Two Westport authors share their ways to for coping with stress. Stephanie Bass turned to humor during the early months of the pandemic and Denise Zack provides proven ways to move around negativity and both will discuss their books with Kerstin Rao.

Ripple Affect is an 8-step workbook filled with readings, reflections, activities and meditations Denise uses to help clients gain insights into negative thought patterns to make lasting changes. Her therapeutic approach helps her clients to identify their damaging patterns and then positively alter them to improve emotional balance and decrease stress. 

My Blackboard Diary: A Comedian's Year in Lockdown shares some of the inspirational sayings, funny observations and uplifting statements collected on a chalkboard Stephanie left out for neighbors and strangers to write upon.

Both books will be available for purchase at the event. Please register to attend.

Kerstin Rao's mission is to spread creativity and joy, whether through her art and stationery business, CuppaCards, or through her coaching service, Curate Your Mate. For 22 years, Kerstin was a teacher with the Westport Schools and is forever proud of all her former students. She and her husband Vijay live in a cozy cape in Westport, nurturing a garden of native plants and loads of local friendships.

Denise Zack, MS, RYT is a Certified Life Coach, Meditation Instructor, and yoga teacher, who worked as a Licensed Professional Counselor for Southern Connecticut State University for 20 years, as a clinical therapist.  She’s also done private, wellness-based consulting, meditation, mindfulness and yoga for individuals and businesses alike.

Diagnosed with ADD at age 47, Stephanie Bass had breezed through many professions: publishing; marketing; teaching; cashier; corporate wife – secretly feeling she was the only one who hadn’t been issued an owner’s manual. At 70, Stephanie embarked on one more career: taking her greatest strength – making people laugh – she started formal training in standup comedy. She was just getting warmed up when a plague closed all the clubs. Undaunted, she invented a new venue: blackboard postings in her driveway, and her first book was born.



Author Patricia Dunn and Tessa Smith McGovern will discuss Last Stop on the 6, Dunn's latest novel examining family secrets and the process of facing them down.

Register to watch in the Trefz Forum or online. Books are available to order!

Can you ever really go home again? This hilarious, hard-hitting and big-hearted novel brings to mind the movie A Bronx Tale as it follows Angela back home to her Italian-American family in the Bronx to prepare for her brother’s wedding. As Angela navigates love, guilt, and red gravy, she learns the price of living in the past, allowing her parents to squeeze her back into her childhood bedroom, and the cost of redemption.

Read the Publisher's Weekly review here!

Patricia Dunn is an Italian rebel raised in the Bronx. She is the author of the young adult novel, Rebels by Accident (Sourcebooks Fire). Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Salon, The Village Voice, The Nation, LA Weekly, and The Christian Science Monitor.  Dunn has served as the senior director of the Writing Institute at Sarah Lawrence College, where she holds an MFA in creative writing. She is the co-founder of The Joe Papaleo Writers Workshop in Cetera, Italy.

Tessa Smith McGovern is an author and writing coach. She has taught at the Writing Institute, Sarah Lawrence College, NY, since 2011 and her class, 'How to Link Your Short Stories or Memoirs into a Collection' runs in the spring and fall. She's the host of two free, weekly writing workshops on Zoom for the Westport Library where people get inspired to write, improve their craft, and submit their stories for publication. Tessa is currently writing a contemporary fantasy novel inspired by British mythology and pursuing her MFA in Writing at the Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Explore a comic book cookbook to learn how to make Asian dumplings? Yes! Chef Hugh Amano and illustrator Sarah Becan will talk about the history of these morsels and recipes found in Let's Make Dumplings! 

For novice and seasoned cooks, Let's Make Dumplings! gives guidance on folding styles and fillings from across Asia, as well as dumpling lore. This cookbook captures the deep level of connection that dumplings bring to any gathering and shows you how to create them in your own home.

Please register to learn more. Purchase a bookplate signed copy.

Hugh Amano's devotion to exploring food and culture has taken him around the world, enriching his experience as a chef and writer. A graduate of The University of Colorado and New England Culinary Institute, he lives in Chicago, where the roster of dough-encased foods runs deep. He co-authored Let's Make Ramen! and The Adventures of Fat Rice, and he always puts out a big batch of gyoza for his annual New Year's Eve dinner party.


Sarah Becan has been drawing comics since she was very small. Her food-based autobiographical webcomic “I Think You’re Sauceome” sparked a love of food and culinary illustration, and her work has since appeared in various publications, including Saveur,, Chicago Magazine, and the Chicago Reader. Her first graphic novel, The Complete Ouija Interviews, was a recipient of a Xeric award, and she illustrated Let's Make Ramen! and The Adventures of Fat Rice. She would be very happy to do nothing but draw food all day.



Cookbook Club


"Those We Throw Away Are Diamonds offers an immersive, riveting look at one Bagogwe man’s singular journey from war in Congo to safety, in which good and evil are relative when war offers no good choices to anyone, when safety is an illusion, and when forgiveness is fraught." Jessica Goudeau 

Hear about life as a refugee from Mondiant Dogon, a Bagogwe Tutsi born in Congo, when he talks with the Reverend John Morehouse.

Rarely do refugees get to tell their own stories. But through his writing, Mondiant took control of his own story and spoke up for forever refugees everywhere. As he once wrote in a poem, “Those we throw away are diamonds.”

Please register to watch the event at home or in the Trefz Forum. This event will be in-person. Signed copies of Those We Throw Away Are Diamonds will be available for pre-order and at the event. 

Community Partners: CT Institute for Refugees and Immigrants, Westport/Weston Interfaith Clergy, Westport/Weston Interfaith Council,
UN Association of Southwest CT

Mondiant Nshimiyimana Dogon is a Congolese author, human rights activist, and refugee ambassador. Born in 1992 in to a Congolese Tutsi family in Bagogwe tribe in North Kivu province, he was forced to leave his home village, Bikenke, at the age of three because of the Rwandan genocide against Tutsis that spilled over into Congo. He has lived in refugee camps since 1996.  In 2017, was able to leave Rwanda to attend New York University.

Rev. Dr. John Morehouse serves as Senior Minister of the Unitarian Church in Westport. Throughout his long career he has been an avid social activist, working with Interfaith organizations in Maryland and California on issues that impact under resourced communities. In Los Angeles, he worked with migrant communities protesting air pollution downwind from the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Since coming to Westport, his congregation has partnered with CIRI and other communities supporting immigrant and refugee populations, including setting up apartment for newly arriving refugees. He is active in anti-racism work in Westport and Bridgeport.

"Mondiant Dogon takes us on a journey through a heartrending window into the lives of the humans that live in Congo, Rwanda and Gihembe. Besides the heartbreaking accounts in the story, Mondiant also gives us the positive and human stories that do exist in his story, his families and his fellow refugees. This book should be read world-wide to counter the rhetoric of refugees as nothing but helpless, unable to do anything for their lives. This book shows otherwise.”—Abdi Nor Iftin, author of Call Me American

"This incandescent book will transform you. Those We Throw Away Are Diamonds offers an immersive, riveting look at one Bagogwe man’s singular journey from war in Congo to safety, in which good and evil are relative when war offers no good choices to anyone, when safety is an illusion, and when forgiveness is fraught. It is an uncompromising study in colonial powers as the root cause of rising displacement after centuries of redrawing boundaries, fomenting ethnic crises, and robbing regions of natural resources. But even as it offers high-level, international context, the book remains focused on the people whose lives are destroyed by war and policies, by disinterest and pity. Mondiant Dogon writes the stories of his community with such candor, compassion, and love that they can never be erased. I know I will never forget them.”—Jessica Goudeau, author of After the Last Border

Own Voices

Migrant and Refugee Support


Andrew Blauner returns to the Westport Library with a new compilation of essays from 27 of today’s leading writers offer wide-ranging original pieces exploring how Thoreau has influenced and inspired them in Now Comes Good Sailing. A prophet of environmentalism and vegetarianism, an abolitionist, and a critic of materialism and technology, Thoreau even seems to have anticipated a world of social distancing in his famous experiment at Walden Pond.

Please register to attend this event either in-person in the Trefz Forum or online. Books are available for purchase.

Lauren Groff retreats from the COVID-19 pandemic to a rural house and writing hut, where, unable to write, she rereads Walden; Pico Iyer describes how Thoreau provided him with an unlikely guidebook to Japan; Gerald Early examines Walden and the Black quest for nature;  Mona Simpson follows in Thoreau’s footsteps at Maine’s Mount Katahdin; Jennifer Finney Boylan reads Thoreau in relation to her experience of coming out as a trans woman; Adam Gopnik traces Thoreau’s influence on the New Yorker editor E. B. White and his book Charlotte’s Web; and there’s much more. The result is a lively and compelling collection that richly demonstrates the countless ways Thoreau continues to move, challenge, and provoke readers today.

Andrew Blauner is a literary agent and the editor of seven previous anthologies, including Coach: 25 Writers Reflect on People Who Made a DifferenceThe Peanuts Papers: Writers and Cartoonists on Charlie Brown, Snoopy & the Gang, and the Meaning of Life, and In Their Lives: Great Writers on Great Beatles Songs.

Zoë Pollak is a doctoral candidate in English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. Her writing has appeared in AGNI and Women’s Studies, and is forthcoming in the Hopkins Review and Sonnets from the American: An Anthology of Poems and Essays.

Jordan Salama is a writer whose essays and stories have appeared in National Geographic, The New York Times, Scientific American and other publications. A graduate of Princeton University, his first book, Every Day the River Changes, a journey down Colombia's Río Magdalena, will be published in November.

Natural World

Open Spaces

Creative Writing

StoryFest 2021 closes with a very special in-person event featuring New York Times bestselling author Mitch Albom launching his newest book. With The Stranger in the Lifeboat, this master storyteller offers a fresh take on themes that have defined his work, in such beloved books as The Five People You Meet in HeavenThe Next Person You Meet in Heaven, and The First Phone Call from Heaven, this “writer with soul” (Los Angeles Times) has taken readers to the celestial realm to seek meaning in our corporeal existence.

Albom’s books have sold more than 45 million copies worldwide. Tuesdays with Morrie is the best-selling memoir of all time, with over 17 million copies sold internationally, and was adapted for the stage and as a television movie which garnered four Emmy Awards. The Five People You Meet in Heaven has sold nearly 10 million copies and also became an acclaimed television film.

Please register and purchase a copy of The Stranger in the Lifeboat. 

Hear how Mary Hiester Reid fought to be a professional artist during the 19th century when Molly Peacock discusses Flower Diary: In Which Mary Hiester Reid Paints, Travels, Marries & Opens a Door with local artist Dale Najarian.

After she married fellow artist George Reid, Mary returned with him to his home country of Canada. There she set about creating over 300 stunning still life and landscape paintings, inhabiting a rich, if sometimes difficult, marriage, coping with a younger rival, exhibiting internationally, and becoming well-reviewed. She studied in Paris, traveled in Spain, and divided her time between Canada and the United States where she lived among America’s Arts and Crafts movement titans. She left slender written records; rather, her art became her diary and Flower Diary unfolds with an artwork for each episode of her life.

Register to attend or order a bookplate signed copy of the book.

Community Partners: Westport Arts Advisory Committee & Westport Artists Collective

Biographer and distinguished poet Molly Peacock is the author of The Paper Garden: Mrs. Delany Begins Her Life’s Work at 72, as well as seven volumes of poetry, including The Analyst: Poems. She is an arts activist and, with a friend, started what became a cultural institution in New York City: Poetry in Motion on the subways and buses. A former Leon Levy Center for Biography Fellow and a dual American/Canadian citizen, Molly divides her time between Toronto and New York City.

Dale Najarian is an internationally recognised artist currently exhibiting her work in the North East including New York City, and most recently in the UK. Najarian began painting in watercolor and over the years experimented with other mediums including acrylics, mixed media, and oils.  She has a passion for photography and documenting her experiences is a huge part of her creative process. Najarian received her BFA from Moore College of Art & Design in Philadelphia and worked as an Art Director at various design firms and advertising agencies in New York City, Philadelphia and Washington DC. Najarian is an advocate and passionate about giving back. She is Events Coordinator for, using the arts to drive the conversation about ending gun violence. She currently serves on the Executive Board of the Artists Collective of Westport and is an active member of the Cultural Alliance of Fairfield County. She served on the Executive and General Board at The Westport Arts Center 2008-2016 while volunteering as a teaching artist at Yale’s Smilow Cancer Center.

As a medical oncologist specializing in gastrointestinal cancers, John Marshall was outspoken in his resentment and envy of the dominance of breast cancer advocacy and research. But then his wife, Liza, was diagnosed at age 43 with a high-risk breast cancer. Meet Liza and John when they discuss their story of how a diagnosis made them look at medicine, healing and marriage with a new lens with Dr. Pamela Kunz, medical oncologist at Yale Cancer Center and Smilow Cancer Hospital.

In Off Our Chests, Liza vividly details her treatment, her feelings of desperation and vulnerability, the complex decisions she had to make from mastectomy to chemotherapy and radiation, and finally the elective removal of her other breast—all experienced in the sometimes uncomfortably public setting of being treated at her husband’s cancer center. John’s experience as a caregiver forces him to rethink everything he has learned and teaches as a leader in cancer care. No longer able to maintain complete objectivity with his own patients, he ultimately exhausts himself trying to provide ideal cancer care for all.

This program can be watched either in the Trefz Forum or from home. Please register. Copies of Off Our Chests are available for purchase prior to and at the event.

Liza Marshall, a retired communications attorney and a graduate of Duke University and the University of Virginia School of Law, left practice in 2005 to channel her skills to cancer support organizations and her family. She helped found Hope Connections for Cancer Support in Bethesda, MD. In 2006 at the age of forty-three, Liza was diagnosed with the most deadly form of breast cancer, triple-negative. She continues to be an active volunteer at Hope Connections, her church, and in her community.

Dr. John Marshall received his training at Duke University, the University of Louisville, and Georgetown University. Dr. Marshall is an internationally recognized expert in new drug development for GI cancer, who has become an outspoken advocate for GI cancer patients and the importance of clinical research participation. In 2009, he established the Otto J Ruesch Center for the Cure of GI Cancers, an organization solely focused on improving the lives of GI cancer patients through innovative research, personalized medicine, and focused advocacy.

Dr. Pamela Kunz is an Associate Professor of Medicine in the Division of Oncology at Yale School of Medicine. She is the Director of the Center for Gastrointestinal (GI) Cancers at Yale Cancer Center and Smilow Cancer Hospital and Vice Chief for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for the Section of Medical Oncology. She received her medical degree from the Dartmouth Geisel School of Medicine. Her postgraduate training included a medical residency, chief residency and oncology fellowship at Stanford University School of Medicine. Dr. Kunz is an international leader in the treatment of patients with GI malignancies and neuroendocrine tumors. Dr. Kunz, her husband, Dr. Jeffrey Kwan, three sons and their goldendoodle moved last year from California and live in Southport, CT.


Women in Medicine

Health Literacy

Scott Gottlieb, MD will discuss how  COVID-19 was too much for the American pandemic preparations and what steps need to be taken to combat the next outbreak with CNN's Alisyn Camerota. As the pandemic unfolded, Gottlieb was in regular contact with all the key players in Congress, the Trump administration, and the drug and diagnostic industries. He provides an inside account of how level after level of American government crumbled as the COVID-19 crisis advanced. A system-wide failure across government institutions left the nation blind to the threat, and unable to mount an effective response.

Uncontrolled Spread: Why COVID-19 Crushed Us and How We Can Defeat the Next Pandemic argues we must fix our systems and prepare for a deadlier coronavirus variant, a flu pandemic, or whatever else nature may threaten us with. Gottlieb outlines policies and investments that are essential to prepare the United States and the world for future threats.

Register to view the event and purchase a signed copy of Uncontrolled Spread. 

SCOTT GOTTLIEB, MD, is a former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration and a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. He is a regular contributor to the business and financial news channel CNBC and the CBS News program Face the Nation. Dr. Gottlieb is a healthcare investing partner at the venture capital firm New Enterprise Associates and a director of Pfizer Inc., and Illumina, Inc. Time magazine has named him one of its “Fifty People Transforming Healthcare,” and Fortune magazine recognized him as one of the “World’s Fifty Greatest Leaders.” Dr. Gottlieb is an internal medicine physician and a member of the National Academy of Medicine..

Alisyn Camerota is a journalist, author, and anchor of CNN’s morning show New Day.  In her three decades in journalism, Camerota has covered stories nationally and internationally, earning an Emmy Award for her breaking news coverage of the arrest of Roger Stone and the prestigious Edward R. Murrow Award for her breaking news coverage of Hurricane Maria’s impact on Puerto Rico. Camerota has also anchored a number of primetime specials, including Tipping Point: Sexual Harassment in America and The Hunting Ground: Sexual Assault on Campus.

Alisyn’s debut novel, Amanda Wakes Up, was selected as one of the best books of the year, and by Oprah Magazine as “a must read.”



Health Literacy

American Government

Author Heather Frimmer introduces her second novel, Better To Trust with book blogger Suzanne Leopold.

Register to attend in person or from home and order a signed copy of BETTER TO TRUST. 

When trust is violated, can it ever be recovered? Alison Jacobs needs brain surgery and places ultimate trust in her sister’s husband, Grant Kaplan, a world-renowned neurosurgeon and expert in treating her condition. But Grant is hiding a dark secret which threatens the outcome: an addiction to prescription pills. As Alison struggles to rebuild her life, Grant’s daughter, Sadie, spends more time with a new friend. Frustrated that her parents exclude her from the conversations about her beloved aunt, Sadie makes increasingly risky choices which could endanger not only her, but her entire family.

Alison is also harboring her own secret—an extramarital affair with a woman. Her close call with mortality spurs her to take a closer look at her marriage, explore her newfound sexuality and figure out what she wants for her future. How will she rebuild her life and move forward? Can she find a way to repair her broken relationship with her only sister? Secrets swirling around drug use and sexual identity must be dealt with in order for the family to learn to trust each other again.

Heather Frimmer is a radiologist specializing in breast and emergency room imaging. Her first novel, Bedside Manners, was published in 2018 and has received several awards including National Indie Excellence, Reader’s Favorite and Independent Press awards. She completed her medical training at Weill-Cornell Medical College, New York Presbyterian-Cornell and Yale New Haven Hospital.

Suzanne Leopold is the creator of which is her website for sharing book reviews. Her platform is active across many social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter where she has accumulated over ten thousand followers. She is also the founder of where she aggregates her community of bloggers across social media platforms to support authors with book launches.

Fiction and Non-Fiction We're Excited About

Get the Right Book for You


Did you know September is Classical Music Month? Explore the musical work and creative process of Arturo Toscanini through the eyes of first violinist, Samuel Antek. His daughter and co-author, Lucy Antek Johnson, will be in conversation with Mary-Lou Weisman about these two men and the powerful impact they made on her life and the world of classical music.

Johnson's new book, This Was Toscanini: The Maestro, My Father and Me, is an expanded edition of her father’s original, intimate, behind-the-scenes musical memoir about his 17 years playing under the baton of the legendary conductor, Arturo Toscanini – once considered the most famous man in the world.

Register to attend in person or online. Books are available for sale!

Samuel Antek's book takes us behind the scenes during hundreds of rehearsals, concerts, tours and often grueling recording sessions as though we’re actually sitting among the players. Illustrated by Robert Hupka’s iconic candid photographs of Toscanini in action, the reader is witness to Toscanini’s painstaking and often explosive process of making beautiful music.

Johnson’s newly written essays introducing her father’s original chapters highlight his own musical rise from first violinist to conductor and musical director of major American orchestras, while sharing her own reflections of what it was like to grow up with such a gifted father and the impact that Toscanini had on their family and her father’s career, creating a remarkable contemporary look into a unique era in classical music history.

Read a review of This Was Toscanini.

Lucy Antek Johnson, Samuel Antek's daughter, was born and raised in New York City. After studying music, fine art, and ballet, she was drawn to the world of television production and spent her entire career in the entertainment industry, working with such producers as Martin Charnin, Harry Belafonte, David Susskind, and Roone Arledge. When she moved to Los Angeles in 1978, she produced movies for television, then joined NBC as a network executive. She soon worked her way up to senior vice president of daytime and children's programs for CBS, a position she held for 14 years. She paints, writes, and every so often gets up the nerve to sit at the piano and play a favorite Bach or Chopin prelude.

Mary-Lou Weisman has written four memoirs (Playing House in Provence, Intensive Care and Traveling While Married); a biography (Al Jaffee's Mad Life); and a bestselling humor book (My Middle-aged Baby Book). As an adjunct professor, she has taught writing, both memoir and personal essay, at The New School, New York University, Manhattanville College, and at both Westport and Norwalk Continuing Education programs.


Arturo Toscanini

Contemporary Classical Music

History of Music

Alexander Lobrano returns to discuss his coming of age memoir with Westport's own Kelle Ruden. My Place At the Table: A Recipe for a Delicious Life in Paris is a moving coming-of-age story of how a gay man emerges from a wounding childhood, discovers himself, and finds love and an insider's guide to thirty of his favorite Paris restaurants.

Registration is open for participating via livestream or in person at the Westport Library. Copies of My Place At the Table are available for ordering and pickup at the Library for those who live nearby or shipping to those further away.

Community Partner: The French Language Conversation Groups of the Westport Library

In this debut memoir, a James Beard Award–winning writer, whose childhood idea of fine dining was Howard Johnson’s, tells how he became one of Paris’s most influential food critics.

Until Alexander Lobrano landed a job in the glamorous Paris office of Women’s Wear Daily, his main experience of French cuisine was the occasional supermarket éclair. An interview with the owner of a renowned cheese shop for his first article nearly proves a disaster because he speaks no French. As he goes on to cover celebrities and couturiers and improves his mastery of the language, he gradually learns what it means to be truly French. He attends a cocktail party with Yves St. Laurent and has dinner with Giorgio Armani. Over a superb lunch, it’s his landlady who ultimately provides him with a lasting touchstone for how to judge food: “you must understand the intentions of the cook.” At the city’s brasseries and bistros, he discovers real French cooking. Through a series of vivid encounters with culinary figures from Paul Bocuse to Julia Child to Ruth Reichl, Lobrano hones his palate and finds his voice. Soon the timid boy from Connecticut is at the epicenter of the Parisian dining revolution and the restaurant critic of one of the largest newspapers in the France. 

Alexander Lobrano writes regularly on food and travel for many publications, including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, and Condé Nast Traveler. He has appeared on CBS Morning News, TODAY, Chef’s Table, and Iron Chef. He lives in Paris.

Kelle Ruden’s career in the book business has included bookstores, publishing and libraries. She served as the Manager and Editor of the Discover Great New Writers program at Barnes & Noble, as Marketing Director at Random House, and as the Program Director at the Westport Library, where she planned and executed over 400 cultural and educational programs each year. Kelle has been leading book discussions for over twenty-five years, including seventeen years spent with the Library’s mystery group, The Usual Suspects. Kelle served 2 terms as a member of the Westport Arts Advisory Committee, appointed by the First Selectman. She is also a passionate traveler and Paris is a favorite destination.

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