Beacon LitFest is Coming


First row: Donna Minkowitz, Laura Sims, Indran Amirthanayagam; second row: Will Shortz, Patricia Spears Jones, Shane Bly Killoran, Danielle Trussoni; third row: Hannah Brooks, Ruth Danon, Emily Moritmer (Photos provided)

Writers to fill Howland Center for workshops, talks

Visual artists may have settled in Beacon in abundance, but writers populate the city, as well. A new two-day festival, Beacon LitFest, will celebrate the art form with a mix of what is billed as “provocative literary conversation, staged performances and guest appearances.” 

Organized with the Howland Cultural Center, and steered by Hannah Brooks (an HCC board member), Shane Bly Killoran and Ruth Danon, the festival will unfold on Saturday and Sunday, June 17 and 18. “Our plan with this festival is to highlight Beacon’s growing literary community and expose audiences to fresh and thought-provoking work,” says Brooks.

Puzzle MasterSaturday is packed with events. The main program runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and will include interviews, readings, performances and question-and-answer sessions. The main event will be a conversation between Will Shortz, the crossword editor of The New York Times since 1993, and Danielle Trussoni, a Newburgh resident who is the author of the newly released thriller The Puzzle Master. Shortz contributed puzzles for the novel.

In addition, Laura Sims will introduce her suspense novel, How Can I Help You in discussion with actor and producer Emily Mortimer, who is adapting one of Sims’ earlier novels, Looker, for HBO.

Nonfiction writers are on the schedule, as well, including Donna Minkowitz, a Beacon resident, memoir writer, former Village Voice columnist and organizer of a monthly open mic at HCC called LitLit. She will talk about how to make nonfiction into art. She, along with Ginger Strand (The Brothers Vonnegut: Science and Fiction in the House of Magic and Killer on the Road: Violence and the American Interstate) and Jamie Price (The Call: The Spiritual Realism of Sargent Shriver), will share “sometimes subversive research methods” when writing about major social and political topics. 

There will be poets reading from their latest works: Martine Bellen from An Anatomy of Curiosity; Patricia Spears Jones from A Lucent Fire; and Indran Amirthanayagam from Ten Thousand Steps Against the Tyrant. 

Two playwrights, Nigel Gearing and Charlotte Meehan, will tackle the form and function of language in dramatic works. Gearing’s work has been produced in the U.S. and Europe; Meehan is the artistic director of the Sleeping Weazel company in Boston and playwright-in-residence at Wheaton College in Massachusetts.

The day will conclude with book signings and a cocktail hour.

On Sunday, the focus shifts to writing workshops. There will be three sessions, each led by a Hudson Valley writer, with up to 12 participants in each. 

Danon will lead Live Writing: A Poetry Project, which stems from the question: “Is the writing alive, or is it dead?” In his workshop, Ken Foster will ask: “Is it memoir, or is it fiction?” Killoran, a Beacon resident, will lead From Stage to Page: Adding Drama to Narrative. 

LitFest will provide American Sign Language translation for the main program and reserve a percentage of tickets and workshop seats to community members of limited means. The main program also will be recorded and posted online. 

The festival originated in Newburgh, where Brooks and Trussoni were neighbors. For the first, each invited a few writers to an event supporting the Newburgh nonprofit Safe Harbors. They added workshops for the second go-round, before the pandemic put everything on hold.

After Brooks moved to Beacon, the festival came with her. “Each year it morphs,” she says. “This year we’ve added playwriting and a nonfiction angle. We like to mix up the various ways literature is treated, and not just be a standard ‘people standing at front of room, reading pages’ kind of thing. There’ll be film clips and other multimedia; we want to make it multifaceted.”

The Howland Cultural Center is located at 477 Main St. Saturday tickets are $35 ($40 door) and Sunday workshop tickets are $25 per session ($30 door). See

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