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NYC Bookternet IRL: Brooklyn Book Festival

On Sunday, my roommate Katie and I went to the 9th Annual Brooklyn Book Festival, which was our first book festival ever. We knew there was no way I’d be able to do everything on my to-do list, but also we knew I’d have to give it my best shot.

The numbers weren’t on our side, a fact that I blame largely on the deficiencies of time travel research. We had 8 hours – minus breaks for the bathroom, coffee, and food – to visit approximately 930 booths and attend almost 100 events at the 9 venues offered at Brooklyn Borough Hall and Brooklyn Plaza.

We knew going in that we’d have to pick and choose the events we cared about the most, since there were 10 going on at any given hour. Plus, we had to make time to visit as many booths as we could in addition to seeing authors.

It was hard to choose. The line-up was strong this year.  Some of the big name authors included Salman Rushdie, Joyce Carol Oates, Zadie Smith, Roxane Gay, James McBride, Phil Klay, Lev Grossman, Scott Westerfield, and Anne Brashares –just to name a few.

While in Booklyn (puns!), Katie and I wandered, which is probably the best part of the day.  Looking around, our initial thoughts were, “This is like the Scholastic Book Fairs of our childhood, but for adults!” and “How do we know where to go?”

Some of the day's goodies

Some of the day’s spoils.

The answer: just do what feels right.

What felt right to us, you might ask? Buying books, signing up for a few subscription lists, buying book-nerd shirts: mine a jersey that says Darcy on the back, hers a drawing of Walt Whitman with the words “Walt’s With Me” underneath (more puns!). We also posed with “This is Where I Leave You” movie paraphernalia for the sake of getting a free XL shirt and coffee mug, spun the Audiobook wheel of fortune for prizes, bought books, and found Waldo.

Waldo Sighting

Waldo sighting.

The line for "This Woman's Work" panel.

The line for “This Woman’s Work” panel.













We decided to check out the panels after making a few rounds of the festival area. Our first attempt at seeing some authors speak was the “This Woman’s Work” panel featuring Roxane Gay, Kiese Laymon, and Leslie Jamison and moderated by Jennifer Baumgardner of Feminist Press. Unfortunately, arriving at 1:45pm for a 2pm event meant walking to the end of a line that extended three blocks only to be met with a sign saying “This session has reached capacity.” This is what heartbreak feels like for book nerds. We were better prepared for our next attempt.  We arrived at 2:55pm for the 3:30pm “Influence of the Real” panel featuring Joyce Carol Oates, Francine Prose, and Paul Auster and moderated by Hirsh Sawhney in St. Anne and the Holy Trinity Church.  Listening to the echoes of a reading in a church is somehow more poignant and Joyce Carol Oates’ reading from her story “Lovely, Dark, Deep,” a fictional interview of Robert Frost, was beautiful.

"Welcome to Fantasy Island" panel

“Welcome to Fantasy Island” panel

"Influence of the Real" panel

“Influence of the Real” panel













After the “Influence of the Real” panel, We had just enough time to sign up for one more subscription and then to find seats for the “Welcome to Fantasy Island” panel featuring Scott Westerfield, C. J. Farley, and Cara Lynn Shultz at the outdoor Youth Pavilion. The authors of this panel spent their time discussing how to create believable worlds. The moderator allowed for more Q&A time, which Katie and I found more engaging than listening to authors reading excerpts and only answering one question each, as they did at “Influence of the Real.”

Most of the stalls were starting to break down around the middle of “Welcome to Fantasy Island,” so Katie and I took that as our cue to leave. On our way back, we couldn’t stop raving about how great it was to hear what authors had to say about their creative processes, to see so many people interested in reading, and to have the opportunity to learn more about ways to get involved in literary groups around New York City. Our only disappointment was that we weren’t able to see more panels. By the time we got to the Upper East Side, we were ready for dinner and some light reading of new purchases before bed.

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