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Book Fest Draws Lit Luminaries to Burlington

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Authors may not have quite the pull of Hollywood celebrities, but when they read from their own work, their cadences can fill a room. This weekend, some famous voices will be raised for the first time at the fourth annual Burlington Book Festival. After an opening ceremony featuring Sen. Bernie Sanders and Mayor Bob Kiss, Pulitzer Prize winner and former U.S. Poet Laureate Charles Simic reads his verse.

No one spins a twisted adult fairy tale like Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked; on Saturday, he gives fans a taste of his latest novel, A Lion Among Men. Later the same afternoon, acclaimed Canadian novelist Alistair MacLeod takes the stage. Writers in the booming memoir genre are represented, too, such as John Elder Robison, big brother of Augusten Burroughs and Ann Hood, whose stark, true narrative of losing her 5-year-old daughter has drawn critical raves - and tears.

Plenty of Vermont writers will speak at the fest, from Archer Mayor to Katherine Paterson to James Kochalka. Lincoln's Louella Bryant takes on a turbulent period in U.S. history in her book about the fate of Howard Dean's brother Charlie. And aspiring local authors can take advantage of workshops on getting motivated and published.

Festival Director Rick Kisonak says lining up authors is "a yearlong crapshoot. You do detective work, send a million emails out into the ether, and once in a while somebody like Alistair [MacLeod] actually writes back." But while drawing household names may be a chancy endeavor, he adds, "The festival does seem to be getting a reputation for being worth the trip."

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