By Roberta Silman
Although all the statistical material about the demography of Wordfest has yet to be compiled, the word is out that this newest event at The Mount was an amazing success. About 500 people attended events at the grounds of The Mount and nearby at Seven Hills (the fundraising dinner) over the weekend of July 23–25; they were of all ages, though probably “about 10 years younger than our usual population of visitors here at The Mount,” said Susan Wissler, the director. “And there were about 60% women and 40% men, which is also a bit different from our usual population,” added Audrey Manring, a freelance writer and publicist who was brought in to help launch this new event in the Berkshires.
What was absolutely wonderful was the way the writers themselves “stayed on after their individual gigs—on panels, giving interviews, signing books—exchanging ideas with each other as well as the guests,” according to both women. Such generosity of spirit creates an atmosphere that is hard to convey in any report, but that was palpable and encouraging to those who came not only to meet these fine writers but to learn from them. It is also very hard to predict. Sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn’t. But the stars were in their right places in Lenox, MA last weekend. And the biggest surprise was the large audience on the Terrace for the poetry readings, mostly by Berkshire poets of varying ages.
All of the writers have called or emailed to report their pleasure, and “they all seemed to feel honored that they were here for this first Wordfest,” Susan said with delight. Although I could not attend because of pressing family obligations that weekend, I know I will clear my calendar for the next Wordfest, which is already being scheduled for September 2011. And when I stopped in to see the two women last week, I had the feeling that Edith Wharton herself was looking down, saying to herself: This is what I dreamed when I created this beautiful estate (which looks absolutely gorgeous, by the way, especially Edith’s garden), and this is exactly how the marvelous legacy of American writing should be disseminated to interested readers and a new generation of writers.
Bravo to all those who participated—you can look them up on The Mount’s website—bravo to the organizers, and a special bravo to those private contributors and businesses who made this unique event possible.
Roberta Silman is the author of Blood Relations, Boundaries, The Dream Dredger, and Beginning The World Again, as well as the children’s book, Somebody Else’s Child. She can be reached at email@example.com.