Events are at George Mason University’s Fairfax Campus and at other locations throughout Virginia, DC, and Maryland. Except where noted, all events are free and open to the public, thanks to the generous support of our sponsors and partners.
New York Times best-selling author L.M. Elliott’s YA novel Suspect Red takes on McCarthyism in America when a 1950’s teen named Richard establishes a controversial friendship. As the nation’s paranoia is at an all-time-high, Richard is torn between proving his patriotism, and continuing a friendship with someone who understands his love of art and literature. Martin Sherwin, George Mason University professor specializing in Cold War-era politics and nuclear history supplies the historical context. Sherwin is also the recipient of a 2006 Pulitzer Prize for the co-authored book American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J Robert Oppenheimer.
How did spending an academic year in another country as a Fulbright Scholar impact the way we think, write, and experience the world? Four former scholars discuss the impact of their time abroad on their writing. Matt Davis traveled to Syria and Jordan and is the author of When Things Get Dark: A Mongolian Winter’s Tale. He is the director of Mason’s Alan Cheuse International Writers Center. Tania James spent her Fulbright in India, after which she wrote the novel The Tusk That Did the Damage. Kimberly Burge spent her year in South Africa and wrote The Born Frees: Writing with the Girls of Gugulethu. Maile Chapman wrote the novel Your Presence is Requested at Suvanto after her Fulbright to Finland.
Memoirist and novelist Courtney Brkic, poet Tarfia Faizullah, and children’s author Juana Medina, and poet Vivek Narayanan come together to wrestle with issues surrounding language and land barriers. Brkic is a Croatian American, Faizullah is a daughter of Bangladeshi immigrants, Medina is a Colombian American, and Vivek Narayanan was born in India and raised in Zambia. Moderated by Danielle Badra.
Retired Navy Commander and novelist Rick Campbell will discuss Blackmail, his latest military thriller about a surprise missile strike by the Russian government that forces the U.S. to risk everything to avoid world war. Fans of Tom Clancy will be drawn to Campbell’s authenticity and attention to detail. His first three books The Trident Deception, Empire Rising, and Ice Station Nautilus were all Barnes & Noble Top-20 bestsellers. Sponsored by the Friends of the Oakton Library.
National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Colson Whitehead kicks off the festival by discussing his bestselling book, The Underground Railroad. The book which follows Cora, an outcast slave on a Georgian plantation in her attempt to escape North on the underground railroad, has captured the minds and hearts of the nation. The Pultizer committee says the book is “a smart melding of realism and allegory that combines the violence of slavery and the drama of escape in a myth that speaks to contemporary America.” The LA Times says the book “could not be more timely and necessary.”
In biting prose, Dave Housley’s fourth short story collection Massive Cleansing Fire casts the end of the world in a humorous light as it glows in the embers of the apocalypse. The linked collection features a range of characters–from clowns to cameramen–in situations that all literally go down in flames. Housley’s other collections include If I Knew the Way, I Would Take You Home, Commercial Fiction, and Ryan Seacrest is Famous, and he is a founding editor of Barrelhouse Magazine.
Colin Sargent’s novel The Boston Castrato grabs 1920s Boston out of history and vividly mixes in fiction. The Parker House Hotel; shipbuilders, politicians and utter rogues who raise the city from the dirt all shimmer into reality as an outsider dives into its quaking heart.
Dr. Jeremy Balint’s darkest traits come to the surface in Jacob Appel’s thrilling novel The Mask of Sanity, which examines sociopathy and masks of identity in modern society. When Balint discovers his wife is having an affair, he decides on murder to achieve revenge. Appel is an extensively-published author, physician, attorney, and former Ivy League professor who has made a study of sociopaths like Balint.
In Make Your Home Among Strangers, Jennine Capó Crucet follows Lizet, a daughter of Cuban immigrants as she navigates being a first generation college student, coming to terms with her new status as a minority, and facing the immigration battle of a local boy which makes national news. The novel asks readers what it means to be an American today. Crucet will speak at the capstone event for this year’s campus Mason Reads program.
The fantastic, strange, and hauntingly beautiful come together in the short stories of authors Amber Sparks and A. A. Balaskovits. Praised by The Washington Post as “a masterful work of speculative fiction,” Sparks’s collection The Unfinished World features a wide cast of characters–from time travelers to orphaned taxidermists–rendered in lyrical prose. Winner of the 2015 Santa Fe Writers Project Awards, Balaskovit’s debut collection Magic for Unlucky Girls transforms fairy tales, twisting and turning familiar tropes into stories that are refreshing and unique.
Three award-winning writers come together to discuss immigration and writing. Jennine Capó Crucet, author of Make Your Home Among Strangers, writes of the story and struggle of a child of Cuban immigrants. Gish Jen, author of The Girl at the Baggage Claim: Explaining the East West Culture Gap examines the distances between cultures. Marie Marquardt, author of the YA novel The Radius of Us discusses gang culture surrounding the US/Mexico border.
Sonja Yoerg’s novel All the Best People celebrates the search for identity and grace in the most ordinary of lives. A Vermont native, Yoerg sets the novel in her home state in the 1970s, where Carole LaPorte has a so-called ordinary life but fears ending up just like her mother – locked in a mental institution. The Wide Circumference of Love by Marita Golden is a moving African American family drama of love and devotion in the face of Alzheimer’s disease. As her husband’s memory wavers and fades, Diane Tate and her children must reexamine their connection to who Gregory once was before early onset Alzheimer’s— and learn to love the man he has become.
For many, the roaring 1920s in America is a time of great intrigue – a time of speakeasies, flappers, and silent cinema. Mary Miley uses this decade as the backdrop for her murder mystery novels including her newest publication, Murder in Disguise. Follow the novel’s protagonist, Jessie Beckett, as she investigates the murder of a Hollywood film projectionist. Miley will discuss her novel which blends together mystery, historical fiction, and romance.
Drink tea and eat crumpets as two prominent Jane Austen scholars discuss her life and work to mark the 200th anniversary of her death. George Mason University Professor Kristin Samuelian is the editor of Broadview’s edition of Emma, and has written on Austen and “Managing Propriety.” Amy Smith wrote All Roads Lead to Austen: A Year-Long Journey with Jane, after spending a year traveling Latin America hosting Austen book clubs across the continent, and stumbling onto her own Señor Darcy. This is a paid reception event and the charge covers the cost of tea, drinks, and food. Register online HERE. Sponsored by Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.
Gabrielle Lucille Fuentes’s historical fiction novel, The Sleeping World is about fascists, freedom, family, and punk rock set in 1970’s Post-Franco Spain. Protagonist Mosca is a university student searching for her long-lost brother, who was taken by the authorities. With a strong emphasis on the power of music, The New York Times described the book as “a politically conscious adventure story in which Fuentes manages to strike a powerful balance between vivid characterization and ideological critique, capturing a generation for whom David Bowie and the Ramones were not merely pop icons but heroes.”
Bill Schweigart shares the experience of crafting a horror series: The Fatal Folklore trilogy. The first novel, The Beast of Barcroft, takes place right in our neighboring town of Arlington, Virginia. Learn how Schweigart creates fear in a familiar setting, with protagonist Ben McKelvie living in a nearby DC suburb whose life is threatened by an otherworldly predator.
Join memoirist Amy Butcher and short-story writer and essayist Rachel Yoder for their prose centered on the struggle, survival, and strength of people in extraordinary circumstances. Butcher discusses Visiting Hours, what Kirkus Reviews calls a “gripping and poignant memoir” about her friendship with a man with untreated mental illness who murdered his girlfriend. Butcher digs through research after finally returning to the city of the crime scene to find answers and closure. Yoder is the founder of draft: the journal of process, creator and host of The Fail Safe podcast, and has had her fiction and nonfiction published in The Paris Review, The Missouri Review, Best American Short Stories, and more.
Acts of terrorism have the power to consume our news sources, conversations, and worries. Karan Mahajan unpacks this troubling topic in his award-winning novel, The Association of Small Bombs, a National Book Award Finalist and Winner of the Bard Fiction Prize. Mahajan illustrates the effects that terrorism has on its victims and its perpetrators with the tale of two brothers, Tushar and Nakul Khurana and their “small bomb.” The Wall Street Journal says that Mahajan’s work “is not the first novel about the aftermath of a terrorist attack, but it is the finest…at capturing the seduction and force of the murderous, annihilating illogic that increasingly consumes the globe.” Sponsored by George Mason’s Creative Writing Program.
The New York Times called internationally-bestselling novelist Mohsin Hamid “one of his generation’s most inventive and gifted writers.” His groundbreaking novel Exit West follows two young people who meet and fall in love in a country teetering on the brink of civil war. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide they must leave their homeland and their old lives behind. O, the Oprah Magazine says “Lyrical and urgent, the globalist novel evokes the dreams and disillusionments that follow Saeed and Nadia….and peels away the dross of bigotry to expose the beauty of our common humanity.” NPR calls Exit West “A breathtaking novel…[that] arrives at an urgent time.” Hamid is also the author of the New York Times bestselling novel The Reluctant Fundamentalist. Sponsored by the Fairfax Library Foundation.
Every year, the Northern Virginia Writing Project publishes an anthology of exemplary writing by students of NVWP Teacher Consultants. Come listen to young authors read their poetry and prose from the newest anthology. Sponsored by Northern Virginia Writing Project.
Virginia mystery writers will introduce readers to the wealth of mystery around them, and how readers can benefit from this. The panel will overview “famous,” popular, and new Virginia mystery authors and major mystery novels set in Virginia, including the 50 Shades of Cabernet anthology featuring authors Rosemary Shomaker and Kristin Kisska, supported by novelist, historian, and winery owner Mary Miley who wrote the book’s foreword. They’ll be joined by Fred Shackleford, author of the novel The Ticket, about a lotto winner who hatches a devious scheme to protect his money. Panelists will also discuss the benefits to readers of connecting with mystery authors — from inclusion in book launch parties, social media and in-person conversations and relationships, and receipt of advance chapters, to a spot on an author’s “street team.”
Layering the real world with the fantastic, these urban fantasy authors combine cityscapes and the supernatural. Pirates and deadly assassins traverse the pages of R. S. Belcher’s The Queen of Swords, the third title in his Western fantasy Golgotha series. Part paranormal fantasy, part thriller, Adriana Arrington’s debut novel Bleed Through follows a schizophrenic character who must decide what are hallucinations and what’s real after witnessing a grisly murder. Dust Bath Revival by Marianne Kirby mixes classic and contemporary horror in a Southern Gothic with zombies.
Join authors from Tor publishing for a magical discussion on creating worlds and building empires. Brian Staveley is the acclaimed author of the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne series and his new standalone novel, Skullsworn, which takes readers back to his series’ beloved world. K. Arsenault Rivera is an emerging voice whose debut novel, The Tiger’s Daughter has already received praise from VE Schwab, Seanan McGuire, and Roshani Chokski. Award-winner Fran Wilde is the author of Cloudbound.
Rumaan Alam’s Rich and Pretty follows two best friends, Sarah and Lauren, as they reunite to plan Sarah’s wedding. As plans progress in socialite New York City, they struggle to decide if they’re growing up or growing apart. In Melissa Scholes Young’s Flood, Laura returns to her hometown of Hannibal, Missouri ten years after an historic flood for her high school reunion. Laura becomes embroiled in small town drama, and old wounds threaten to reopen.
Celebrate the release of the second book in Laura Ellen Scott’s deliciously dark New Royal Mysteries series: Crybaby Lane. The first book in the series The Mean Bone in her Body is about a professor who becomes fixated on an assistant’s involvement as a witness to a grisly discovery. A gritty murder mystery with sharply drawn characters, the first book in the series has had readers waiting on the edge of their seats for the sequel–until now!
Join Kathleen Barber as she delves into the electrifying world of her recent thriller. Are You Sleeping takes crime and scandal eerily close to home as a podcast reopens a murder case, and the victim’s daughter is thrust back into the mayhem after laying roots in New York.
Dive into the art of crafting short stories with fiction writers A.G. Harmon, Edie Meidav, and Zach Powers. Harmon’s collection Some Bore Gifts is celebrated for the wide array of compelling characters portrayed in such tight short stories, including tree cutters, junk salesman, and department store pianists. In Kingdom of the Young, Mediav’s characters showcase a sense of survival, featuring child armies, cave-dwelling women in Granada, trauma-scarred veterans, and victims of dictatorships. In Gravity Changes, Powers’ fascinating characters propel stories about Satan’s divorcee, a light bulb’s husband, and gravity-defiant children.
Matthew Klam’s Who Is Rich? is a provocative and darkly humorous study in midlife alienation and infidelity set in paradise. Has-been cartoonist Rich leaves family behind to teach a class at an annual conference in a New England beachside town, only to find debauchery and discontent. Who Is Rich? was an Amazon Best Book of July 2017 and has received widespread critical acclaim. The Washington Post calls it, “An irresistible comic novel…a brilliant rumination on the trap of cannibalizing one’s life for art.”
What happens when the environment fights back? Three authors of this year’s breathtaking eco-thrillers read and discuss their work. Tara Campbell’s novel TreeVolution explores eco-payback and technology’s role in conversation when trees begin making violent assaults on humans. Elizabeth Hand’s collection Fire combines fiction and nonfiction to tell tales of everything from post-apocalyptic terror to time-travel romance. JJ Amaworo Wilson’s novel Damnificados portrays an derelict tower in Venezuela occupied by vagabonds whose thriving, if makeshift community, must face a brutal army and a Biblical flood.
Ada Calhoun, Lindsay Detwiler and Katy Upperman chat about the art of writing about L-O-V-E across genres. In Wedding Toasts I’ll Never Give author Ada Calhoun is revered for her honesty, poignancy, and sense of humor in her memoir about the complexity of marriage. Calhoun is a contributor to the New York Times’ “Modern Love” column. Romance novelist Lindsay Detwiler shares the gripping tale of a married couple, fighting for their lives and their love in the novel Remember When. Katy Upperman continues the discussion with her debut YA novel Kissing Max Holden about a forbidden teenage romance with the boy next door.
Lies, secrets, and threats of disintegration haunt three troubled families. Jon Raymond’s Freebird is a novel about death and politics in America today, revealing how the fates of our families are irrevocably tied to the currents of history. Emily Jeanne Miller’s The News From the End of the World spends four days at the Cape with the dysfunctional Lake family–days that might make or break them. Noley Reid’s Pretend We Are Lovely features a very hungry Sobel family. They struggle over food versus nourishment, loss, and the bond of sisterhood.
Literary prose drives the psychological suspense in novels by Margot Livesey, Elise Levine, and Fiona Maazel. Livesey’s Mercury takes long-time wedded couple Viv and Donald down an uncontrollable path when a gorgeous, mysterious horse arrives at the stables where Viv works, and an unstoppable obsession enters their lives. Levine’s Blue Field follows mourning, thrill-seeking divers who cope with a recent loss by plunging time and again into the hellish depths that offered the cruel fate they encountered in the first place. Finally, in Maazel’s A Little More Human, a mind-reading superhero is confronted with grim possibilities of his human capabilities when photographs surface that depict him carrying out a violent crime he can’t remember committing.
Lev Grossman’s #1 bestselling Magicians trilogy has transformed fantasy and is now a hit TV series on SyFy in its critically acclaimed second season. George R.R. Martin writes: “The Magicians is to Harry Potter as a shot of Irish whiskey is to a glass of weak tea.” Quentin Coldwater is a brilliant but miserable high school math genius who is admitted to an elite, secret school for magic. His newfound powers lead him down a rabbit hole of hedonism and disillusionment, and ultimately to the dark secret behind a beloved children’s story. Entertainment Weekly calls the show an “American pop-aware enterprise with an abundance of salty cynicism and sex magic, plus a sinister force of antagonism.” Sponsored by the Fairfax County Public Library.