Olympic gold medalist Jessie Diggins will kick off this year’s Wordplay book festival, which begins next week. Instead of a one-day in-person event like last year, the festival is moving entirely online because of COVID-19 and will run from April 7 to May 9.
Diggins, the Olympic cross-country skier from Afton, will speak about her new memoir, “Brave Enough,” at 11 a.m. Tuesday April 7. She will take questions submitted by the virtual audience and then lead viewers in a 15-minute “Olympic workout.”
The workout is “Olympic in that an Olympian is doing it,” Steph Opitz, founding director of Wordplay, said at an online news conference on Thursday. “It’ll be all skill levels. I’ll be able to do it and so will you.”
The event will be broadcast on YouTube, Facebook and by Crowdcast, accessible through the Loft Literary Center’s website at www.loft.org.
Opitz said that many of the authors who had committed to appearing at Wordplay in person will be involved in the virtual book festival, but details are still being worked out.
Authors Danez Smith, C Pam Zhang, Benjamin Percy and Samantha Irby are among those who will take part virtually.
Because events are still being planned, the Loft will announce the next week’s events each Friday. People can receive weekly alerts by signing up for the Loft newsletter at www.loft.org/enewsletter or can check the Wordplay webpage every Friday.
Events will range from readings to discussions to “a lot of fun things,” Opitz said. “This Diggins workout is just the beginning!”
And events will be broadcast at various times of the day and on a variety of platforms, including Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and elsewhere. “And hopefully some stuff on the radio,” Opitz said. “All the ways that we can possibly get to as many people” as possible.
Unlike the in-person festival, the virtual festival is free and open to all, “with unlimited seating,” she said.
The Loft will also work with local independent bookstores to make it possible for participants to order online the books of the featured authors.
“It’s an isolating time,” Opitz said, “And we’re so excited to gather with you in this way over books.”