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Michael Cunningham, Emma Straub, Jane Smiley, and Rita Dove Among the Featured Speakers at the Authors Guild’s Second WIT Festival in the Berkshires Sept 21–23

Registration opens July 17 for Giving Society members and July 31 for the public.

New York (June 23, 2023): The Authors Guild Foundation is returning to the Berkshires this fall for the second Words, Ideas, and Thinkers (WIT) Festival taking place September 21–23 at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Massachusetts. This year’s theme, “Changing the Narrative,” will bring together award-winning historians, journalists, novelists, biographers, poets, editors, and scholars for a series of thought-provoking conversations on AI, indigenous community, parenting, the political landscape, and more.

The WIT festival seeks to expand our understanding of critical issues, celebrate America’s literary culture, and amplify new voices and perspectives. The festival is free and open to the public so everyone can participate in the dialogue without barriers. Ticketed dinner events with the authors, which help financially support the series, take place each night.

Registration for sponsors and members of the Authors Guild Foundation Giving Society opens Monday, July 17. Registration opens to the public on Monday, July 31. Go to for more information.

Featured Speakers and Panel Discussions

Politics and Prose with Jane Smiley and Jennie Kassanoff

Jane Smiley’s work tackles politics, farming, the American family, gender issues, animals, climate, and the craft of writing through the scope of her prose and essays. A Pulitzer Prize winner and member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, she has published numerous novels, young adult books, essays, and nonfiction works. Kassanoff’s research focuses on post-Civil War American culture. She is currently at work on a book about voting, race, and gender in American culture, the working title of which is Voter Writes. She is the author of Edith Wharton and the Politics of Race, and her essays have appeared in various books and journals, including American Literature, American Literary History, and PMLA.

Who Are NDNs, Anyway? And Why Does It Matter? with Margaret Verble and Morgan Talty

Margaret Verble is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation. She is the author of Pulitzer Prize finalist Maud’s Line, New York Times Notable Book of the Year Cherokee America, and When Two Feathers Fell from the Sky, one of Booklist’s Best Adult Novels of 2021. She lives in Lexington, Kentucky. Morgan Talty is a citizen of the Penobscot Indian Nation, where he grew up. His story collection Night of the Living Rez (2022) won the New England Book Award for fiction. It is set in a Native community in Maine and explores what it means to live, survive, and persevere after tragedy. The two writers will discuss indigenous identity, community, and more.

The End of Reality: AI, Crypto, and the Metaverse with Jonathan Taplin and Mary Rasenberger

Jonathan Taplin is an author and director emeritus of the Annenberg Innovation Lab at the University of Southern California. Taplin’s book Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google, and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy was nominated by the Financial Times as one of the Best Business Books of 2017. He will be in conversation with Mary Rasenberger, the chief executive officer of the Authors Guild and Authors Guild Foundation, to discuss the implications of artificial intelligence and other new popular technologies such as crypto and the metaverse.

Parents on Paper with Emma Straub and Maya Shanbhag Lang

Emma Straub is the New York Times-bestselling author of six books for adults, a short story collection, and three picture books. Her work has been published in more than twenty languages. Emma and her husband own Books Are Magic, an independent bookstore with two locations in Brooklyn, New York. She will be in conversation with Maya Shanbhag Lang, author and president of the Authors Guild, about the changing nature of our relationships with our parents and family–and time travel.

Playlist for the Apocalypse with Rita Dove and André Bernard

Pulitzer Prize recipient Rita Dove is the author of a novel, a book of short stories, essays, and numerous volumes of poetry. She is the recipient of a National Humanities Medal from President Clinton and a National Medal of Arts from President Obama, making her the only poet ever to receive both. She has received more than twenty-nine honorary doctorate degrees. André Bernard is vice president of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation in New York City and has authored five books.

Mrs. Dalloway at 98 with Michael Cunningham and Roxana Robinson

Michael Cunningham is the author of eight books, including a Covid-themed novel, Day, coming out later this year. He is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts grant, a Whiting Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the PEN/Faulkner Award, and the Pulitzer Prize. Roxana Robinson is the author of ten books. She is the recipient of many awards, most recently the Barnes & Noble “Writers for Writers” Award from Poets & Writers. She teaches in the MFA Program at Hunter College.

Memoir and Memory with Isaac Fitzgerald and Saeed Jones

Isaac Fitzgerald is the New York Times bestselling author of the memoir Dirtbag, Massachusetts (winner of a New England Book Award), in addition to several other books. Saeed Jones was born in Memphis, Tennessee, and grew up in Lewisville, Texas. His debut poetry collection, Prelude to Bruise, was awarded the 2015 PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award for Poetry. His memoir How We Fight for Our Lives won the 2019 Kirkus Prize for Nonfiction, a 2020 Lambda Literary Award, and a 2020 Stonewall Book Award. The New Yorker observed, “His title carries an edge of social critique. To be black, gay, an American, the book suggests, is to fight for one’s life.”

The Cult of Secrecy with Patrick Radden Keefe and Daniel Zalewski

Patrick Radden Keefe is a staff writer at The New Yorker and author of several New York Times bestsellers. He is also the creator and host of the eight-part investigative podcast “Wind of Change,” which The Guardian and Entertainment Weekly named the No. 1 podcast of 2020. Daniel Zalewski is the features director of The New Yorker. He edits many of the magazine’s staff writers and has published profiles of such figures as Ian McEwan, Guillermo del Toro, and Werner Herzog, and he has written about everything from amnesia to art restoration.

The Present, the Past, and the Historical Record with Martin Baron and Stacy Schiff

Martin (Marty) Baron was the executive editor of The Washington Post for eight years, during which it won eleven Pulitzers. His tenure included coverage of the Capitol assault, NSA investigations, and Trump’s campaign. He was top editor of The Boston Globe when it broke the investigation on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, portrayed in the Academy Award-winning movie Spotlight. Stacy Schiff is the author of Véra (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov), winner of the Pulitzer Prize; and A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America, winner of the George Washington Book Prize. Her book Cleopatra: A Life was a No. 1 bestseller and won the PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography.

Join the AGF Giving Society to Get Early Registration and Preferential Seating

Though WIT Festival panel discussions are free and open to all, seating is limited, so registration is required. As appreciation for their support, members of the Authors Guild Foundation Giving Society will be able to register early for individual sessions and purchase tickets to dinners with WIT Festival speakers and other special guests on Monday, July 17. Registration will open to the public on Monday, July 31.

Click here to learn more about the Giving Society and how you can become a member.

About the Authors Guild and the Authors Guild Foundation

With more than 13,000 members, the Authors Guild is the nation’s oldest and largest professional organization for published writers. It advocates on behalf of working writers to protect free speech, freedom of expression, and authors’ copyrights; fights for fair contracts and authors’ ability to earn a livable wage; and provides a welcoming community for writers and translators of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and journalism. Free programming to teach working writers about the business of writing, and public events that highlight the importance of a rich, diverse American literary culture and the authors who contribute to it, is made possible through the Authors Guild Foundation, the Guild’s educational and charitable arm.