If it's October in New England, than it's time to get your literati on. This Saturday October 24 marks the first Boston Book Festival, held from 10:00 am - 6:00 pm in and around Copley Square. It's free, man. What could be better? Rain or shine (and the weather's leaning more on the rain side--so bring your rubbers). There will be 90 authors and presenters, events, a street fair, music, contests, exhibitions, and book signings.
The line up of authors is damn impressive: John Hodgeman, Elinor Lipman, Anita Diamant, Chris Castellani, Robert Pinsky, Orhan Pamuk (keynote speaker), Ken Burns, Anita Shreve, Iyeoka Ivie Okoawo, Alicia Silverstone (huh?), Richard Russo, Stephen Carter, Andre Dubus III, Ben Mezrich, Tom Perrotta, and many more. Check out the schedule for event times and locations.
At least one event ain't free: Boston Noir Launch. 6-9 at Boston Public Library Rabb Lecture Hall. $15 per ticket, and still available as of this post. "Celebrate the launch of the new fiction collection Boston Noir (Akashic Books) with contributing author and master of the art of noir, editor Dennis Lehane. From Dorchester to Southie and from Beacon Hill to Brookline, Boston Noir features 11 Boston neighborhoods and nearby communities in stories by contributors including Brendan DuBois, Dana Cameron, Jim Fusilli, Lynne Heitman and Russ Aborn, who will attend the launch event. Expect a dynamic, drama-filled presentation." Okay.
Things actually get underway Friday night at Trinity Church where "Robin Young, the host of Here and Now on WBUR, will emcee the evening’s festivities, beginning with Boston Mayor Thomas Menino’s reading of a passage from his favorite book." Then, Livingston Taylor performs and discusses songwriting.
Grub Street is a partner, and as such they are offering some free workshops, including:
- Jumpstart Your Writing (writing exercises with mini-lessons on craft) taught by Grub instructors Stace Budzko and Grace Talusan
- Writer Idol (a chance to get the first page of your book heard and critiqued by a literary agent or editor), judged by agents Esmond Harmsworth, Janet Silver and Eve Bridburg, and editor Helene Atwan
- Guided Open Mic with Hank Phillippi Ryan (a traditional open mic with lessons on how to perform your work). I attended this session when Hank offered it at this year's Muse and the Marketplace. If you ever read your writing in public, this event is a great primer for how to do it right, without putting your audience to sleep.
Wait, that's not all. Starting this Thursday, October 22, and running until November 8, it's the return of the Concord Festival of Books. 18 days, over 40 authors, 22 events. Most events are free. So, unlike the Boston Book Festival which delivers the goods in one day, the Concord festival spreads the love out over two and a half weeks. There will be discussions, readings, and talks. For example, on Monday, October 26th you can catch Larry Tye talking about Satchel: The life and times of an American legend, and Dick Lehr discussing The Fence: A police cover-up along Boston's racial divide. Other authors include Howard Dean (opening day speaker), Chris Bohjalian, Gregory Maguire, Katherine Howe, Jessica Shattuck, Fred Marchant, Mitchell Zuckoff, and lots more.
While this is a Concord, MA-based festival, as in years past some events are held in Lowell, at locations like the Pollard Library, Comley-Lane Theater at UMass, and Wannalancit Mills. A couple years ago Liz and I went to see John Elder Robison and his brother, Augusten Burroughs, speak at UMass as part of the festival. It was a great evening, where the audience heard touching, enlightening, a little horrific, but mostly hilarious stories about Robison's experiences understanding and accepting his Asperger’s Syndrome. Here's Liz getting her book signed afterwards by Augusten:
A big shout out to Rob Mitchell, an all-around great guy who founded the festival in 1993 and still directs the whole she-bang.
Unlike a writer's conference, these book festivals are geared more toward readers and book buyers than to writers. Attending a book festival as a writer, it'll be a relief not to have to worry about getting a manuscript critique or running into an agent I might have had an awkward interaction with last year (I suppose that could still happen...).
I wish the Boston Book Festival a great inaugural event, while also anticipating another successful year for the Concord (and Lowell) Festival of Books.