Spotlight: Juniper Literary Festival at UMass Amherst; Easthampton Book Fest and Art Walk

  • Horacio Castellanos Moya

  • Danez Smith

  • Easthampton Book Fest

Published: 4/11/2019 4:38:04 PM

Literary lights converge in Amherst

From a celebrated novelist and journalist from El Salvador, to an acclaimed children’s author, to a number of established and up-and-coming poets and fiction writers, the 2019 Juniper Literary Festival at the University of Massachusetts Amherst has gathered considerable talent.

The festival, which begins tonight, (Friday, April 12) and continues Saturday, April 13 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., features a range of workshops and readings with multiple writers, editors and book publishers. In addition, there will be a “Literary Arts Fair” with “pop-up” readings and table displays by numerous publishers and literary organizations, both from the Valley and from New York, San Francisco and other locales.

The 2019 festival, which takes place at the Old Chapel and South College, is produced by the UMass MFA program for Poets and Writers and the Juniper Initiative for Literary Arts and Action, a program founded at the university in 2004. This year the festival is also featuring readings from writers from each of the Five Colleges, likely for the first time ever, according to Jeff Parker, the UMass MFA program director: Samuel Ace, Mount Holyoke; Polina Barskova, Hampshire; Arda Collins, Smith; Noy Holland, UMass; and Shayla Lawson, Amherst. 

Horacio Castellanos Moya, originally from El Salvador, opens the festival this evening with a 7 p.m. reading at the Old Chapel. He began his career as a journalist in the late 1970s when El Salvador became embroiled in a bloody civil war, and his writing both for newspapers and then novels — he has written 12, six of which have been translated into English — angered many in his country, forcing him to flee in the 1990s; he currently teaches at the University of Iowa.

In an email, Parker said another key festival speaker is Danez Smith of Minnesota, a National Book award finalist for poetry whose writing on “issues of racial and sexual orientation so salient in the current national discourse” will likely appeal to many in the Valley.

All events at the 2019 Juniper Literary Festival are free and open to the public. A full schedule can be found at


More books — and art — in Easthampton

The weekend’s literary theme extends to Easthampton, where this Saturday the city will host its fifth annual Book Fest from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. in a variety of locations.

And it’s not happening in a vacuum: this Saturday is also when Easthampton’s monthly Arts Walk takes place, so new exhibits will be open for viewing in the ECA Gallery, #Local Gallery and other locations.

The Book Fest, as in past years, offers a wide variety of events, including for children, from readings by notable writers, such as Easthampton poet laureate Gary Metras, to a Zine Fest at Flywheel Arts Collective, a “literary marketplace” of multiple goods at Eastworks and a Youth Story Slam at Easthampton Media.

The Book Fest also features events on Friday at 7 p.m. — an exhibit at White Square Books of bookbinders art — and on Sunday at Big Wheel Press, which hosts a workshop on using an antique restored letterpress.

All events at Easthampton’s Book Fest and Art Walk are free and family friendly. For a full schedule, visit

— Steve Pfarrer



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