Midtown Scholar Bookstore-Cafe
Award-winning Independent Booksellers | Since 2001

Guide to events

Photo Credit: William Fletcher

Photo Credit: William Fletcher

Proudly brought to you by the Midtown Scholar Bookstore, the 2017 Harrisburg Book Festival will take place in the heart of Pennsylvania's capital at one of the nation's premier independent bookstores. Featuring an array of award-winning authors and emerging literary sensations, the festival will celebrate our region's vibrant literary community and the central role of literature in contemporary culture. With events for readers of all ages and interests — including a keynote address by National Book Award Winner Ibram X. Kendi — the 2017 Harrisburg Book Festival will take place over four intellectually stimulating, coffee-fueled days from Thursday, October 12th, through Sunday, October 15th. Special thanks to our leading sponsors: Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, Messiah College School of Humanities, TheBurg Magazine, and WITF-TV/FM. Our full list of supporters is available here.

Scroll through to the bottom to plan your visit, and we'll see you at the Scholar this October!

opening Night Poetry Kick-off

Featuring Safiya Sinclair, Joshua Bennett, Shara McCallum, and Shawan Rice

Thursday, October 12th | 7pm

Award-winning poets Safiya Sinclair, Joshua Bennett, and Shara McCallum kick off the 2017 Harrisburg Book Festival for an evening of spoken word to remember. With an introductory and closing musical performance from Harrisburg's own Shawan Rice, Sinclair, Bennett, and McCallum will perform spoken word and selected poetry readings from their most recent collections — Cannibal, The Sobbing School, and Madwoman. This program is made possible by Festival Sponsor Messiah College's School of Humanities

Safiya Sinclair, Joshua Bennett, and Shara McCallum will be available to sign copies of their books immediately following the reading. 

Safiya Sinclair

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Safiya Sinclair was born and raised in Montego Bay, Jamaica. She is the author of Cannibal (University of Nebraska Press, 2016), winner of the Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry, the Addison M. Metcalf Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature in Poetry, and selected as an American Library Association Notable Book of the Year. Sinclair is the recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award. Cannibal was also longlisted for the PEN Open Book Award, and the Dylan Thomas Prize. Her poems have appeared in PoetryKenyon Review, Granta, The Nation, Oxford American, and elsewhere. Sinclair received her MFA in poetry at the University of Virginia, and is currently a PhD candidate in literature and creative writing at the University of Southern California.

Praise for Cannibal

"Reading (and rereading) Sinclair is an urgently necessary, absolutely unparalleled experience."  Diego Báez, Booklist starred review

“With exquisite lyrical precision, Safiya Sinclair is offering us a new muscular music that is as brutal as it is beautiful. Intelligent and elemental, these poems mark the debut of a poet who is dangerously talented and desperately needed.” — Ada Limón, author of Bright Dead Things

"This award-winning collection comes to eat you."  Waxwing Literary Journal

Joshua Bennett

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Dr. Joshua Bennett is the author of The Sobbing School and Being Property Once Myself: Blackness and the End of Man, which is forthcoming from Harvard University Press. He holds a Ph.D. in English from Princeton University, and an M.A. in Theatre and Performance Studies from the University of Warwick, where he was a Marshall Scholar. Winner of the 2015 National Poetry Series, Dr. Bennett has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Cave Canem, the Josephine de Karman Fellowship Trust and the Ford Foundation. His writing has been published in American Poetry Review, Boston Review, The New York Times, Poetry and elsewhere. He is currently a Junior Fellow in the Society of Fellows at Harvard University.                                                                               

Praise for The Sobbing School

“At a moment in American culture punctuated to a heartbreaking degree by acts of hatred, violence and disregard, I can think of nothing we need to ponder and to sing of more than our shared grief and our capacity not just for empathy but genuine love. Poetry is critical to such an endeavor—and Joshua Bennett’s astounding, dolorous, rejoicing voice is indispensable.”
— Tracy K. Smith, U.S. Poet Laureate

“In his scintillating debut, Bennett raises a crucial question about the writing of African-American experience:  how can one convey the enormity of black suffering without reducing black life and expression to elegy? . . . At its heart, Bennett’s sharp collection is an ode to family, friendship and culture that neither pulls punches nor withholds sentiment.” — Publishers Weekly

Shara McCallum


Originally from Jamaica, Shara McCallum is the author of five books of poetry, published in the US and UK: MadwomanThe Face of Water: New and Selected PoemsSong of Thieves, and The Water Between Us. Her poems have appeared in literary magazines, anthologies, and textbooks in the US, Europe, the Caribbean, and Latin America and have been translated into Spanish, French, Italian, Romanian, Dutch, and Turkish. Her personal essays appear regularly in print and online. Recognition for her writing includes a Witter Bynner Fellowship from the Library of Congress, a National Endowment for the Arts Poetry Fellowship, and other awards. From 2003-2017 she was Director of the Stadler Center for Poetry at Bucknell University. She is currently a Liberal Arts Professor of English at the Penn State University.


“In a major way, McCallum peels off the layers of what it is to be a woman. She jettisons poetic forms and can exact poetic norms without waiting for a reaction.” — Washington Independent Review of Books

“There is a hunger in these lines that is furious and electrifying.” — Nervous Poodle Poetry

McCallum beautifully incorporates the patois of her native Jamaica and employs myth as a way to deal with the mistakes and hurts of the past. [Her] striking poems take the madwoman out of her attic so that she may walk and speak among the living.”
— Publishers Weekly, starred review

Shawan Rice

At just 21 years old, Harrisburg native Shawan Rice has drawn comparisons to Amy Winehouse, Alicia Keys, Adele, and Billie Holiday. Defty blending R&B and jazz influences with an unforgettable voice, Shawan will deliver the opening musical performance for the 2017 Harrisburg Book Festival.

Ibram Kendi

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Ibram X. Kendi, an award-winning historian and New York Times best-selling author, is Professor of History and International Relations and the Founding Director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at  American University. His second book, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, was published by Nation Books and won the 2016 National Book Award for Nonfiction. At 34 years old, Kendi was the youngest ever winner of the NBA for Nonfiction. He is the associate editor of Black Perspectives, the most popular online platform for public scholarship on Black life and thought. He is currently working on his next book, How to Be an Anti-Racist, which will be published by One World, a division of Penguin Random House.

An Evening with Ibram X. Kendi

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Friday, October 13th | 7pm

2016 National Book Award Winner Dr. Ibram Kendi delivers the keynote address for the 2017 Harrisburg Book Festival. Dr. Kendi's new book, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, demolishes the myth of a post-racial America and explores the origins and history of racism in America. Along with winning the National Book Award, Stamped from the Beginning was selected as a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and was noted by the Washington Post as "the most ambitious book of 2016." In his keynote address, Kendi will discuss Trump's Presidency, the post-racist myth of America, and the future of racism in America. This program is sponsored by Temple University Harrisburg.

Dr. Kendi will be available to sign copies of his book immediately following the keynote address. 

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Praise for Stamped from the Beginning

"An engrossing and relentless intellectual history of prejudice in America.... The greatest service Kendi [provides] is the ruthless prosecution of American ideas about race for their tensions, contradiction and unintended consequences." Washington Post

"A deep (and often disturbing) chronicling of how anti-black thinking has entrenched itself in the fabric of American society." The Atlantic

"Kendi has done something that's damn near impossible: write a book about racism that breaks new ground, while being written in a way that's accessible to the nonacademic. If you've ever been interested in how racist ideas spread throughout the United States, this is the book to read." The Root




Join us at the Midtown Scholar for a morning packed with fun activities for all the little bookworms in your family! We're celebrating the book launch for award-winning children's illustrator Lauren Castillo's not-yet-released children's book on E.B. White, A Boy, A Mouse, and a Spider. This book will be available for purchase at this event ONLY, until its publication date of October 24th. Lauren will be joined by children's illustrator Jonathan Bean, illustrator of Real Cowboys. Alongside story times with these acclaimed illustrators, we're thrilled to welcome Gamut Theatre Group’s Popcorn Hat Players as they take the stage with an interactive performance of a family-favorite: Aesop’s Fables from 11:00am to 11:30am! The fun doesn't stop there — we'll have arts & crafts, dancing, and, of course, books for all ages! This program is sponsored by Harrisburg Academy.

Lauren Castillo and Jonathan Bean will be available to sign copies of their books during the event.


Print-Your-own bookmark with Typothecary letterPress

Saturday, October 14th | 11am - 5pm

That's right, we're bringing in Megan Zettlemoyer of Lancaster's Typothecary Letterpress to print your own FREE — you heard correctly — FREE beautifully designed bookmarks specially designed for the 2017 Harrisburg Book Festival. Megan will be on-site with her mobile letterpress to help you print your bookmark on-the-spot from 11am - 5pm on Saturday. Visit her website at www.typothecaryletterpress.com for more information. 

Megan Zettlemoyer

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Let's Talk Books:  The Role of the Critic in the Digital Age

A roundtable discussion with four book reviewers

Saturday, October 14th | 2pm

What have been the most talked-about books of 2017? How do reviewers avoid conflicts of interest in an ever-connected world? What is the role of the critic in the digital age — and do book reviews even matter anymore? Four acclaimed book reviewers — Bethanne Patrick, Susan Coll, Marion Winik, and Harvey Freedenberg — weigh in on the ethics of book reviewing, why the critic still matters, and what should be at the top of your reading list for 2017. In exploring the role of the book reviewer in the age of the internet, our critics give us an inside-baseball perspective of the industry — and what it means for book reviews going forward. This program is sponsored by Susquehanna University's Department of English & Creative Writing.

Harvey Freedenberg

Beginning with reviews for BookPage, Harvey Freedenberg has been writing about books since 2005, and in that time has written more than 700 reviews for publication. Harvey, who is a member of the National Book Critics Circle, writes for print publications and websites that include Bookreporter.com Shelf-Awareness.com, Harrisburg Magazine and the Minneapolis Star Tribune, as well as various literary blogs. Harvey served on the Board of the Dauphin County Library System for 17 years, including two years as its President, and, for several years, was a member of the Selection Committee for the “One Book, One Community” program.

Susan Coll

Susan Coll is the author of five novels, most recently The Stagera New York Times and Chicago Tribune Editor’s Choice. Her work has appeared in publications including the New York Times Book Review, the Washington Post, Washingtonian Magazine, Moment Magazine, NPR.org, atlantic.com, and The Millions. She is currently teaching an intensive, year-long novel writing class at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda and worked at Politics & Prose bookstore, where she oversaw events and programs for five years.

Bethanne Patrick 

Bethanne Patrick, writer, author and journalist, is above all a reader, one who has built her career on talking and writing about books. Whether she’s recommending a great book, interviewing a novelist or promoting reading online, Bethanne covers both the creative and digital side of the publishing industry. In 2009, she founded the popular #FridayReads hashtag under the Twitter handle @BookMaven. The weekly #FridayReads conversation, which peaks on Fridays but runs 24/7, attracts thousands of readers around the world.

Marion Winick

Longtime All Things Considered commentator (1991-2006) Marion Winik is the host of The Weekly Reader radio show and podcast based at Baltimore's NPR station, WYPR. She reviews books for Newsday, People, Kirkus Review and other venues. She is the author of First Comes Love, The Glen Rock Book of the Dead and seven other books. Her monthly column at BaltimoreFishbowl.com has received the “Best Column” and “Best Humorist” awards from Baltimore Magazine, and her essays have been published in The New York Times Magazine, The Sun and many other publications. She is a professor in the MFA program at the University of Baltimore. 

Joe Fassler

Joe Fassler is the editor of Light the Dark: Writer's on Creativity, Inspiration, and the Artistic Process. He regularly interviews writers for The Atlantic's "By Heart" series. He also covers the politics and economics of the American food system as a senior editor for The New Food Economy. 

Light the dark: A Conversation on creative Inspiration with Joe Fassler 

Saturday, October 14th | 4pm

What do Neil Gaiman, Roxane Gay, Stephen King, and Junot Díaz all have in common? Their insights into creativity, inspiration, and how to tap into that ever-elusive muse are all collected in The Atlantic's "By Heart" interviewer Joe Fassler's new book, Light the Dark: Writer's on Creativity, Inspiration, and the Artistic Process. Fassler will be joined on stage by book critic, founder of #FridayReads, and author of The Books That Changed My Life, Bethanne Patrick, to explore the creative process of some of the most critically acclaimed and prolific writers working in the industry today. 

Joe Fassler will be available to sign copies of his book immediately following the discussion. 

Praise for Light the Dark

“The collection’s best essays soar . . . The essays’ variety and the heart and intelligence evident in many of them add up to a valuable book.” Publishers Weekly

“Luminous and appealing.” Kirkus Reviews

THe Art of the novel: A Conversation with Jennifer Haigh and Liz Moore

Saturday, October 14th | 6pm



Critically acclaimed novelists Jennifer Haigh and Liz Moore take the stage for an intimate conversation as they discuss their highly-praised new novels, Heat & Light and The Unseen World. In Heat & LightHaigh returns to the fictional-yet-eerily familiar rural town of Bakerton, Pennsylvania, where she explores the achingly human story of Modern America and the collision between big business and small-town families. In The Unseen World, Moore delivers a moving coming-of-age narrative with a science-fiction twist — the dawn of artificial intelligence. Both novels were notable books of the year from various publications such as The New Yorker, NPR, the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal. Lancaster's Meghan Kenny, author of the forthcoming novel, The Driest Season, will moderate the conversation. This program is sponsored by Penn State Harrisburg's School of Humanities.

Jennifer Haigh, Liz Moore, and Meghan Kenny will be available to sign copies of their books immediately following the discussion.

Jennifer Haigh

In her fifth novel, Heat & Light,  Jennifer Haigh returns to Bakerton, Pennsylvania, a dying coal town that’s offered a second chance when the natural gas industry comes to town.  It has been named a Best Book of 2016 by The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and NPR.  Her previous books include Faith, The Condition, Baker Towers and Mrs. Kimble, winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award for debut fiction, and the short story collection News From Heaven winner of the Massachusetts Book Award and the PEN New England Award in Fiction.  Her short stories have been published in Granta, Electric Literature, The Best American Short Stories and many other places. A native of western Pennsylvania and a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, she now lives in Boston. 

Praise for Heat & Light

Heat and Light achieves pure novelistic virtuosity. It’s brilliant beginning to end.” — Richard Ford

“Ms. Haigh is an expertly nuanced storyteller long overdue for major attention. Her work is gripping, real and totally immersive, akin to that of writers as different as Richard Price, Richard Ford and Richard Russo...With this book, she moves one big step closer to being in their league.” — Janet Maslin, New York Times

Liz Moore

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Liz Moore is a writer of fiction and creative nonfiction. After the publication of her debut novel, Liz obtained her MFA in Fiction from Hunter College. In 2009, she was awarded the University of Pennsylvania's ArtsEdge residency and moved to Philadelphia, where she still lives. Her second novel, Heft, was published by W.W. Norton in January 2012 to popular and critical acclaim. Moore's short fiction and creative nonfiction have appeared in venues such as Tin House, The New York Times, and Narrative Magazine. After winning a 2014 Rome Prize in Literature, she spent 2014-15 at the American Academy in Rome, completing her third novel. That novel, The Unseen World, was published W.W. Norton in July 2016. She is now an Assistant Professor of Writing at Holy Family University.       

Praise for The Unseen World

“Fiercely intelligent....Moore evocatively renders the remoteness of even our closest loved ones.” — New York Times Book Review

“Enthralling….An elegant and ethereal novel about identity and the dawn of artificial intelligence, and a convincing interior portrait of a young woman.” — Washington Post

Meghan Kenny

Meghan Kenny is the author of the short story collection Love Is No Small Thing (LSU Press), and her debut novel, The Driest Seasonis forthcoming from W.W. Norton in February 2018. She has been a Tickner Writing Fellow, a scholar at Bread Loaf and Sewanee Writers' Conferences, and an emerging writer at Franklin & Marshall's Emerging Writers Festival.  She lives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. 





Praise for Love is No Small Thing

“The stories in Meghan Kenny’s splendid debut are spiky, funny, and devastating meditations on the innumerable forms love can take in a life—and how the search for love can prove to be both saving and ruinous. Love Is No Small Thing announces Meghan Kenny as one of contemporary fiction’s brightest new talents, a genius explorer of the miraculous and bewildering human heart.” — Laura van den Berg, author of Find Me

One book, One Community: An Afternoon with Elizabeth Wein

Sunday, October 15th | 2pm

Central Pennsylvania's 2016 One Book, One Community winner Elizabeth Wein returns home to Harrisburg to discuss her award-winning historical novel, Rose Under Fire. Wein, a Harrisburg native-turned-Scotland resident, will share what it's like to return home, the art of writing historical fiction, and the influence of Scotland on her new book, The Pearl Thief.

Elizabeth Wein will be available to sign copies of her book immediately following the discussion.

Praise for Rose Under Fire

"Wein masterfully sets up a stark contrast between the innocent American teen's view of an untarnished world and the realities of the Holocaust. [A]lthough the story's action follows [Code Name Verity]'s, it has its own, equally incandescent integrity. Rich in detail, from the small kindnesses of fellow prisoners to harrowing scenes of escape and the Nazi Doctors' Trial in Nuremburg, at the core of this novel is the resilience of human nature and the power of friendship and hope." -Kirkus, starred review

"Wein excels at weaving research seamlessly into narrative and has crafted another indelible story about friendship borne out of unimaginable adversity." -Publishers Weekly, starred review 

Elizabeth Wein

Elizabeth Wein was born in New York City, grew up abroad, and currently lives in Scotland with her husband and two children. She is an avid flyer of small planes, and holds a Ph.D. in folklore from the University of Pennsylvania. Elizabeth is the author of Code Name Verity, winner of the Edgar Award in the Young Adult category and a Printz Medal Honor Book; Rose Under Fire, winner of the Schneider Family Book Award; and Black Dove, White Raven, winner of the Children's Africana Book Award. Visit her online at www.elizabethwein.com.

Damion Searls

Damion Searls is a translator from German, Norwegian, French, and Dutch and a writer in English. He is the author of a book on Hermann Rorschach and the Rorschach test, and has translated many classic modern writers, including Proust, Rilke, Nietzsche, Walser, Ingeborg Bachmann, Alfred Döblin, Jon Fosse, Elfriede Jelinek, and Nescio, edited a new abridged edition of Thoreau's Journal, and produced a lost work of Melville's. Searls grew up in New York City, studied German philosophy at Harvard and American literature at UC Berkeley, and has received writing and translating awards from PEN America, PEN Center USA, the Netherland America Foundation, the University of California, and the Austrian, Belgian, and Dutch governments. He lives with his wife and son in Brooklyn.

The Power of Seeing: Rorschach, the inkblots, and the enduring relevance of the iconic test

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Sunday, October 15th | 3:30pm

From its infiltration of pop-culture in Alan Moore's The Watchmen, to its enduring relevance as a controversial method of psychological evaluation, the Rorschach Test remains a source of fascination and has confirmed its place in the historical lexicon of psychological study. Why has the iconic test stayed so relevant — and what kind of fascinating mind invented the inkblots? In the first-ever biography of Hermann Rorschach, Guggenheim Fellow Damion Searls tackles the infamous inkblots and their charismatic creator in his new book, The Inkblots: Hermann Rorschach, The Iconic Test, and the Power of Seeing. Searls takes the stage to discuss Rorschach, the fascinating story behind the inkblots, and what we can learn from them today. This afternoon's programs are made possible by Festival Sponsor Harrisburg University of Science and Technology.

Damion Searls will be available to sign copies of his book immediately following the discussion. 

Praise for The Inkblots

“Impressively thorough… part biography of Herman Rorschach, psychoanalytic super sleuth, and part chronicle of the test’s afterlife in clinical practice and the popular imagination… Searls is a nuanced and scholarly writer… genuinely fascinating.”
New York Times Book Review

“A marvelous book about how one man and his enigmatic test came to shape our collective imagination. The Rorschach test is a great subject and The Inkblots is worthy of it: beguiling, fascinating, and full of new discoveries every time you look.” 
David Grann, author of The Lost City of Z


The Haunted Life of Shirley Jackson: A Conversation with Ruth Franklin

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Sunday, October 15th | 5pm

Who can forget the chilling conclusion to Shirley Jackson's The Lottery? What was her source of inspiration — and how did the master of gothic horror come to craft such twisted tales of domestic life? Former editor at the New Republic Ruth Franklin has the answers, as she uncovers it all her new National Book Critics Circle Award-winning biography, Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life. Franklin will explore just how haunted Jackson's life was — while re-positioning her as a major artist within the literary canon. This event is proudly presented by our Festival Sponsor Harrisburg University of Science and Technology.

Ruth Franklin will be available to sign copies of her book immediately following the discussion. 

Praise for Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life

“Ruth Franklin’s sympathetic and masterful biography both uncovers Jackson’s secret and haunting life and repositions her as a major artist whose fiction so uncannily channeled women’s nightmares and contradictions that it is ‘nothing less than the secret history of American women of her era.’”
Elaine Showalter, Washington Post

“With this welcome new biography Franklin makes a thoughtful and persuasive case for Jackson as a serious and accomplished literary artist. . . . [Franklin] sees Jackson not as an oddball, one-off writer of horror tales and ghost stories but as someone belonging to the great tradition of Hawthorne, Poe and James, writers preoccupied, as she was, with inner evil in the human soul.”
Charles McGrath, New York Times Book Review

Ruth Franklin

Ruth Franklin is a book critic and former editor at The New Republic. Her first biography, Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life (Liveright/W.W. Norton, 2016) won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography and was named a New York Times Notable Book of 2016, a Time magazine top nonfiction book of 2016, and a “best book of 2016” by The Boston Globe, the San Francisco Chronicle, NPR, and others. Franklin’s work appears in many publications, includin g The New YorkerThe New York Times Book ReviewThe New York Review of Books, and Harper’s. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in biography, a Cullman Fellowship at the New York Public Library, a Leon Levy Fellowship in biography, and the Roger Shattuck Prize for Criticism. Her first book, A Thousand Darknesses: Lies and Truth in Holocaust Fiction (Oxford University Press, 2011), was a finalist for the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.