the Lewiston Sun Journal.

 A program called “Franco-American Women’s Words in Maine” will be presented by Rhea Cote Robbins and Trudy Chambers Price.

 Also Saturday morning, Neil Rolde and Earle Shettleworth will discuss “Maine in the World,” and there is a kids’ cartooning workshop.

 From noon to 2 p.m. there will be a Book Signing Bonanza presented by Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance. It will feature more than 20 authors including Monica Wood, Cynthia Lord, Julia Spencer-Fleming, and Betsy Sholl.

 Wesley McNair will present “Poems Drawn from Life,” Anne C. Heller, author of “The Reawakening of Ayn Rand,” speaks at 1:30 p.m., and “Native Plants for Maine Gardens: Going Wild” is the subject of a talk at 3 p.m.

 A Saturday afternoon talk by Debra Sparks is titled “There Are No New Stories.” Sparks also presents a theatrical reading called “Longfellow’s Shorts” at Portland Stage Company, 25A Forest Ave., Portland, at 7 p.m. Sunday.

 A theatrical program, “That Takes Ovaries! Bold Females and Their Brazen Acts,” will be presented at 5 p.m. Saturday. That event is at Northstar Café, 225 Congress St., Portland.

 An annual poetry arty takes place at 7 p.m. Saturday at Constellation Gallery, 511 Congress St., Portland

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