New! Exeter LitFest, April 5 & 6, 2019

dandelionThe literary seeds that ripen in our town travel very far on the breeze!

Did you know that Exeter classic books include: Prayer for Owen Meany,  Seperate Peace, Real Diary of a Real Boy, Incident at Exeter, Tea & Sympathy… and the list goes on and on and on. And let’s not forget that Dan Brown of DaVinci Code fame is a hometown boy, and horror writer Joe Hill is a local.

It’s about time to celebrate our town’s incredible literary tradition, don’t you agree?

Several people thought we should have an annual literary festival and went forth to form a steering committee in early 2018 with this mission in mind:

Working Mission: “To leverage our wealth of local literary treasure, in an environmentally sustainable way, to connect both residents and tourists to the diverse literary voices and places of Exeter, NH for the benefit of children and adults, the local arts community, and local businesses.”

james-monroe-whitfield-ovalDiversity is one of the keywords here. We have been working hard to unearth some lost voices, and we came up with two very important voices from Exeter’s past: feminist Tabitha Gilman Tenney who wrote a 50-year best seller in 1801 Female Quixotism, and James Monroe Whitfield who was educated in Exeter’s public schools until age 9,  and later became an Abolishinist Poet (America and other Poems1853) and peers with Frederick Douglass and Martin Delaney. We will be celebrating their birthdays, which both fall with a week of our festival, with a scholarly lecture and some cake!

The logistics are being fine-tuned, the website and a GOFUNDME will launch this fall, and the programming is starting to fill in. Here are the bones of what is proposed so far (subject to change).

  • Friday night costume/cosplay kick off in the town hall via TEAM
  • Saturday morning book group discussion “Breakfast with Owen Meany”
  • Saturday all day programming: author talks, kids events, art, edible books, and more.
  • Saturday night finale adult party at Word Barn featuring selected poets

…in addition, there is a walking map featuring a one-mile loop of literary hot-spots in downtown Exeter!  Where did Russian exile and poet laureate Brodsky compose his “Exeter Revisted” poem? What dorm house was the inspiration for the 1953 visionary play on gender identity (then 1956 Minelli film) Tea & Sympathy? Where are those slippery marble steps that Phineas fell down? Did Plupy really attend a race of those newfangled contraptions the Velocipede inside the town hall? Who was Minty-Ann and where was the black enclave in which she lived? Was the “Passionate Spinster” Patty Rogers, who lived at Great Bridge, the inspiration for Dorcasina in the feminist-leaning book (a best seller for 50 years!) written by Tabitha Gilman Tenney in 1801? What street was named after the Whitfields?

We walk by these places every day: lets talk about them. Let’s also talk with other literary lovers, of differing political viewpoints, and see where the common ground is. Together let’s plant that new seed of humanity.

More details at

Have questions? Here is who is on the Exeter LitFest Steering Committee:

  • Renay Allen, artivist organizer @
  • Water St Bookstore- Stefanie Kiper
  • Exeter Public Library – Hope Godino & Julia Lanter
  • Word Barn – Sarah & Ben Anderson
  • A Picture’s Worth 1000 Words – John & Jen Segal
  • Ret. English teacher/PEA – David Weber
  • Ret. English teacher/Racial Unity Team – Pat Yosha
  • Ret. English teacher/Women’s Studies – Gretchen McBride
  • TEAM arts – Derek Haddad
  • Local author – Lisa Bunker of YA book  Felix Iz
  • Chamber of Commerce – Jennifer Wheeler


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