The fourth annual Maine Festival of the Book will take place Friday through Sunday, April 9 through 11, with a full day of free programs Saturday at the University of Southern Maine’s Abromson Center. Programs are unticketed, with the exception of Opening Night: An Evening with Tess Gerritsen and Anita Shreve on Friday evening at USM.

The festival is designed to appeal to readers with a range of interests and gives the public the chance to learn what goes on behind the scenes when producing a book. The festival is presented by the nonprofit Maine Reads, in collaboration with organizations statewide; First Lady Karen M. Baldacci is the event’s chairwoman.

The festival’s goal is to encourage a dialogue between authors and readers through programs. Many of the programs will feature two authors engaged in a discussion that captures an aspect of their writing; the subjects may include memoir, biography, gardening, architecture and fiction writing. Question and answer periods, as well as book signings, follow.

For Opening Night, Shreve will read from her work and Gerritsen will talk about how she created her two most popular heroines, Jane Rizzoli and Maura Isles, who will be translated into an upcoming TV series.

Shreve began writing fiction while working as a high school teacher. She became a journalist and spent three years in Kenya, writing articles that appeared in magazines such as Quest, US and Newsweek. When she published her first novel, she began to write fiction full-time and since has published 14 more novels. In 1998, Shreve received the PEN/L. L. Winship Award and the New England Book Award for fiction.  Her novel “The Pilot’s Wife” was selected by the Oprah’s Book Club in 1999 and a movie has been adapted from “The Weight of Water.”

Gerritsen, who lives in Camden, attended medical school at the University of California, San Francisco. While on maternity leave from her work as a physician, she began to write fiction. In 1987, her first novel, “Call After Midnight,” was published. Gerritsen’s first medical thriller, “Harvest,” was released in hardcover in 1996, and it marked her debut on the New York Times bestseller list. She has written a total of 22 novels, and her books have been top-five bestsellers in the United States and abroad. She has won both the Nero Wolfe Award (for “Vanish”) and the Rita Award (for “The Surgeon”).

The festival will offer free readings and discussions for a range of audiences from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Programs will run concurrently for approximately an hour each, giving attendees the opportunity to spend a day immersed in new literature and meeting some of their favorite authors while moving from programs ranging from biography, to writing novels to gardening and historic preservation.

From noon to 2 p.m. on Saturday, there will be Book Signing Bonanza presented by Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance, featuring more than 20 authors including Monica Wood, Cynthia Lord, Julia Spencer-Fleming and Betsy Sholl. Additional programs will be presented Saturday and Sunday evenings at various Portland locations. A complete schedule is available at mainereads.org.

VillageSoup Art/Entertainment Editor Dagney Ernest can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by e-mail to dernest@villagesoup.com.