Today was the 3rd annual Boston Book Festival. I'm not sure how I missed this the last two years, but you can bet I'll be there again next year! It's like a huge literary conference and book sale and it's FREE. Amazing! And these are not little-known authors, they are big names. The kid's keynote speaker was Mo Willems and tonight's keynote is Michael Ondaatje. Other authors in attendance include Jennifer Egan, Mitchell Zuckoff, Andre Dubus III, Julia Alvarez, Gregory Maguire, Karen Russell, Richard Russo and many many others. Not to mention several WBUR personalities including Tom Ashbrook, Robin Young, and Christopher Lydon (no longer on WBUR, but I have very fond memories of listening to The Connection every single day.)
I started my day by attending Steampunk, hosted by my former co-worker, the always funkily-dressed Maya Escobar. The panel included Kelly Link and Gavin Grant, who co-edited a steampunk anthology, artist/creator Allison DeBlasio, and young adult author Holly Black. I have heard many wonderful things about Black and she was just lovely in person (as were all the panelists). In an effort to define the genre, Holly Black said "Steampunk is what happens when goths discover brown." Clever!
The next session I attended was YA Fiction: On the Edge. Amy Pattee from Simmons, who I've enjoyed as a presenter at NELA, was moderator. Ellen Levine wrote a novel called In Trouble, set in the 1950s, which was rejected by many publishers because one of the characters has an abortion. Daniel Nayeri recently wrote a collection of novellas on his iphone, and was a great speaker with a fascinating background. Danica Novgorodoff shared excerpts from her graphic novel Refresh, Refresh, a coming-of-age story about teenage boys in Bend, Oregon whose fathers are fighting in Iraq. This was a very well-balanced panel of authors who did very different work that is edge in different ways.
After standing in line for over a half hour for what was, thankfully, a fantastic sandwich from Roxy's Grilled Cheese truck, I was late arriving at Fiction: Truth and Consequences and had to sit in the overflow room. Unfortunately the screen was set up in such a way that only the first few rows could actually see the panelists. It was again a great group. Ha Jin spoke about his new book Nanjing Requiem. Jennifer Haigh, author of The Condition (link is to my review), spoke about her newest novel, Faith. Last but not least, Vanessa Diffenbaugh,whose first novel The Language of Flowers is getting lots of buzz, spoke about being a foster parent and about the Victorian flower-based code, both of which are fascinating subjects and really made me want to read her novel.
It was so fantastic to go to an event that was all about books, and just swarming with people who love books enough to spend their Saturday listening to people talk about them. It was inspiring and now I have even more books on my list waiting to be devoured. So now you'll have to excuse me, I'm going to go read!
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