The following is a guest post from Production Assistant Taylor Pitts on this September’s Brooklyn Book Festival.
The only thing better than being surrounded by books is being surrounded by fellow book lovers—and where better to experience this than at the annual Brooklyn Book Festival?
Sunday, September 18th was my first time attending the Festival. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’d been to book events back home in Kansas City, MO, and they left something to be desired. Here, I figured there would be a couple of booths and a modest crowd. After all, the industry is shrinking, and who still reads, anyway? I prepared myself for disappointment.
So I was pretty surprised when I showed up to waves of people—all of them perfectly happy to take time out of their lazy Sunday afternoons to stop by a few booths spreading the word about small and big presses alike or to attend one of the many, many panels offered throughout the day.
When I say “a few booths,” what I really mean is a few hundred booths. I work in publishing. I like to think I have a pretty good idea of who’s out there playing the game. But I have to admit: I had no idea so many publishing houses, literary magazines, and agencies even existed. This festival was eye-opening for me because not only did I get to see how many people still enjoy reading books, but I also got to see just how many people make up the book business itself. Yes, it’s an ever-shrinking industry—but it might not be quite as small as you think.
YPG volunteers, from left to right: Elizabeth Stranahan (PRH), Taylor Pitts (AMACOM), Emma Kantor (Children’s Book Council), and Grace Rosean (Macmillan.) Says Taylor: “We did not plan the stripes.”
I had the opportunity to volunteer at the Young to Publishing (YPG) booth, which also represented the Association of American Publishers (AAP). Young to Publishing is a fantastic organization–you can read more about it here: http://youngtopublishing.com/
When someone seemed interested in our booth, we asked them if they’ve ever considered a career in publishing. And many of them answered with a resounding, “Yes, actually! How do I get into something like that?” It was fun to see just how many people are passionate about the book industry, and it was nice to be in the position to actually give the advice rather than take it (though, let’s be honest, I still ask for advice all the time). In addition to giving tips, we also handed out flyers for the Get Caught Reading program, sponsored by AAP, and we had a craft area set up where kids could color their own bookmarks.
Outside of volunteering at the booth, I did get a chance to attend a panel. It wasn’t the one I had hoped to see—Margaret Atwood’s talk was at full capacity after I stood in line for all of five minutes—but I’m really glad I went. The panel was called Obsessively Funny, and it featured bestselling authors like Jesse Andrews (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl) and Goldy Moldavsky (Kill the Boy Band). Humor in YA is something I’d always been curious about (i.e., How do you market it? Is there a big niche for humorous YA? What about YA that has humor but doesn’t focus on it?), and the authors were able to answer my questions and make me double over in laughter at the same time. So, while it wasn’t Margaret Atwood speaking about her venture into graphic novels, the panel was entertaining and informative, and I’d do it all again the same way.
The Brooklyn Book Festival of 2016 was a success. I can’t wait for next year’s!