You don’t need to be told about Stephen King.

If you’re going to this weekend’s inaugural Wordplay book festival in downtown Minneapolis, you already know he’s going to open the whole thing Saturday morning. He’ll be on an outdoor stage behind the Open Book center with Minnesota writer Benjamin Percy at 10 a.m., and there will be no other authors scheduled to speak at that time. Because who wants to go up against Stephen King? Nobody, that’s who.

So the first hour is figured out. But what about after that? The festival is bringing in more than 100 writers over two days, and there will be seven and sometimes eight events going on at the same time, some at the Guthrie, some at Open Book, some at the Mill City Museum, some in tents outside.

We have some tips to help you navigate the weekend.


If you love photography, or you’re an author groupie: Portrait photographer Beowulf Sheehan will speak at 11 a.m. at the Open Book Performance Hall. Sheehan’s book, “Author,” consists of 200 portraits of writers — everyone from Claudia Rankine to Roddy Doyle to Louise Erdrich to James McBride.

If you’re fascinated by stories of family and ancestry: Memoirists Dani Shapiro and Nicole Chung and poet Ed Bok Lee will be in conversation with poet Sun Yung Shin. In “Inheritance,” Shapiro digs into her family’s DNA. In “All You Can Ever Know,” Chung tracks down her birth family. And in “Mitochondrial Night,” Lee uses DNA as a way to get at the meaning of life. They will chat at 12:45 p.m. at the Guthrie.

If you like to laugh: Funny man Dave Barry will be in conversation with funny woman Julie Schumacher at 2:30 p.m. on the MPR stage, near the festival’s main entrance at Washington and 10th avenues. Barry, who wrote a syndicated humor column for years, is the author of more than 25 books, including his new one, “Lessons From Lucy.” And Schumacher, who teaches at the University of Minnesota, is the author of two very funny novels about academe and is the winner of the Thurber Prize for American Humor.

If you are interested in the stories of a lot of different people: Tommy Orange, whose novel “There There” is told from various viewpoints (and, not incidentally, has won prize after prize after prize), will converse with Laila La­lami, whose novel “The Other Americans” is also told from various points of view (and who also has won prize after prize). They’ll talk at 2:30 p.m. at the Guthrie so you are going to have to choose between this and the Barry-Schumacher event. You can see how impossible this is going to be.

Are you more of a visual story­teller? Go see cartoonist Gabrielle Bell (“Cecil and Jordan in New York”), who will discuss how to choose what to draw, how to draw it and how to write the minimalist text that goes into a graphic novel. It’s all about choices.

Time for poetry! Natasha Trethewey, twice the U.S. poet laureate, will speak at 4 p.m. at the Guthrie.


If you are interested in complicated family stories: Start your Sunday (10 a.m. at the Guthrie) with five smart women with interesting lives: Nora McInerny, Mary Laura Philpott, Lori Gottlieb, Mira Jacob and Anika Fajardo.

If you are concerned by the politicalization of black women’s bodies: Poet Morgan Parker (“Magical Negro”) and novelist Chaya Bhuvaneswar (“White Dancing Elephants”) will be in conversation with poet Danez Smith. (11:15 a.m., MPR stage.)

If you are worried about the environment: Bill McKibben (“Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?”) will give you hope as he talks about ways to combat global warming and other dangers (noon on the Loft stage).

Fascinated by sense of place? Sarah Stonich (“Laurentian Divide”) and Kristen Arnett (“Mostly Dead Things”) will discuss how the locations of their novels (the North Shore and Florida, respectively) affect their stories. Moderated by Chelsey Johnson, their discussion will be at 12:45 p.m. on the Western Bank Stage.

Closet fan of sci fi? Marlon James will converse with fantasy writer Daniel José Older, exploring the wisdom and beauty of genre books — and the snobbish backlash that genre books often endure. Their talk at 2 p.m. at the Guthrie will be moderated by V.V. Ganeshananthan and Whitney Terrell, and taped for their Fiction/Non/Fiction podcast.

Wondering how to write about difficult family secrets? Michele Filgate, editor of the anthology “What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About,” will chat with one of the essayists represented in the book, Brandon Taylor, at 3:45 p.m. at the Western Bank Stage.

Time for delight! Poet Ross Gay, whose new book is a collection of essays appreciating the delightful small things in life, will chat with Krista Tippett at 3:45 p.m. at the Guthrie.

This barely scratches the surface, of course. The full schedule is online at