Once a year at the beginning of October, literary chaos in the form of vendors, publishing houses, entrepreneurial writers and slam poets make their way to Collingswood, NJ for a day of writing, reading and book selling. The last two years, rain has plagued the festival but has never fully managed to stop the excitement. Droves of book nerds brave the rain and wind no matter the weather. This last observation continuously astonishes me and makes me ultimately wonder: What do book festivals do for writers and readers? What do they do for communities as a whole? In other words, why do book festivals matter? This article is a response to that question.
- They support local artists and businesses
Book festivals are for everyone! The truth of this fact arrives every year as I see the anthropology professor scramble up to the front of the room to read the poem he’s been working on in between classes to the mother introducing her child to literature with a shiny, new book personally signed by the author. Of course, there are always the showstoppers; the big time authors who attract lines of 30-40 eager fans. However, I find that the most exciting conversations often happen at the various vendor stations between the local businesses and the potential customers. I, for instance, had a wonderful conversation with Nicoline Evans who explained the development process for her children’s book Blue Spots. Not only was I impressed with her entrepreneurial savvy (she found her amazing illustrator on Pinterest of all places!), I was excited as a writer to talk about the thing I love the most: books and writing! Book festivals create community by encouraging great conversations!
- They support local readers
Here, at Apeiron Review, we LOVE Philadelphia. The city is a great place to meet people and attend all types of arts and cultural events. However, we realize that sometimes a weekly trek to the city might not be as reasonable for a lot of people. This is where the importance of small town literary culture comes in! Towns like Collingswood have created bustling arts and cultural scenes where the community can have constant exposure to new books, plays, visual art presentations, etc. This is important as it keeps interest in the arts alive!
- They foster a love for reading in children
As a young book nerd, the week that the Scholastic Book Fair arrived was my favorite time of the school year. My parents would send me to school with a crisp, twenty dollar bill and I would browse through the aisles making important decisions. This one or that one, hard back or paper back and the most important question- was it small enough to hide under my desk during class? This youthful, unquenchable desire for reading is now one of my favorite things about book festivals. There are full rooms dedicated to children’s books and presentations, and all over the festival children sit in corners with their parents sounding out words and excitedly pull their parents to different vendor tables. What excites me about these young readers is they that will grow into bookish patrons, thus allowing great literature to thrive on far into the future!
Books have always been starters of conversation and debate, friendship and rivalry, and with the help of book festivals they will continue to frustrate, startle, excite, and bring together readers of all kinds.
By: Tiara DeGuzman