Award-Winning Novelists Paul Harding and Sarah Braunstein to Present at Maine Festival of the Book | Arts & Culture

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Award-Winning Novelists Paul Harding and Sarah Braunstein to Present at Maine Festival of the Book

PORTLAND, Maine – 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 for her novel The Sweet Relief of Missing Children, will present at the Maine Festival of the Book on Saturday, April 2 at 9:30 am at the Abromson Center, University of Southern Maine, Portland.  Admission is free and seats are available first-come, first served.

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 bestselling 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, Paul Harding began writing Tinkers after his rock band broke up, but had to put the manuscript aside following numerous rejections from large publishers.

Encouraged by a friend to try again, Harding submitted his manuscript for Tinkers to Erika Goldman, editorial director of the newly formed Bellevue Literary Press, who fell in love with it. Major contemporary novelists, including Marilynne Robinson (Gilead), provided glowing endorsements and independent booksellers from coast to coast soon became the book’s biggest champions. The New York Times declared it “the most dramatic literary Cinderella story of recent memory.”

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. At once heartbreaking and life affirming, Tinkers is an elegiac meditation on love, loss, illness, faith, and the fierce beauty of nature.

Winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize and PEN / Robert Bingham Fellowship for Writers Award, Tinkers was also named a 2010 American Library Association Notable Book and shortlisted for the American Booksellers Association’s Best Book of the Year Award.

Paul Harding graduated from the University of Massachusetts and was a drummer for the band Cold Water Flat before earning his MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He has taught writing at Harvard and the University of Iowa. A 2010 Guggenheim fellow, Harding now lives near Boston with his wife and two sons, and is working on his second novel.
In Sarah Braunstein’s novel 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, we find deeper interconnections between these stories and growing clues about Leonora—this missing girl whose face looks out from telephone poles and billboards—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.

The Sweet Relief of Missing Children was published by W.W. Norton & Co. this month. Sarah Braunstein is co-wrote (with Michael Barakiva and Amy Boyce Holtcamp) the play, String Theory: Three Greek Myths Woven Together, which was produced in New York City in 2009 and at Vassar College in 2010. The recipient of a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award, Braunstein currently teaches at Harvard University Extension School and the Stanford Online Writer’s Studio. She is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College, and holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and an MSW from Smith College School for Social Work. Based in Portland, Maine, she is at work on a second novel and a collection of essays

The Maine Festival of the Book will take place in Portland 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 unticketed with the exception of Friday’s Opening Night event.
The festival is designed to appeal to readers with a range of interests and gives the public the chance to learn what goes on behind the scenes when producing a book.  The festival is presented by the nonprofit Maine Reads, in collaboration with organizations statewide. More than 6,000 people have attended the festivals since its start in 2007, enjoying more than 300 presenting authors and performers. 

The festival’s goal is to encourage a dialogue between authors and readers through programs. Most of the programs feature two authors or more engaged in a discussion that captures an aspect of their writing.  Program subjects this year include memoir, gardening, mystery, fly fishing, Franco-American history, poetry, and writing and publishing. Question and answer periods, as well as book signings, follow. 

The festival kicks off with Opening Night: An Evening with Stewart O’Nan and Julia Glass, evening of readings, conversation and Q and A about the writer’s life, on Friday, April 1 at 7:30 pm at Hannaford Hall in the Abromson Center at USM, Portland.   Stewart O’Nan is the bestselling author of 15 books including Faithful (with Stephen King) and Emily, Alone. Julia Glass is the National Book Award-winning author of Three Junes and The Widower’s Tale. Tickets are $5 each in advance and $10 after March 28.  Tickets may be purchased through the Maine Reads Web site  Seats are general admission and limited.  Doors open at 7 pm. 

Free, unticketed programming for all ages and interests starts Saturday, April 2 at 9 am and runs through the weekend.  Concurrent programs will run from 9:30 am to 4 pm at the Abromson Center at the University of Southern Maine in Portland on Saturday.  Thematic discussions, some with Powerpoint illustrations, readings, booksignings, and performances will be held. 

Free events continue that evening in downtown Portland with the annual Poetry Party at 7 pm offering libations, music, and slams at Local Sprouts, 649 Congress Street. 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, a free event featuring artists and designers of handcrafted books from 10 am to 3 pm at the Wishcamper Center at USM. On Sunday evening, April 3 at 7 pm, 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.

Dedicated to the fight for a more literate Maine, Maine Reads provides meaningful programs that celebrate Maine’s rich literacy heritage and encourage literacy and collaboration. In addition to the Maine Festival of the Book, Maine Reads presents Read With ME., which distributes books to kindergartners statewide, and the Maine Reads Community Literacy Project, which supports libraries statewide.  Maine Reads is a 501c3 non profit.

For more information, please visit or call (207) 871-9100.

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