Our Voice: Mid-Columbia LitFest celebrates three Northwest authors this week opens today in Richland

It's prime time for book lovers in the Tri-Cities.

The Mid-Columbia Literary Festival opens today. The format is a bit different this year, concentrating most of the activities into an event called Three Days in May, which runs through Thursday.

The new format is a good idea and will likely help with attendance by creating some urgency and new energy. LitFest readings by featured authors were strung out over several months in past years.

Tonight's reading is by Benton City author Maureen McQuerry. She writes books for teens and adults, and her recent novel The Peculiars has garnered several awards in the best young adult category.

Here's what the Booklist Starred Review had to say about the book: "McQuerry offers a brooding Northwest setting touched by steampunk elements to tell a story that is in equal parts inventive fantasy, light romance and thrilling adventure. Underneath it all runs the current of Lena's questionable lineage, and what she must do to live with the answers. With a backdrop as strong as its heroine, this one is a page-turner."

Wednesday's selected reading is by poet and nonfiction writer Gwedolyn Cash James of Spokane. She's the fifth generation of her family to call Eastern Washington home. Her work has appeared in several magazines and journals.

In the first poem of Acts of Contrition -- her short book in the first volume of the Lost Horse Press New Poets Series -- the first line is "Today I'm going to lie about everything." It's hard not to be intrigued by an opener like that.

James will be reading a new poem, a literary response to a piece of music that festival spokesman Bill McKay and his son will be performing on piano and flugelhorn before the reading.

In fact, McKay and his family will perform a short concert each night of LitFest, adding a new element to the event. Music became possible with the move to the Richland Public Library and the use of its grand piano.

The final night's reading will be by Jim Lynch of Olympia. His book Border Songs won the 2009 Washington State Book Award for fiction, and The Highest Tide, released in 2006, won the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award and was an international bestseller.

The New York Times' Janet Maslin chose Lynch's third novel, Truth Like the Sun, as one of her Top 10 favorites of 2012.

"Gimmick-free and uncategorizable, this is just a flat-out great read with the spirit of a propulsive, character-driven 1970s movie," Maslin wrote. "Drawing on the history of the 1962 World's Fair and its Space Needle, Mr. Lynch pairs unlikely antagonists: an old-school political fixer blessed with immense charm, and an overeager newspaperwoman whose research, done in 2001, has the power to destroy him."

Each reading begins at 7 p.m. at the Richland Public Library on Northgate Drive and is free to the public.

One more LitFest event will take place June 4 at Bookwalter Winery in Richland. Six to eight book lovers will talk about must-read books at the About the Book event. Bookwalter will have spirits and appetizers available for purchase. This event will be outside, weather permitting.

For those of you looking to add to your reading list, LitFest will surely do the trick.

For more information, go to tinyurl.com/MC-LitFest.