The Morristown Festival of Books generally features chart-topping writers, hot new authors and even Pulitzer Prize winners, but when the fifth annual festival kicks off this weekend, a Mendham author has worked her way into the field of celebrated international wordsmiths.
Julie Maloney, whose debut novel, “A Matter of Chance” premiered in April, will be paired with Rhiannon Navin for a moderated discussion focused on new authors from 2:40 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday at the St. Peter’s Parish Hall.
“I have been to the Morristown Festival of Books myself over the past two years,” Maloney said. “It’s thrilling. To be invited to something that is so highly recognized as a top festival is very exciting to me.”
The two-day event begins Friday night with a keynote address by former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at the Mayo Performing Arts Center.
The free, all-day festival on Saturday features more than 50 award-winning and best-selling authors who will speak and answer questions at five locales, all within walking distance of each other along South Street in downtown Morristown.
After her appearance at St. Peter’s, Maloney will move to the author showcase tent outside the historic Vail Mansion on South Street, where she will join other writers in meeting, greeting and signing books for fans.
Maloney, formerly a dancer and choreographer who operated her own modern dance company, will mingle Saturday with authors ranging from five-time Pulitzer finalist Joyce Carol Oates to best-selling non-fiction author Bob Drury and Ibtihaj Muhammad, the first female Muslim American to medal at the Olympics and the first woman in hijab to compete for the United States in the Olympics
“What I feel I’m doing now is dancing on the page,” Maloney said. “I’m still creating. I’m still shaping things in my mind.”
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As she operated her dance company and raised three children, Maloney embraced her love of language, first as a published poet, then as founder-leader of Women Reading Aloud, a nonprofit group devoted to promoting women writers.
“When we started 16 years ago, we had 12 women gathered around a table in my living room,” she said. “To think now, where we’ve grown into an international organization, it blows my mind.”
Maloney’s related writing retreats sell out every year, including an annual trip to the Greek island of Alonnisos in September, and an 11th annual weekend retreat in Sea Girt.
With elements of mystery and a deep personal journey for her protagonist, Maloney says “A Matter of Chance” fits into the genre of psychological suspense. Set partly in a fictional Jersey Shore town, and name-checking Parsippany, her story follows a woman obsessed with finding her 8-year-old daughter, who was kidnapped under unusual circumstances.
“It’s the story of a woman left behind then tragedy strikes,” Maloney said of her story, which makes its way to Germany before the final chapter. “I’m very interested in how people are seeing it. I’m hearing incredibly favorable responses from readers. It’s been called a domestic drama and contemporary fiction. They’re calling it a page-turner.”
The festival concludes at 5 p.m. with a “Roaring Twenties” event at St. Peter’s Parish Hall, 70 Maple Ave. Tickets are $20.
For more information, visit www.morristownbooks.org
Staff Writer William Westhoven: 973-917-9242; wwesthoven@Dailyrecord.com.