Sonoma Valley Author’s Festival launches new free Plaza event

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The Sonoma Valley Authors Festival is hosting a free Plaza event this May featuring two notable authors taking part in the second incarnation of the festival – poet Billy Collins and historian Jon Meacham.

The festival runs May 3 to 5; the free Plaza event is May 4 from 5 to 7:30 p.m.

Collins is widely known for his conversational, witty poems and he is a former U.S. Poet Laureate. Meacham is a bestselling and Pulitzer Prize-winning presidential biographer.

Collins was a big hit at the inaugural Sonoma Valley Author’s Festival last year, said co-founder David Freeman.

“Billy is like a rock star – and so enjoyable to listen to,” said Freeman. “He got rave reviews last year, and we’re thrilled to have him back.”

Meacham is the author of several books. His latest, “The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels,” was published by Random House in May. In it, Meacham tries to understand the present-day American politics and life “by looking back at critical times in our history when hope overcame division and fear.”

“Jon tackles topics that, whether or not you agree, will get you thinking,” said Freeman. “He’s a perfect example of our desire to bring to Sonoma authors who have something significant to say.”

The event will take place on the back side of City Hall with the stage facing north. Seats will be available to the first 340 people to arrive and everyone else is invited to bring a blanket and sit on the lawn. No food will be available but attendees can bring a picnic dinner.

The evening will start off with a 30-minute performance by musicians Philip Claypool and Carlos Reyes, followed by Collins and Meacham each speaking for about 45 minutes, followed by a book signing. Readers’ Books will be on hand selling books.

Registration is encouraged but not required. The first 500 people to RSVP to attend “Authors on the Plaza” will be entered into a raffle with multiple opportunities to win free, signed books.

“We think this is going to be a fun and meaningful event for the community,” said Freeman. “We have no idea whether 25 people will show up, or 1,000, but I am hoping for 1,000.”

Freeman noted that the cost of putting on the Plaza event has been underwritten by festival sponsors – local Sonoma couple Chuck and Kathy Williamson.

Another free Authors Festival event this May is the return of Students Day, which will take place across the Sonoma Valley Unified School District on Friday, May 3. Eleven authors and experts in science, technology and medicine will speak in front of 2,700 students from Sonoma Valley High School, Sonoma Academy, Hanna Boys Center plus Adele Harrison and Altimira Middle School.

“We are excited to provide students with the rare opportunity to meet and hear from men and women changing our lives,” said Freeman.

Students will receive free copies of the speakers’ books.

Register to attend the free Plaza event or check the current availability of passes to the 2019 Authors Festival online at svauthorsfest.org.

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