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The second annual WIT Festival returns to Shakespeare & Company

This year’s theme, “Changing the Narrative,” will bring together award-winning historians, journalists, novelists, biographers, poets, editors, and scholars for a series of thought-provoking conversations on AI, indigenous community, parenting, the political landscape, and more.

Lenox— The Authors Guild Foundation is returning to the Berkshires this fall for the second “Words, Ideas, and Thinkers (WIT) Festival” taking place September 21st through the 23rd at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox.

This year’s festival theme, “Changing the Narrative,” will bring together award-winning historians, journalists, novelists, biographers, poets, editors, and scholars for a series of thought-provoking conversations on AI, indigenous community, parenting, the political landscape, and more. The WIT festival seeks to expand our understanding of critical issues, celebrate America’s literary culture, and amplify new voices and perspectives.

Jane Smiley. Photo by Derek Shapton. Image courtesy of the Authors Guild.

There will be a panel discussion, “Politics and Prose” with featured speakers, Jane Smiley and Jennie Kassanoff. Jane Smiley’s work tackles politics, farming, the American family, gender issues, animals, climate, and the craft of writing through the scope of her prose and essays. A Pulitzer Prize winner and member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, she has published numerous novels, young adult books, essays, and nonfiction works. Kassanoff’s research focuses on post-Civil War American culture. She is currently at work on a book about voting, race, and gender in American culture, the working title of which is “Voter Writes”. She is the author of “Edith Wharton and the Politics of Race”, and her essays have appeared in various books and journals, including American Literature, American Literary History, and PMLA.

There will be a panel discussion, “Mrs. Dalloway at 98” with Michael Cunningham and Roxana Robinson. Michael Cunningham is the author of eight books, including a Covid-themed novel, “Day”, coming out later this year. He is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts grant, a Whiting Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the PEN/Faulkner Award, and the Pulitzer Prize. Roxana Robinson is the author of ten books. She is the recipient of many awards, most recently the Barnes & Noble “Writers for Writers” Award from Poets & Writers. She teaches in the MFA Program at Hunter College.

Margaret Verble. Image courtesy of the Authors Guild.

There will be a panel discussion, “Who Are NDNs, Anyway? And Why Does It Matter?”with Margaret Verble and Morgan Talty. Margaret Verble is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation. She is the author of Pulitzer Prize finalist “Maud’s Line”, New York Times Notable Book of the Year “Cherokee America”, and “When Two Feathers Fell from the Sky”, one of Booklist’s Best Adult Novels of 2021. She lives in Lexington, Kentucky. Morgan Talty is a citizen of the Penobscot Indian Nation, where he grew up. His story collection “Night of the Living Rez” (2022) won the New England Book Award for fiction. It is set in a Native community in Maine and explores what it means to live, survive, and persevere after tragedy. The two writers will discuss indigenous identity, community, and more.

There will be a panel discussion, “The End of Reality: AI, Crypto, and the Metaverse” with Jonathan Taplin and Mary Rasenberger. Jonathan Taplin is an author and director emeritus of the Annenberg Innovation Lab at the University of Southern California. Taplin’s book “Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google, and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy” was nominated by the Financial Times as one of the Best Business Books of 2017. He will be in conversation with Mary Rasenberger, the chief executive officer of the Authors Guild and Authors Guild Foundation, to discuss the implications of artificial intelligence and other new popular technologies such as crypto and the metaverse.

Rita Dove. Photo by Fred Viebahn. Image courtesy of the Authors Guild.

There will be a panel discussion, “Playlist for the Apocalypse” with Rita Dove and André Bernard. Pulitzer Prize recipient Rita Dove is the author of a novel, a book of short stories, essays, and numerous volumes of poetry. She is the recipient of a National Humanities Medal from President Clinton and a National Medal of Arts from President Obama, making her the only poet ever to receive both. She has received more than twenty-nine honorary doctorate degrees. André Bernard is vice president of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation in New York City and has authored five books.

There will be a panel discussion, “Parents on Paper” with Emma Straub and Maya Shanbhag Lang. Emma Straub is the New York Times-bestselling author of six books for adults, a short story collection, and three picture books. Her work has been published in more than twenty languages. Emma and her husband own Books Are Magic, an independent bookstore with two locations in Brooklyn, New York. She will be in conversation with Maya Shanbhag Lang, author and president of the Authors Guild, about the changing nature of our relationships with our parents and family–and time travel.

Emma Straub, photo ny Melanie Dunea, and Maya Shanbhag Lang photo by Beowulf Sheehan. Images courtesy of the Authors Guild.

There will be a panel discussion, “Memoir and Memory” with Isaac Fitzgerald and Saeed Jones. Isaac Fitzgerald is the New York Times bestselling author of the memoir “Dirtbag, Massachusetts” (winner of a New England Book Award), in addition to several other books. Saeed Jones was born in Memphis, Tennessee, and grew up in Lewisville, Texas. His debut poetry collection, “Prelude to Bruise”, was awarded the 2015 PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award for Poetry. His memoir “How We Fight for Our Lives” won the 2019 Kirkus Prize for Nonfiction, a 2020 Lambda Literary Award, and a 2020 Stonewall Book Award. The New Yorker observed, “His title carries an edge of social critique. To be black, gay, an American, the book suggests, is to fight for one’s life.”

Isaac Fitzgerald, phoyo by Remi Morawski and Saeed Jones. Imags courtesy of the Authors Guild.

There will be a panel discussion, “The Cult of Secrecy with Patrick Radden Keefe and Daniel Zalewski”. Patrick Radden Keefe is a staff writer at The New Yorker and author of several New York Times bestsellers. He is also the creator and host of the eight-part investigative podcast “Wind of Change,” which The Guardian and Entertainment Weekly named the No. 1 podcast of 2020. Daniel Zalewski is the features director of The New Yorker. He edits many of the magazine’s staff writers and has published profiles of such figures as Ian McEwan, Guillermo del Toro, and Werner Herzog, and he has written about everything from amnesia to art restoration.

There will be a panel discussion, “The Present, the Past, and the Historical Record” with Marton Baron and Stacy Schiff. Martin (Marty) Baron was the executive editor of The Washington Post for eight years, during which it won eleven Pulitzers. His tenure included coverage of the Capitol assault, NSA investigations, and Trump’s campaign. He was top editor of The Boston Globe when it broke the investigation on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, portrayed in the Academy Award-winning movie “Spotlight”. Stacy Schiff is the author of  “Véra” (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov), winner of the Pulitzer Prize; and “A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America”, winner of the George Washington Book Prize. Her book “Cleopatra: A Life” was a No. 1 bestseller and won the PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography.

The festival is free and open to the public so everyone can participate in the dialogue without barriers. Seating is limited and registration is required. Registration and preferential seating for sponsors and members of the Authors Guild Foundation Giving Society opens Monday, July 17th. Registration opens to the public on Monday, July 31st.  For more information, visit the Authors Guild online. Join the AGF Giving Society to get early registration and preferential seating. To learn more about the Giving Society and how you can become a member, visit the Giving Society online.

As appreciation for their support, members of the Authors Guild Foundation Giving Society will also be able to register early for individual sessions and purchase tickets to dinners with WIT Festival speakers and other special guests. These nightly ticketed dinner events with the authors help financially support the series.

Image courtesy of the Authors Guild.

With more than 13,000 members, the Authors Guild is the nation’s oldest and largest professional organization for published writers. It advocates on behalf of working writers to protect free speech, freedom of expression, and authors’ copyrights; fights for fair contracts and authors’ ability to earn a livable wage; and provides a welcoming community for writers and translators of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and journalism. Free programming to teach working writers about the business of writing, and public events that highlight the importance of a rich, diverse American literary culture and the authors who contribute to it, is made possible through the Authors Guild Foundation, the Guild’s educational and charitable arm.

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