BLUE HILL — Word, the annual Blue Hill literary arts festival featuring author conversations and writing workshops, is online this year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The festival will be available on Zoom Oct. 23-28, sticking to tradition with three evenings of author conversations and poetry readings. For the first time, however, Word will offer two-session workshops on weeknights in addition to its usual single-session weekend classes.

In an effort to add at least one “real world” experience, the festival also is sponsoring Word.Hunt, a scavenger hunt in the Blue Hill village area, Oct. 17-25.

Workshop fees start at $25, and space is limited. Readings and evening conversations are free with attendance unlimited. Registration is required for all events and is available at www.wordfestival.org.

Free programming

Novelist Jonathan Lethem, a festival supporter since he was its inaugural speaker in 2017, will kick off WordOnline at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 23, in conversation with Portland novelist Kate Christensen.  Lethem, who trained initially as an artist, also has created a painting that will be raffled off to benefit Word.

Lethem’s new novel, “The Arrest,” due out Nov. 10, was inspired by many summers spent in East Blue Hill. A multiple award-winner, he is the author of ten other novels and six short-story collections, as well as nonfiction books and essays. Christensen, winner of the 2008 Pen/Faulkner Award, is the author of seven novels and two memoirs about living (and cooking and eating) in Maine.

Saturday evening, Oct. 24, also at 7,  Monica Wood and Kerri Arsenault will discuss their experiences writing memoirs about growing up in Mexico, Maine. Wood’s celebrated memoir, “When We Were the Kennedys,” won the May Sarton Award when it came out in 2012. 

Arsenault’s “Mill Town: Reckoning with What Remains” came out September 1 as one of LitHub’s “Most Anticipated Books of 2020” and was an IndieNext pick for the month.

In lieu of Word’s popular Poetry Crawl through Blue Hill businesses, four Maine poets will read via Zoom: Sudanese refugee and activist Ekhlas Ahmed, Portland Poet Laureate Linda Aldrich, Pushcart Prize-winner Colin Cheney and Deborah Cummins, the president of the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance whose most recent collection, “Until They Catch Fire,” comes out in October. The readings will take place Sunday at 4 p.m.

Workshops

Word will offer online workshops by John Cariani (playwriting), Gretchen Eberhart Cherington (memoir), Myronn Hardy (poetry), and Anica Mrose Rissi (young-adult/middle-grade fiction).

Anica Rissi’s workshop, “From Spark to Flame: How to Grow Your Idea into a Compelling Middle Grade or Young Adult Novel,” is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 24, 10 a.m. to noon. The group will explore how to feed the spark of  initial ideas and inspirations and grow them into layered, complex stories.

Rissi grew up in Deer Isle and spends part of the year there now. She is the author of more than a dozen books for kids and teens, including the Anna, Banana chapter books; “Love, Sophia on the Moon” and “Nobody Knows But You.”

Also on Saturday, Oct. 24, Myronn Hardy will offer “The Sonnet: A Contemporary Response” from 1 to 3 p.m. Starting with a time-honored traditional form, participants will experiment with their own innovations that speak to contemporary life real and imagined. 

Hardy, a faculty member at Bates College in Lewiston, is the author of four award-winning volumes of poetry as well as short stories that have garnered two Pushcart Prize nominations.

The daughter of Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Richard Eberhart, Gretchen Eberhart Cherington will offer a two-part workshop on writing family-based memoir. The workshop’s first session will be Sunday, Oct. 25, 1-2:30 p.m., and the second will be Wednesday, Oct. 28, 6:30-7:30 p.m. Appropriate for all levels, the workshop will cover key elements of contemporary personal or family memoir along with craft tips and techniques to guide or enhance participants’ own memoir writing.

Cherington’s memoir “Poetic License” focuses on life among her parents’ social circle of literary giants, exposing the difficult realities behind the myths. Her family spent summers in Brooksville.

Another two-part workshop, John Cariani’s “How to Write a Play When You Don’t Want To (Or Feel Like You Can’t or Have No Idea How To Get Started)” will start Monday, Oct. 26, and  conclude Tuesday, Oct. 27, 7-8:30 p.m. on both nights.  Cariani has developed exercises to get writers “motivated, unblocked, unstuck, and inspired — exercises that will free you from your mind and help you connect to the ‘play’ part of the word ‘playwright.’”

An award-winning stage, film and television actor who grew up in Presque Isle, Cariani is the author of four popular plays. His debut play, “Almost Maine,” is one of the most frequently produced plays in the country. He recently adapted it into a children’s novel, published last spring.

In addition to registration links, www.wordfestival.org will offer other details about the festival as October progresses, including details about Word.Hunt and the raffle of Lethem’s painting.

Books by all speakers and workshop presenters are available for purchase in advance at Blue Hill Books (bluehillbooks.com).

Word is funded by the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation and the Maine Arts Commission, an independent state agency supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as other generous donors. Word’s fiscal sponsor is Blue Hill Community Development, and its media partner is WERU-FM.For more Information, go to www.wordfestival.org or call 207-374-5632.