Marblehead Literary Festival returns July 1

Photo by Marblehead Festival of the Arts

The Marblehead Festival of Arts’ popular Literary Festival, known originally as Writers World, returns this year after a brief pandemic hiatus. Returning with it is the always-popular writing contest, along with a full slate of speakers, panels, and workshops of interest to writers and readers alike.

Abbot Public Library Director Kimberly Grad recently stepped in as acting chair to manage the contest and the speaker series. She is thrilled to be part of its relaunch after such a long absence, especially because the “Literary Festival is such a wonderful celebration of the talent and creativity that makes Marblehead a vibrant and exciting intellectual community.”

Over 125 entries were submitted for the Literary Contest in May and June which was open to all Massachusetts residents who are writers of fiction, nonfiction (including memoir and personal essay), and poetry. 

In the adult section, first prize in each category (fiction, nonfiction ,and poetry) will be awarded $100, a ribbon and certificate, and a quarter-page black-and-white ad in the Marblehead Current to be donated to a local nonprofit of the winners’ choice. Second place and honorable mentions in each category earn a ribbon and certificate.

​In the student section for writers 18 years old and younger, first prize in each category will be awarded $50. All winners, including first prize, second prize, and honorable mention will receive ribbons, certificates and Abbot Public Library swag. Abbot Public Library is sponsoring the student prizes through the library’s Carten Gallery Fund, which supports the arts. 

Thanks to the generous support of the Marblehead Current, this year’s presenting media sponsor of the Marblehead Festival of Arts, an inaugural Marblehead Current Best of Show Award will be presented to the one entry across all categories that demonstrates the ideals of outstanding written prose or poetry. In addition to the engraved award, the winner will receive a $100 cash prize donated by the Marblehead Current.

​The Literary Festival would like to thank judges Kris Olsen and Laurie Stolarz (Fiction); Dawn Paul (Poetry); and Virginia Buckingham and Carla Panciera (nonfiction) for their time and dedication to selecting this year’s winning entries, which will be announced soon. 

The Literary Festival would also like to thank Margo Steiner, Erin Underwood, Julianna Thibodeaux and Lisa Fowler for their contributions to the planning of this year’s speaker series. All events take place at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Marblehead, 28 Mugford St. Books will be available for purchase. For more information, see the Marblehead Festival of the Arts website:

Author Talk with Rich Rubino:
A Funny Thing Happened on the Presidential Campaign Trail

Saturday, July 1, 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. 

Rich Rubino has a keen interest and enchantment with entertaining stories involving Presidential candidates. He will share stories of bloopers, dirty tricks and candidates being humbled by voters. 

Rubino is the author of five political books. His most recent is “The Great American Political Trivia Challenge: Political Trivia on Steroids.” He has appeared as a guest on national TV, including MSNBC and C-SPAN2, and is a frequent guest on radio stations around the country. Rich appears weekly for an hour on the Jay Talking telecast with Bradley Jay. Additionally, he speaks to various organizations about politics, with a unique historical perspective. He has contributed more than a hundred political analysis pieces to the Huffington Post. He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and communications (media track) from Assumption University, and a master’s degree in broadcast journalism from Emerson College. 

Workshop with Julianna Thibodeaux:
Is There a Memoir in You? 

Saturday, July 1, 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. 

What distinguishes memoir from autobiography, personal essay, and other forms of creative writing? Why do we write memoirs in the first place? In this brief workshop we’ll explore these questions and more, and we’ll even do a little writing. Beginning and seasoned writers alike are welcome.  Julianna Thibodeaux is a Boston-area writer and assistant professor at Montserrat College of Art. 

Author Talk with Tui Sutherland:
Inside the Writer’s Mind: How to Write for Children

Saturday, July 1, 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

In an interview format, award-winning children’s author Tui T. Sutherland discusses what it takes to write compelling stories for children. In the process, she shares the thoughts, ideas, and feelings she experienced while writing her #1 New York Times bestselling “Wings of Fire” series. Join us for this special discussion with Sutherland as we explore children’s literature, and how to write realistic characters, compelling storylines and fantastical adventures that carry kids away into new worlds of imagination.

Tui Sutherland has written more than forty books for children and teens, ranging from sticker and easy-to-read books for beginning readers to middle-grade and YA novels. Her bestselling series, “Wings of Fire,” is set in a well-developed world that features dragons and other fanciful figures. Sutherland writes under multiple pen names, including Erin Hunter, Rob Kidd, Heather Williams, and Tamara Summers.

​The discussion will be moderated by Erin Underwood, the senior event content producer for MIT Technology Review’s emerging technology events. She also reads, writes and edits science fiction and assists in the production of long-lived and well-attended science fiction conventions across the country. 

In the last hour, children 18 and younger are invited to join a special interactive table talk with Tui T. Sutherland. Participating youngsters will have a unique opportunity to ask questions, and find out what books and series they can look forward to in the future. Space is limited for this table talk, which is for young people only. Those 18 and under may sign up beginning at noon on Saturday, July 1, at the Unitarian Universalist Church.

Author Talk with Harry Christensen and Richard Santeusanio:
Murder in Marblehead, Who Killed Beryl Atherton?

Sunday, July 2, 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.

For over forty years, on the anniversary of the night of the most notorious unsolved murder in Marblehead’s history, local resident and attorney Harry Christensen has returned to the scene of the crime, hoping the psychotic killer might also. He parks across from the small, clapboard house where mild-mannered, unmarried, and well-liked elementary school teacher Beryl Atherton was brutally murdered on a stormy night in 1950, causing the townspeople of Marblehead to plummet into a state of fear and shock in the days following. Who would be next, everyone asked, and why Beryl?

Christensen has pored over the evidence for 55 years, seeking the killer. In 2022, he and friend Richard Santeusanio gathered Christensen’s notes, and—along with details from published sources, interviews with those who might have information, and state and local police files—published “Murder in Marblehead, Who Killed Beryl Atherton?” in October 2022.

They’ve proposed three possible killers. Was it one of these people or someone else? Join us for their riveting account. Copies of their book will be available for purchase.

Political Trivia with Rich Rubino

Sunday, July 2, 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.

In this audience participation event, local author Rich Rubino will pose questions from his most recent book, “The Great American Political Trivia Challenge: Political Trivia on Steroids.” Rubino will include amusing stories about the answers to each question.

Rubino is the author of five political books. His most recent is “The Great American Political Trivia Challenge:  Political Trivia on Steroids.” He has appeared as a guest on national TV, including MSNBC and C-SPAN2, and is a frequent guest on radio stations around the country. Rubino appears weekly for an hour on the Jay Talking telecast with Bradley Jay. Additionally, he speaks to various organizations about politics, with a unique historical perspective. He has contributed more than a hundred political analysis pieces to the Huffington Post. He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and communications (media track) from Assumption University, and a master’s degree in broadcast journalism from Emerson College. 

Panel Discussion: What Endures: Finding the Next Great Poem

Monday, July 3, 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. 

​What makes a poem great? What qualities do poets and readers of poetry look for in a poem? Readers and writers continue to sift through the poems of the last fifty years, trying to identify and preserve those of lasting value, those that will endure. Join four members of the Salem-based Thursday Poets as they share favorite contemporary poems and discuss what they hope for and appreciate in poetry.

Moderator: J.D. Scrimgeour’s most recent book of poetry is the bilingual collection, “香蕉面包Banana Bread.” He’s also the author of two books of nonfiction, including “Themes for English B,” which won the Association of Writers and Writing Program’s award for nonfiction. Scrimgeour is a professor of English at Salem State University.


Kathleen Auero’s most recent book of poetry is “World Happiness Index” from Tiger Bark Press. She teaches in the Solstice low-residency Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing Program at Lasell University in Newton, Mass., and in Changing Lives through Literature, an alternative sentencing program for criminal offenders on probation for the Salem District Court. She is a contributing editor at Kenyon Review.

​Jennifer Martelli is the author of “The Queen of Queens” and “My Tarantella,” named a “must read” by the Massachusetts Center for the Book. Her work has appeared in The Academy of American Poets Poem-A-Day, Poetry, and elsewhere. She has twice been awarded grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Council for poetry and is the co-poetry editor of Mom Egg Review.

Elisabeth Weiss teaches writing. She’s published poems in London’s Poetry Review, Crazyhorse, the Birmingham Poetry Review, and many other journals.  Her chapbook, “The Caretaker’s Lament,” was published by Finishing Line Press in 2016.

Author Talk with Elizabeth de Veer:

​The Power of Persistence: Paths to Publication

Monday, July 3, 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. 

Author Elizabeth de Veer’s first novel, “The Ocean in Winter,” is set in northeastern Massachusetts, and debuted in 2021 to rave reviews. Its publication, however, was anything but an easy ride for its author. Today, she’ll share with us the journey from idea to public acclaim—and everything that lays between, including ups and downs, the encouragement of others, realistic expectations, the role of luck and persistence, the writing process, and knowing she wasn’t the only scribe struggling with the daily craft of writing, the occasional discouragements, the moments of joy, and more. 

de Veer’s presentation will be a topic of interest to both novice and advanced writers.

Elisabeth de Veer holds a master’s degree in theological studies from Harvard Divinity School, and has been admitted to writing residencies at the Jentel Artist Residency, the Hambidge Center for Creative Arts and Sciences, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She is a member of several writing groups, including Grub Street Writers’ Collective of Boston, the Newburyport Writers’ Group, Sisters in Crime New England, and the New Hampshire Writers’ Group. She lives in a small town in northeast Massachusetts with her family. Copies of “The Ocean in Winter” will be available for purchase.

Panel Discussion: The Changing Face of News in Marblehead

Monday, July 3, 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.

​From having practically no vehicle covering local news and activities for some time, Marblehead is now blessed with three—all very excellent—weekly news vehicles, each providing an array of town news, sports, profiles, local town meeting notes, and a great deal more.

Can all three survive? What are the goals of each, and how do they hope to achieve them? Will any of them eventually become subscription news? Are three too many? Are they all covering the same news, albeit in different ways? What has feedback been?

Each of the panelists represents one of Marblehead’s new weekly newspapers, and will address these questions and more. Jennifer Lederman from The Beacon,  Kris Olson from Marblehead Current, and Ted Grant from Marblehead Weekly News.

The panel will be moderated by Rhod Sharp, a Scottish broadcaster, best known as the creator and former presenter of Up All Night on BBC Radio 5 Live, which ran for 16 years and made him a BBC Radio institution—aired through the night in the United Kingdom. Little did his audience know, Sharp presented the show from the attic of his Franklin Street home in Marblehead.

2023 Literary Contest Winners Read Their Works

Tuesday, July 4, 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. 

Come hear this year’s Literary Festival winners read their essays, fiction, nonfiction and poems and support theirs — and others’ — writing endeavors!

Workshop with Laurie Stolarz:

Where Do I Start? How Do I Keep Going? 

Tuesday, July 4, 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.

In this creative writing workshop, Stolarz will focus on practicing story-starter techniques geared to jump-start the writing process. She will also discuss next steps in taking initial ideas to finished manuscripts (be it a short story or novel). The workshop will conclude with an exploration of methods used by writers to keep them from—or get them out of—“writers’ block.” Come ready to work. 

Laurie Stolarz is the author of eighteen young adult novels, including the “Dark House” series, the “Touch” series, “Project 17” and “Bleed,” all published by Disney/Hyperion Books, as well as the bestselling “Blue is for Nightmares” series. With over a million books sold worldwide, Stolarz’s titles have been translated into thirty languages, developed into podcast series, and optioned for TV. Her newest title, “The Last Secret You’ll Ever Keep,” was released in 2021, a companion book to “Jane Anonymous,” which was named a 2020 Best Book by Kirkus and included on several state award lists.