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Virginia Festival of the Book planning virtual festival in March
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Virginia Festival of the Book planning virtual festival in March

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Best-selling author John Grisham will be among guests at the 2020 Virginia Festival of the Book.

The success of the Virginia Festival of the Book’s virtual Shelf Life series of events means that next spring’s festival won’t need to be shelved.

Organizers announced Thursday that the 27th annual festival, a program of Virginia Humanities, will take place from March 13 to 26, 2021, as a two-week series of virtual events on Zoom and Facebook Live, with live captions. The popular Shelf Life series of virtual readings and events has reached more than 22,000 viewers since April.

Many of the headlining speakers were announced Thursday. They include the following:

• Novelist and playwright Ayad Akhtar, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts & Letters and other honors. He is the author of “Homeland Elegies.”

• Kerri Arsenault, author of “Mill Town,” is reviews editor at Orion magazine and contributing editor at Lit Hub.

• 2020 MacArthur Fellow Catherine Coleman Flowers, author of “Waste: One Woman’s Fight Against America’s Dirty Secret,” is the founder of the Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice and is rural development manager at the Race and Poverty Initiative of the Equal Justice Initiative.

• John Grisham, a member of the Board of Directors of the Innocence Project, is the author of 35 novels, a work of nonfiction, a story collection and six novels for young readers.

• Author, illustrator and filmmaker Vashti Harrison, a University of Virginia alumna, wrote “”Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History” and “Little Dreamers: Visionary Women Around the World.”

• Judith Heumann, an author known internationally for her disability rights advocacy leadership, served in the Clinton and Obama administrations and as the World Bank’s first adviser on disability and development.

• Luisa A. Igloria is the 20th Poet Laureate of Virginia and co-recipient of the 2020 Crab Orchard Poetry Open. She is the author of 13 books of poetry and four chapbooks.

• Ian Rankin, author of the John Rebus series, has won the Chandler-Fulbright Award, four Crime Writers’ Association Dagger Awards and the Edgar Award.

• Jacqueline Woodson, a four-time National Book Award finalist and 2020 MacArthur Fellow, is a four-time Newbery Honor winner, a two-time NAACP Image Award Winner and a two-time Coretta Scott King Award winner.

Three authors, honorees for the 2020 National Book Award for Fiction, will appear as part of the festival’s partnership with the National Book Foundation. They are finalist Rumaan Alam, author of “Leave the World Behind”; Megha Majumdar, author of “A Burning,” a longlister for the prize; and finalist Deesha Philyaw, author of “The Secret Lives of Church Ladies.”

All of the virtual events are free. Purchasing the featured guests’ books is encouraged, but not required. The complete festival schedule will be released in January. To learn more, go to

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