Monday, September 19, 2011

ROSEMARY HARRIS: 'Tis the season. I know a lot of us have just returned from Bouchercon, the annual capo di tutti capi of mystery conferences - and I have too. But I left St. Louis a day early for the Brooklyn Book Festival.

In my never-ending quest to go - as my husband puts it - wherever two or more are gathered to talk about my books and meet readers I've discovered book festivals.

When I was younger the only one I had ever attended was New York is Book Country and as I recall it was kind of weird because they didn't sell books. If I'm not mistaken publishers had booths and you could LEARN about the books but you'd have to buy them somewhere else. Oh my how things have changed. NYIBC went away for a few years - probably while publishing execs had meetings to figure out that maybe they should sell books and I didn't attend another until the Virginia Festival of the Book in 2008. VA Book takes over Charlottesville for close to a week and they have a series of panels and talks they call Crime Wave which I've been fortunate enough to participate in.

At VABook I met a woman who recommended the Decatur Book Festival outside of Atlanta. Went with Meredith Cole. Loved it.

Every year I've added at least one book festival to my schedule. It isn't that I don't love the mystery cons but at general book festivals and fairs you get to meet so many different people - poets, biographers, historians. It's kind of cool. And you're not - ahem - one of 500 authors all writing in the same genre.

Two years ago I found out about the Collingswood Book Festival in C'wood NJ and I'll be returning on Saturday, October 1 with other members of MWA's NY Chapter. Collingswood is a small, lovely town just outside of Philadelphia (oh, yeah..did that one too this year.)I know it's not just about selling books but dang if I didn't sell 5 times the number of books there than I did at the previous mystery conference.

So what's your favorite book festival?

RHYS BOWEN: Book festivals are something I plan to do more and more. My thinking is that most people in the mystery world already know me and this is a great way to meet new readers. I attend the LA Times Festival of the Book every year when it doesn't clash with Malice Domestic, but it is huge and all the biggest names in the literary sphere show up. I remember looking at the next book from us and there was Ray Bradbury. I mean, Ray Bradbury. I never thought he was a real breathing human being. Awe-struck. So I think my favorite festival so far is the Virginia Festival of the book. Great small town atmosphere and lots of panels to give writers good exposure to their readers. Next year I'll have a November book out and plan to attend several such fairs. Any suggestions?

JAN BROGAN - I'm not the conference or book festival mavens that you guys are, but I will say one of the best times I ever had was at the Kerrytown Book Festival in Ann Arbor. I think a large part of that has to do with the awesome planning put in by Aunt Agatha's Bookstore in Ann Arbor -- and how terrific bookstore owners Robin Agnew and her husband Jamie are. I met great people and great readers.

HALLIE EPHRON: I love love love book festivals. And so in awe of Rosemary's connectedness with book and library festivals. The one I want to get to is the Virginia Festival of the Book. Yoo hoo! Hope they'll invite me one day.

But by far my favorite events are writing conferences. Willamette Writers in Portland, OR. Surrey International Writers Conference in Vancouver, Canada. The Writers Digest writing conferences wherever they are. Penn Writers. The wonderful Mad Anthony writers conference in Hamilton Ohio ("The City of Sculpture"). Aspen Writers was my capo di tutto whatever. And now I'm looking forward to Antioch Writers.

LUCY BURDETTE: First of all, may I say how sad I am to miss Bouchercon? It's sprawling, exhausting, intimidating...but so much of the mystery community gets together for the party--I miss it! I have hardly attended any book festivals, other than the New York is Book Country back in the day when there were no books. Hmmm. I'd like to visit some of these others, but it's so darned hard to figure out where to spend money and time! I AM looking forward to the Midwinter American Library Association conference in Dallas--thanks to Ro, our intrepid library maven!

ROSEMARY: Brooklyn Book Festival was great! Lots of great authors and thousands of wonderful readers. Can't wait to do it again next year! Meet us at the fair...


  1. Hallie, I was only at B'con on Friday. Looked for you, but no joy. Attended some wonderful panels, though.

    Has anyone been to the Tucson book festival? I happened to be in Arizona this past winter while it was going on, so my friend and I drove down to the festival, which takes place on the U of AZ campus, and is mostly outdoors. Fabulous.

  2. I've heard great things about the Tucson Book Festival but the timing wasn't right for me this year. Hope to go one day!

  3. I'm with Hallie, love, love, loving book festivals. So thought I should add Wisconsin's long-running fest as well.
    Wisconsin Book Festival, October 10-23, Madison, Wisconsin. Here's the link to their page of year-long events, too.
    Hope to see you all there!

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  5. Not sure why, but the link keeps getting cut short
    so I'll leave off the http beginning.

  6. Oh, if you haven't heard of Wordstock in Portland, Oregon, it's fabulous. It's the ultimate book festival, and it's coming up in just a few weeks!

  7. How smart, wise and full of good taste you are, Jan Brogan, to appreciate the Kerrytown Book Fest, Aunt Agatha's and Robin. It's probably smaller than many book fairs, but such a variety of authors and activities.

  8. I know I'm a day late--excuses to all, but it's down to Bouchercon. Going to Bouchercon is like disappearing into a void for four days.

    I love book festivals and library events. If you get invited to either Bookmania in Stuart, FL, or Literary Feast, which supports Broward County but I think this year is being held near Orlando, GO.

    My favorite conference ever is the Book Passage Mystery Conference in Corte Madera, CA. Highly recommended to anyone asked to be on the faculty, and a terrific opportunity for aspiring writers.

    And I'm so looking forward to ALA in Dallas. My town! And my JR peeps are coming!!!!

  9. Oh, thank you, Rhys Bowen, for the Vrginia Festival of the Book (NO longer known as VABook). We loved hosting you and Julia Spencer-Fleming the same year.