Haystack Book Talks brings writers into conversation on a wide range of topics to celebrate ideas and discourse.



Tucked away in the beautiful wooded hills of Northwestern Connecticut, Norfolk provides an intimate setting for the festival. Literary conversations are scheduled for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, October 4, 5, and 6 2019, in downtown Norfolk, set against the backdrop of autumn foliage.

New this year, the festival will also offer an array of “one-off” conversations during the summer.

All events are held at the Norfolk Library and are free and open to the public with seat reservations required.

We are thrilled to add this literary festival to the vibrant cultural offerings in town, including the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, Yale Norfolk School of Music and ArtInfinity HallNorfolk Library and Norfolk Historical Society.

Haystack Book Talks bring together in unmoderated conversation writers and thinkers who have something to talk about.  Past and upcoming talks are as various as Rosa Alcala and McArthur Award winner John Keene discussing the relation between their creative writing and their work as translators; prize-winning writers David Blight and Steve Luxenberg talking about the fateful American passage from abolition to segregation; novelists Courtney Maum and Teddy Wayne examining the relation between historical and fictional characters in their work; and Jeff Goodell and Julian Brave NoiseCat exploring the social and ecological inevitabilities of climate change.


Please contact us @ 860-542-7185 x260 for more information about ADA/mobility accommodations.

The Haystack Book Talks is sponsored in part by the Norfolk Foundation, Inc. 
We are especially grateful to Steve Melville for spearheading this literary festival.

Click OPT IN below to receive weekly emails about the October festival; emails begin on or around Aug 26th.


All events are open to the public
FREE with seat reservation
and will take place at the Norfolk Library


Sunday, June 2
1:00 pm
In and Out of Art School
Nell Painter, author of Old in Art School: A Memoir of Starting Over in conversation with Byron Kim and Lisa Sigal, Co-Directors of the Yale Norfolk School of Art.


Sunday, July 7
1:00 pm
Discussion of Fryderyk Chopin, A Life and Times

Dr Alan Walker, author of Fryderyk Chopin: A Life and Times in conversation with Melvin Chen, Director of the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival.
Listen HERE to an interview with Dr. Walker on robinhoodradio.com with Marshall Miles


Sunday, August 4
1:00 pm
Dunya Mikhail, author of In Her Feminine Sign in conversation with Michael Kelleher, author of Visible Instruments
“Poetry is not medicine [but] an x-ray,” writes Dunya Mikhail. From her childhood in Baghdad to her years of living in exile in Detroit, Dunya Mikhail has used poetry (and prose) to look beneath the surface, and to find in the recesses of language whatever truth there is to be found. In this wide-ranging conversation with poet Michael Kelleher, she discusses everything from evading the Iraqi censor’s pen to that ever more essential task of freeing her mind from the pernicious western habit of self-censoring awkward or uncomfortable truths before they are spoken.



Friday, October 4

6:00 pm
HERE to reserve your seat.
Brendan Gill Lecture, by Mitchell S. Jackson, author of Survival Math: Notes on an All-American Family
An electrifying, dazzlingly written reckoning and an essential addition to the national conversation about race and class, Survival Math takes its name from the calculations award-winning author Mitchell S. Jackson made to survive the Portland, Oregon, of his youth.

Saturday, October 5

10:30 am
HERE to reserve your seat.
Prickly Subjects: Biographies in Dialog
Martha Saxton, author of The Widow Washington: The Life of Mary Washington and poet, biographer, and New Yorker staff writer, Judith Thurman discuss the biography of female subjects from history and what kind of historical context is needed to situate these powerful figures in their time.


1:00 pm
HERE to reserve your seat.
Lives Real and Imagined: The Fictionalization of True Characters
Costalegre’s Courtney Maum and The Love Song of Jonny Valentine’s Teddy Wayne discuss the fictionalization of real people in their recent novels.


3:00 pm
HERE to reserve your seat.
Reporting from the Front
Award-wining journalists Janine di Giovanni , author of The Morning They Came for Us: Dispatches from Syria, and Anne Garrels, author of Naked in Baghdad, discuss what it takes to tell the hardest stories, to work in a field dominated by men, and to survive the aftereffects of the job.


Sunday, October 6

10:00 am
HERE to reserve your seat.
From Abolition to Segregation
David  Blight, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom, and Steve Luxenberg, author of the highly praised Separate: The Story of Plessy v. Ferguson, and America’s Journey from Slavery to Segregation, engage in a timely exploration of the fateful dynamic of idealism and betrayal that continues to shape the fundamental fabric of American society.


12:30 pm
HERE to reserve your seat.
Coyotes and Beavers and Their Lives Among Us
Ben Goldfarb, author of  Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter, and Dan Flores, author of Coyote America: A Natural and Supernatural History, talk about humanity's fanatical and misguided attempts to control unruly and ecologically crucial wildlife.

3:00 pm (Talk & Walk)
HERE to register for the walk.
The Art of the Dam: Beavers in Our Backyard
Ben Goldfarb and Dan Flores will lead an outdoor talk and walk in Great Mountain Forest. Rendezvous at Mountain House, 200 Canaan Mountain Road at 3:00pm and walk from there up to Chattleton Road to see the beaver activity.



When Picket Fences Burn
Rumaan Alam, That Kind of Mother, and Angelica Baker, Our Little Racket, discuss race, class divisions and changing definitions of “family” in contemporary America.                  
Location: Battell Chapel; Followed by book sales and signings at Norfolk Library

Pablo Neruda
Mark Eisner, author of Neruda: The Poet’s Calling, in conversation with Jessica Powell, translator of Neruda’s crucial early venture of the infinite man.
Location: Battell Chapel; Followed by book sales and signings at Norfolk Library

Giving Voice: Originality and Translation
John Keene, Counternarratives, with Rosa AlcaláMyOTHER Tongue, explore the complexities of voice in their work as writers and translators.
Location: Battell Chapel; Followed by book sales and signings at Norfolk Library

Border Crossings   
Ken Ilgunas, This Land Is Our Land: How We Lost the Right to Roam and How to Take It Back, and Kate Harris, Lands of Lost Borders: A Journey on the Silk Road  take us trespassing around the world.
Location: Battell Chapel; Followed by book sales and signings at Norfolk Library

Water, Water, Everywhere: Rethinking the Coastline                                              Julian Brave NoiseCat talks with Jeff Goodell, The Water Will Come, about the social and ecological inevitabilities of our ongoing climate transformation.
Location: Norfolk Curling Club; Followed by book sales and signings at the Norfolk Curling Club

Tobey Bog Walk with Star Childs
Location: Walk will start/end at the Norfolk Curling Club FREE

Paperback Revolution: Norfolk's 'Modern Age Books' and How It Changed the Way
America Reads,
an exhibit of the Norfolk Historical Society.  Modern Age Books, founded by Norfolk's Dick Childs in 1936, was one of the first paperback publishers in the US, issuing progressive paperbacks.  Exhibit focus: Child’s innovative use of illustration, printing, and distribution processes to help democratize American reading, writing, and publishing. Location: Norfolk Historical Society FREE



Visit Norfolk, Connecticut, for the Haystack Book Talks Festival. Visit the town site to plan your visit this October.