It will be a party of poets, Pulitzer Prize winners and at least one writer who can legitimately call himself a genius.

But don’t let the guest list intimidate you. The Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance 40th anniversary party – “The Big Four Oh” – on July 25 is meant to be casual and fun.

“This is a quintessential summer party in Maine, so it’s come as you are,” executive director Joshua Bodwell said.

“The Big Four Oh” celebrates Maine’s literary heritage and looks ahead to the future of the organization, whose mission is to enrich Maine’s cultural life through literature.

The bash boasts a spectacular setting and a roster of literary stars, including Richard Ford, Richard Russo and Elizabeth Strout, all of whom have Pulitzers for fiction – Russo for “Empire Falls” in 2001, Strout for “Olive Kitteridge” in 2009 and Ford for “Independence Day” in 2010.

There will be a two-time Newbery Medal winner, a National Book Critics Circle Award winner, a Kirkus Prize for Fiction winner and a New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award winner, among others.


Jonathan Lethem, winner of the MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant in 2005, plans to attend, along with Maine’s outgoing poet laureate, Wesley McNair, and past poet laureate Betsy Sholl. Ford, who hosts the event with his wife, Kristina, will read the poetry of McNair and Sholl, and tributes will be paid to MWPA founders Agnes Bushell and Lee Sharkey.

But as parties tend to go in Maine in the summer, the formal events will be quick and low-key, so people can mingle, socialize and gaze at the water. The Fords’ home in East Boothbay overlooks Linekin Bay, with a sprawling green lawn edged with ferns, lilies in bloom and a rocky shore.

This party came together fairly easily, Bodwell said.

“It’s our 40th, and the Fords are hosting,” he said. “As these things go, there’s a snowball effect. Once people saw it was at Richard Ford’s and Richard Russo was on the steering committee, it took off.”

The robust nature of Maine’s contemporary writing scene has emboldened the MWPA to do more, Bodwell said. “We’re just scratching the surface of what we can do and what membership can do,” Bodwell said. “There’s definitely a sense that ‘if you build it, they will come.’ It always feels like, ‘Let’s hurry up and do more.’ “

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