Exploring the 2014 Brooklyn Book Festival


Last weekend, I went to bookworm heaven, a.k.a. The Brooklyn Book Festival, the largest free literary event in NYC.



The festival took over Brooklyn’s Borough Hall with dozens of free panels and countless booths representing indie presses, lit mags, and bookstores. One of my coworkers called it “BEA for indies,” and I think that’s an apt description.



Now, the only question was what to do? Buy some cool books? Have a book signed by one of the authors in attendance? Check out the panels? Let’s be honest: In order to take advantage of everything the festival had to offer, you’d have to have a time turner.


Though I don’t have Hermione Granger-like powers, I was able to sample the fest’s many activities. Here’s how I spent my time:




Scoping out the booths
The annual festival is geared toward both writers and readers, so there was plenty to look at, from bookish clothes, to information about different writers’ associations, to cool small presses and lit mags like Brooklyn’s own One Story (pictured left).




Spotting famous authors


Author panels ranged from the literary (“Poets Laureate Past and Present,” featuring Rita Dove and Marie Howe, the practical (“How to Write about a City”), the titillating (“Sex, Love, and Poetry”) and the just-plain-awesome (“Welcome to Fantasy Island,” featuring Scott Westerfeld and others.) There were so many authors wandering around that you couldn’t help spotting a few in the crowd…


Well, maybe I was too busy browsing the booths and drooling over cool literary t-shirts to run into any authors myself. But I did find Waldo!



Checking out the panels



One of the panels I attended was called “I Love You. The End,” featuring Jenny Han, Siobhan Vivian, and Bennett Madison, and moderated by Ann Brashares.


The authors discussed writing about love (and the special intensity of first love), why YA has become so hot (two words: Harry Potter), and their writing process (fun fact: Siobhan Vivian’s a plotter, and Jenny Han’s more of a pantser.)


Also, the authors shared the first romance novels (or stories with romantic elements) that they fell in love with:


Jenny Han: Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Siobhan Vivian: Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
Bennett Madison: Baby Be-Bop by Francesca Lia Block


Ah, first book love. What were your first favorite romances?


People (and tote bag) watching


It is a truth universally acknowledged that a person who is in possession of a good number of books must be in want of a tote bag. While wandering the aisles of the festival and observing my fellow book nerds, I decided to play a game to see how many cool literary tote bags I could find. And let me tell you, the bookworms of Brooklyn brought their tote bag A game. Here are a few of my favorites.

Of course, Book Festival totes abounded.













Bonus points if you can name the short story this quote is from. (Hint: The author’s famous for a very long work of classic American fiction.)














I love the design of this tote, with the fun, stacked letters. A lot of other people agreed with me—this tote popped up a lot at the fest.














My, what a nice tote.














“A house without books is like a room without windows.” —Henry Ward Beecher.














This one was my favorite. A cool drawing of Poe + a fun literary pun = bliss.














So there you have it—how one bookworm geeked out at the festival. Did anyone else make it to the Brooklyn Book Festival this year? We’d love to hear what you thought of it!

For those of you who don’t live in the NYC metro area, don’t despair. You can still get your book festival fix at one of the many literary events in the U.S. Here are a few upcoming book festivals:



Have any of you ever been to a book festival? Are any local book festivals on your calendar? If you do attend a local festival, we’d love to see your pics—share them with us @SwoonReads on Twitter.

Author spotlight

Christine Barcellona

Editor / I blog and edit for Swoon Reads, plus I'm the editor for our paperback line, Square Fish. Find …

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