PORTLAND — The fourth annual Maine Festival of the Book begins in Portland on Friday and continues through April 11. On Saturday, the Abromson Center at the University of Southern Maine hosts a full day of programs.

All events are free and do not require a ticket, with the exception of an opening-night program with the popular authors Tess Gerritsen and Anita Shreve, at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Hannaford Hall in the Abromson Center. Tickets cost $10 in advance and $15 on Friday. Tickets may be purchased through the Maine Reads Web site, www.mainereads.org. Seats are limited, and doors open at 7 p.m.

The festival hopes to appeal to readers with a range of interests and give them the chance to learn what happens behind the scenes when producing a book. It’s presented by the nonprofit organization Maine Reads in collaboration with organizations statewide, and is chaired by Maine First Lady Karen M. Baldacci.

“While promoting literacy, we have the opportunity to bring members of Maine’s literary community together in one place for a celebration of the written word,” Baldacci said in a statement.

The festival’s goal is to encourage conversations between authors and readers. Many of the programs will feature two writers discussing an aspect of their writing. Question-and-answer sessions will follow, along with signings.

Programs include talks by biographers of Ayn Rand, Vincente Minnelli and famous Mainers; visual presentations on gardening and Victorian-era Bar Harbor houses; a poet’s art and life; and a talk on telling stories by three novelists. Franco-American women are celebrated in one program. In addition, there is a cartooning workshop for children, performances of poetry and theater, and dramatic readings.

“Programs at the festival have an emphasis on discussion,” said Sarah Cecil, executive director of Maine Reads. “Usually each program features more than one author, creating a different dynamic than your typical reading.”

From noon to 2 p.m. Saturday at USM, there will be a book-signing bonanza presented by Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance and featuring more than 20 authors, including Monica Wood, Cynthia Lord, Betsy Sholl, James Hayman and Susan Shetterly.

At 5 p.m. Saturday at Northstar Cafe, 225 Congress St., there will be a performance of “That Takes Ovaries! Bold Females and Their Brazen Acts,” presented by Hearty Girls Healthy Women.

At 7 p.m. Saturday, Constellation Gallery, 511 Congress St., will host the Annual Poetry Party. The evening includes refreshments, music, the Northeast Regional Poetry Slam and a high-school poetry slam. The event is presented by Port Veritas.

At 7 p.m. April 11, Portland Stage Company’s Affiliate Artists will present Longfellow’s Shorts, featuring dramatic readings of selections from “Good for the Jews,” a new novel by Debra Spark.

For information, visit www.mainereads.org or call 871-9100.

For more coverage of the Maine Festival of the Book, pick up this Thursday’s edition of GO in the Portland Press Herald.