The seventh annual Brooklyn Book Festival kicks-off a week of literary events that began on Monday and will culminate in a full day of panels and other programming on September 23 at the Brooklyn Borough Hall and Plaza and nearby venues. This year’s festival will feature more than 280 authors, at least 50 “Bookend” events leading up to the weekend, and show organizers have doubled the comics and graphic novel programming with dedicated panels as well as integrating comics artists throughout the program.
Johnny Temple, publisher of the Brooklyn indie publishing house Akashic Books and chair of the Brooklyn Literary Council, co-organizer of the festival, said this year’s event will be “bigger and better than ever,” with more than 104 panels scheduled. Authors appearing this year range from writers Terry McMillan, Jessica Hagedorn, Pete Hamill, Christopher Hayes, Siri Hustvedt and Paul Auster to cartoonists Adrian Tomine, Carla Speed McNeil, Gilbert & Jaime Hernandez, Jerry Craft, Gabrielle Bell, Derek Kirk Kim and Peter Kuper. In addition, Temple said the BBF will celebrate the anniversary of 50 years of political independence for both Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago—Brooklyn is the home of a huge West Indian population—with literary tributes organized by the Jamaican Calabash Festival and BOCAS, the Trinidadian literary association.
Among the many panels on Sunday are Characters on Characters featuring novelists Walter Mosley, Edwidge Danticat and Dennis Lehane on “unforgettable characters;” Poets Laureate Past and Present with poets Tina Chang, Billy Collins, Ishmael Islam and Philip Levine; and The Royalty of Suspense, with Mary Higgins Clark and Carol Higgins Clark, organized by the Mystery Writers of American New York Chapter. Temple also emphasized that while the center of festival activities is the Brooklyn Borough Hall and Plaza, the BBF is held in “more than a dozen stage” venues within about a block of the Borough Hall. Venues include The Brooklyn Historical Society, St. Ann & The Holy Trinity Church, The Brooklyn Heights Public Library and Brooklyn Law School.
In addition “bookend” events—literary events organized for the week preceding the BBF—have “exploded,” Temple said, with 50 events scheduled in the week before the main festival day opens on Sunday Sept. 23. “Sunday is the big day for programming,” Temple said, “but really it’s become a multi-day festival.” Temple also highlighted the growth in comics and graphic novel programming, “comics programming has doubled under the direction of Meg Lemke,” acquisitions editor at Teachers College Press, and chair of the graphic novel programming committee. “It’s become a very robust area of programming, both dedicated panels and adding comics artists to panels throughout the program because both forms, comics and prose, inspire each other," he said.
Graphic novel programing includes the panels Worlds Built Over Time, featuring cartoonists Carla Speed McNeil, Jaime Hernandez, Adrian Tomine and Gabrielle Bell; The Sex Panel: Taboo in Pictures with Gilbert Hernandez, Leela Corman, Molly Crabapple and Bob Fingerman, moderated by PW comics reviews editor Heidi “The Beat” MacDonald; and Comics by the People: Crowd-funding, Kickstarter, and the Future of Fan-supported Art with Spike, Jamie Taner and Molly Crabapple. In addition this reporter will moderate the panel NYC Inked with Peter Kuper, James Romberger, Colleen Doran and Ron Wimberly; and Comics Quik Draw with Mark Seigel, Derek Kirk Kim and Cherise Mericle Harper.
This year’s show will also have a new app developed by AT &T that will help guide attendees around the festival and Temple said the show will offer a “much better food presence” with a food court in the parking lot area with a variety of vendors and food trucks.
“This festival has matured into one of the world’s premier literary destinations,” Temple said, “attracting renowned authors, publishers of all sizes, muscians, humorists, graphic novelists, and all of the creative forces that make up our eclectic and constantly evolving literary universe.”