LitFest 2011: Readers writers and poetry too

The Tri-City literary season opens at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Bookwalter Winery in Richland.

This is the seventh presentation of the Mid-Columbia Literary Festival -- a celebration of writers and readers that is open to all.

LitFest stretches from this evening through May 24.

LitFest 2011 will bring to the Tri-Cities an impressive list of authors, covering a wide range of styles and approaches. Scheduled events include author presentations, book signings, workshops, readings and much more.

Tuesday's program, sponsored by Barnes & Noble Booksellers and Bookwalter Winery, is only a couple of years old. It is made up of local book lovers who will give five-minute talks on books that have particular meaning to them. It has proved highly popular already, and the warning that seating is limited is sincere.

That shouldn't be a problem for the other venues of LitFest, most of which are held at the LitFest Committee's main partner, Pasco's Columbia Basin College.

They include:

* Poetry Out Loud Regional Finals, 7 p.m. Feb. 15, CBC Theatre. Students from local high schools will compete for a chance to go to the state finals.

* Benjamin Percy, 7 p.m. Feb. 24, HUB Main Stage. Percy is the author of two novels, Red Moon (forthcoming from Grand Central/Hachette in 2012) and The Wilding (Graywolf, 2010), and two books of short stories, Refresh, Refresh (Graywolf, 2007) and The Language of Elk (Carnegie Mellon, 2006).

* Pam Houston, 7 p.m. March 3 on the HUB Main Stage. She is the author of two collections of linked short stories, Cowboys Are My Weakness, which was the winner of the 1993 Western States Book Award and has been translated into nine languages, and Waltzing the Cat, which won the Willa Award for Contemporary Fiction.

* Richard Yancey, Adult/ Young Adult Fiction, 7 p.m. March 9 at the Gjerde Center. He achieved his lifelong dream of being a full-time writer in 2004 upon the publication of his critically acclaimed memoir, Confessions of a Tax Collector. To date he has published six novels in addition to his memoir. He also is the author of the critically acclaimed Teddy Ruzak mystery series for adults. In the fall of 2009, Simon & Schuster launched his newest young adult series, The Monstrumologist.

* Shan Ray, Poetry/Fiction, and Katrina Roberts, Poetry, 7 p.m. April 7 at the HUB Main Stage. Ray is an author born and raised in Montana, now living in Washington. His collection of stories, American Masculine, was selected by Robert Boswell for the Katherine Bakeless Nason Prize and will appear with Graywolf Press in 2011.

Katrina Roberts, a graduate of Harvard University and the Iowa Writers' Workshop, is the Mina Schwabacher Professor of English and the Humanities at Whitman College, where she directs the Visiting Writers Reading Series. She is the author of four books of poetry: Underdog, Friendly Fire, The Quick and How Late Desire Looks. Roberts moved to the Northwest to teach at Whitman, and to get some grapevines in the ground. She and her husband, Jeremy Barker, an artist and distiller native to Walla Walla, are the proprietors of and winemakers for Tytonidae Cellars, which they started in 2003, as well as founders of the Walla Walla Distilling Co.

* Brett Lott, 7 p.m. April 28 on the HUB Main Stage. Lott is the author of 12 books, most recently the novel Ancient Highway. He was editor and director of The Southern Review at Louisiana State University. In the fall of 2007, he returned to the College of Charleston and the job he most loves: teaching. He serves as nonfiction editor of Crazyhorse and is a member of the National Council on the Arts.

* Writing Competition Reading and Winners Presentation, 7 p.m. May 12 on the HUB Main Stage. This event will feature the winners from the Annual Writing Competition of area high school and CBC students in poetry, fiction and nonfiction.

* Finally, there will be a reprise of About the Book, 6 p.m. May 24 at Bookwalter Winery, sponsored by Barnes & Noble and Bookwalter Winery.

LitFest 2011 thus ends as it started, with an event meant to spread the love of all literature.