Pulitzer Prize-winner will present at Maine Festival of the Book

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PORTLAND — Paul Harding, winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for fiction for “Tinkers,” and Sarah Braunstein, named one of 2010’s “5 under 35” fiction writers by the National Book Foundation, will give presentations at the Maine Festival of the Book.

The Maine Festival of the Book will take place April 1-3, with a full day of programs Saturday, April 2, at the University of Southern Maine’s Abromson Center. Programs are free and require no tickets, with the exception of Friday’s opening night event.

Harding and Braunstein, lauded for her novel “The Sweet Relief of Missing Children,” will be featured at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 2. Seats will be available on a first-come, first served basis.

 In a program titled “Wrestling a Book into the World,” Harding and Braunstein will talk about art, hysteria and the long process of bringing a book into existence. They will each also read from their acclaimed debut novels.

 Harding’s New York Times best-selling novel “Tinkers” is the first independently published Pulitzer Prize winner since “A Confederacy of Dunces” received the award nearly three decades ago. Inspired by his family’s history, Harding began writing “Tinkers” after his rock band broke up.

 In “Tinkers,” an old man lies dying. Propped up in his living room and surrounded by his children and grandchildren, George Washington Crosby drifts in and out of consciousness, back to the wonder and pain of his impoverished childhood in Maine. As the clock repairer’s time winds down, his memories intertwine with those of his father, an epileptic, itinerant peddler and his grandfather, a Methodist preacher beset by madness.

Paul Harding graduated from the University of Massachusetts and was a drummer for the band Cold Water Flat before earning a master’s degree from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He has taught writing at Harvard and the University of Iowa. A 2010 Guggenheim fellow, Harding lives near Boston with his wife and two sons, and is working on his second novel.

In “The Sweet Relief of Missing Children,” a girl called Leonora vanishes without a trace in New York City. Years earlier and miles upstate, Goldie, a wild, negligent mother, searches for a man to help raise her precocious son, Paul, who later discovers that the only way to save his soul is to run away.

As the narrative moves back and forth in time, readers discover deeper interconnections between these stories and growing clues about Leonora, whom one character will give anything to save. At the heart of this mysterious debut rests a singular, discomfiting truth: The need of children to be free of their parents is no stronger than their parents’ need to be free of their children.

 Braunstein teaches at Harvard University Extension School and the Stanford Online Writer’s Studio. She is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College, and holds master’s degrees from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and Smith College School for Social Work. Based in Portland, she is at work on a second novel and a collection of essays.

 For more information on the Maine Festival of the Book, call 871-9100 or visit www.mainereads.org.

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