If you don’t like the nominees for National Book Awards when they are announced Wednesday, you will have the chance to voice your opinion to the person in charge.

Lisa Lucas, executive director of the National Book Foundation, which administers the awards, will be in Portland on Thursday in a conversation with Portland writer Michael Paterniti. National Book Awards finalists will be announced the day before.

Lucas’ talk will be at the Maine Girls Academy on Stevens Avenue, presented by Portland Public Library and Longfellow Books. Her visit to Portland is part of a larger outreach effort to connect with readers and communities that read, she said in a phone interview.

“We are a national organization, and that means having relationships with people and organizations around the country who are interested in all things literary,” she said. “One of the things I talk about the most is how important literature is to us. Sometimes we just forget. We talk about movies all the time, we talk about TV all the time, and I think it’s important to say out loud all the way, literature is culturally vital to all of our lives. I like to talk about how to ‘de-snob’ that word literature. At the end of the day, we are still talking about books. As long as you read, they are there for you.”

The National Book Awards celebrate the best of American literature, with a goal of expanding audiences and enhancing the cultural value of writing. Award winners are chosen in many categories and age groups.

Lisa Lucas, executive director of the National Book Foundation, will be at the Maine Girls Academy on Thursday. Photo by Beowulf Sheehan

Paterniti, who will lead the conversation, was a 2015 National Book Award nominee for his collection of essays “Love and Other Ways of Dying.”

Before joining the National Book Foundation, Lucas was publisher of Guernica, a nonprofit online magazine, and also worked as director of education at the Tribeca Film Institute, on the development team at Steppenwolf Theatre Company and as a consultant for the Sundance Institute. She also serves on the literary council of the Brooklyn Book Festival.

The National Book Awards are important because they are a chance to recognize the best of American writing, she said. “It is important to shine a light not just on a book or 20 finalist books or 40 ‘longlist’ books, but it’s important to celebrate this whole community,” she said.

Winners of National Book Awards will be announced Nov. 15.

Her talk is part of the Spotlight Series, a collaboration among the Portland Public Library, Longfellow Books and the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance.

Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: pphbkeyes

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