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Literary Events Mean It’s Autumn

Forget football, basketball and hockey — Library of Congress spokeswoman Jennifer Gavin said that, to bookworms, the colder months of the year are called “the literary season.—

This year, the Library of Congress is kicking off the season early with a handful of autumn events — including the popular National Book Festival, an event established in 2001 as an initiative by then-first lady Laura Bush.

“The first book festival took place on the grounds of the Library of Congress,— Gavin said. “It was so mobbed that we moved it to the Mall.—

The festival takes place Sept. 26 on the National Mall between Seventh and 14th streets, rain or shine. It runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and admission is free. No advanced registration is required. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama are honorary co-chairs of the event — but their in-person attendance at the festival is uncertain.

Past festivals have drawn crowds of up to 120,000 — and this year’s event is expected to be just as popular with an all-star lineup of authors that includes big names like James Patterson, Gwen Ifill, John Grisham, Nicholas Sparks, Jodi Picoult, Ken Burns and many more. All together, more than 70 authors and poets will cram into a handful of pavilions to deliver talks, perform readings, sign books and greet fans.

Gavin is also careful to emphasize the family-friendly nature of the festival and the wide variety of authors and activities designed to appeal to children and teenagers. “We always are very proud of the aspect of this event that appeals to young people and children,— she said.

This year’s festival will feature children’s literature notables like Judy Blume, James Swanson and Lois Lowry. It will also celebrate the launch of a literary Web portal,, with the start of a collaborative serialized work of online fiction called “The Exquisite Corpse Adventure.—

The first episode, written by author Jon Scieszka, will be read at the festival — setting the stage for a group of prominent children’s authors and illustrators to finish the story where Scieszka left off. These authors, who include Natalie Babbitt, Daniel Handler (a.k.a. Lemony Snicket) and M.T. Anderson, will take turns creating portions of the narrative and accompanying illustrations, which will be posted in serial form on the Web site over the next year.

In addition to the National Book Fair, the Library is also kicking off its 16th annual “Poetry at Noon— series today, with readings by guest poets Sue Ellen Thompson, Barbara Crooker and Joseph Ross on the theme “Life is Beautiful.—

The series, Gavin said, is “a beloved local happening. There’s something really peaceful and intimate hearing a poet read his or her own poetry.—

“The series is structured based on themes, for people who might not be interested in poetry otherwise,— said Patricia Gray, head of the Poetry and Literature Center. “It’s hopefully to broaden interest in poetry.—

The series had a second reading scheduled for December, which has been canceled. Further installments of the series will be scheduled during the winter, Gray said.

The first reading takes places from noon to 1 p.m. today in the Whittall Pavilion of the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building. Admission is free and no advanced registration is required.

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