Saturday September 15, 2012

The first day of the Berkshire WordFest Friday brought together a few dozen writers, comedians, and poets in an appropriate setting for the literary set -- The Mount, the estate of writer Edith Wharton.

The second WordFest -- the bi-annual event began in 2010 -- provides a meeting place for like-minded literary locals as well as panelists and speakers from throughout the Northeast.

"The theme is loosely inspired by some of the themes in Edith Wharton's books," said Susan Wissler, the executive Director for The Mount. "We're hoping to eventually make this an annual and signature literary event."

At about 5 p.m., the first two of the weekend's guest speakers went to the podium to present some of their works to those in attendance.

The first was Kevin O'Hara, who elicited laughter as he read excerpts from his books "A Lucky Irish Lad" and "Last of the Donkey Pilgrims."

Next was Alison Larkin, a writer, comedian and actress. Her presentation was part stand-up comedy routine, as she told an animated story that connects with her best-selling novel "The English American," which is scheduled to be turned into a movie by a British film company. The book is semi-autobiographical and tells of how she met her English birth parents in the United States. She now lives with her family in Great Barrington.

"I fled the suburbs of New Jersey to be around like-minded people," Larkin said. "You can learn from people who you can connect with."

The guest speakers have traveled to the Berkshires from places like New York, Boston and Cambridge.

"It's a spectrum of the nearby talent," said Christine Triantos, the festival director.

A wine-and-cheese reception following the presentations made way for numerous conversations as writers introduced, or re-introduced themselves, to one another.

"There's pretty strong writers here, and it's great to see so many of them come together and be a part of a bigger scene," said Michelle Gillett, a Berkshire poet and freelance writer.Along with networking opportunities, Berkshire WordFest gives those in attendance an opportunity to try out new material and get feedback from their fellow writers.

"There's pretty strong writers here, and it's great to see so many of them come together and be a part of a bigger scene," said Michelle Gillett, a Berkshire poet and freelance writer.Along with networking opportunities, Berkshire WordFest gives those in attendance an opportunity to try out new material and get feedback from their fellow writers.

"I've read poems before that have bombed," said Amherst poet John Hennessy. He is set to read some of his poems over the weekend that will be published in the next month.

The audience laughs as author Alison Larkin acts out excerpts from her books Friday at the first day of WordFest at The Mount in Lenox.
The audience laughs as author Alison Larkin acts out excerpts from her books Friday at the first day of WordFest at The Mount in Lenox. (Stephanie Zollshan / Berkshire Eagle Staff)

"You're able to gauge the audience and know if you want to take that piece of work any further," he said.

To reach Adam Poulisse:
apoulisse@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6214
On Twitter: @BE_Poulisse