PORTLAND — The fifth annual Maine Festival of the Book, designed to encourage a dialogue between authors and readers, will take place on April 1-3 at the University of Southern Maine’s Abromson Center.

“Usually, each program features more than one author, creating a different dynamic than your typical reading. The variety of authors and subject matter is designed to inspire audiences with a range of tastes and interests,” said Sarah Cecil, executive director of Maine Reads, event presenter in collaboration with organizations statewide.

Programs are free and don’t require tickets, with the exception of “Opening Night: An Evening with Stewart O’Nan and Julia Glass.”

The festival aims to draw readers with a range of interests and give them a chance to learn what goes on behind the scenes when producing a book.

Program subjects include memoirs, gardening, mystery, fly fishing, Franco-American history, poetry, and writing and publishing. Question-and-answer periods, as well as book signings, follow.

The festival will kick off with a program by O’Nan, who has written 12 novels, and Glass, who has penned four works of fiction, at 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 1, at Hannaford Hall in the Abromson Center.

O’Nan’s works include “Emily, Alone,” the new sequel to his best-selling “Wish You Were Here,” as well as “Last Night at the Lobster,” and “Songs for the Missing,” in addition to works of nonfiction, including (with Stephen King) the best-selling “Faithful: Two Diehard Boston Red Sox Fans Chronicle the Historic 2004 Season.” He lives with his family in Pittsburgh, Pa.

Glass’ works include “Three Junes,” winner of the 2002 National Book Award for Fiction; “The Whole World Over; I See You Everywhere,” winner of the 2009 Binghamton University John Gardner Book Award; and a new novel, “The Widower’s Tale.” She has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. She lives in Massachusetts with her family.

General admission tickets for “Opening Night: An Evening with Stewart O’Nan and Julia Glass” are $5 in advance, $10 after March 28. Tickets may be purchased online at www.mainereads.org.

Free, unticketed programming for all ages will start at 9 a.m. Saturday, April 2, and run through the weekend. Concurrent programs will run from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Abromson Center on Saturday. Thematic discussions, some with Powerpoint illustrations, readings, book signings and performances will be held.

Authors presenting on Saturday include Paul Harding, winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction; Sarah Braunstein, a winner of the 2010 National Book Foundation’s “5 under 35;” Tom Allen, president and CEO of the Association of American Publishers; Robin Whitten, editor and publisher of AudioFile; Tim Spalding, founder of LibraryThing.com; and Margaret Roach, awaytogarden.com blogger and former editorial director for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. Also, Lily King, Melissa Coleman, Caitlin Shetterley, Susan Conley, Colin Sargent, Chris Corbett, Hannah Holmes, Shonna Milliken Humphrey, Paul Guernsey, Scott Nash, Sandra Dutton, Richard Foerster, Bruce Spang, Jacqueline Sheehan, Ellen Meeropol and many others.

Programs for children and teens — mostly hands-on activities and visual presentations by authors like Chris Van Dusen and Sandra Dutton — will be offered all day on Saturday at the Abromson Center. From noon to 2 p.m., there will be a book signing bonanza, presented by Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance, featuring more than 20 authors, including Paul Doiron, James Hayman, Kate Braestrup and Welsey McNair.

Free events will continue on Saturday with the annual Poetry Party at 7 p.m., offering libations, music and slams at Local Sprouts, 649 Congress St. On Sunday, in conjunction with the Maine Festival of the Book, the Kate Cheney Chappell ’83 Center for Book Arts at USM will present a book arts bazaar. The free event will feature artists and designers of handcrafted books from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Wishcamper Center at USM.

Also on Sunday, at 7 p.m., Portland Stage Company at 25A Forest Avenue will present “Longfellow’s Shorts,” featuring a dramatic reading of selections from “Everything Matters!,” a new novel by Ron Currie Jr.

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

Author Julia Glass

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