The inaugural Everywhere Book Fest took place online May 1–2, reaching more than 43,000 unique viewers from around the world. Organized by authors Melanie Conklin, Ellen Oh, and Christina Soontornvat, the festival was created to bring the joy of children’s books to young readers and their families at home during the pandemic. In addition to directing online sales to 60 independent bookstores that have been affected by the coronavirus crisis, the festival also partnered with We Need Diverse Books to distribute books to schools, libraries, and literacy programs in need across the U.S. We’ve gathered a selection of photo highlights from the event, which featured a number of author panels and interactive sessions.
The festival kicked off with a live welcome from authors and co-founders (top row, from l.) Christina Soontornvat, Melanie Conklin; and (bottom row, from l.) Ellen Oh's daughter Summer, with American Sign Language interpreter Jennye Camin.
“Backstage” with (top row, from l.) Jennifer Baker (Everyday People), Liara Tamani (All the Things We Never Knew), Bethany C. Morrow (A Song Below Water); (bottom row, from l.) Brandy Colbert (The Voting Booth), and ASL interpreter Camin before the “Out of the Box: Exploring the Boundlessness of Black Girlhood” session. The authors offered insight into their storytelling process by sharing personal photos and Spotify playlists that inspire their characters and world-building.
Facing off in an “Illustration Fight to the Death” were picture book artists (top row, from l.) Adam Rex (Unstoppable), Shannon Wright (Twins), Molly Idle (Coral), and (bottom l.) Juana Martinez-Neal (Swashby and the Sea).
Andrew Eliopulos (The Fascinators) (top row, from l.), Isabel Sterling (This Coven Won’t Break), Aiden Thomas (Cemetery Boys), and Anna-Marie McLemore (Dark and Deepest Red) (bottom l.) conjured up a conversation on “Magic in Queer YA.” Thomas said, “The magic in Cemetery Boys is a way for readers to explore queerness and gender and the societal constructs and expectations that we put around that.” McLemore added, “There’s also this literal and figurative magic to community, to queer community.”
The “Black Voices Matter” panel brought together How High the Moon author Karyn Parsons, who played Hilary Banks on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (top row, from l.); author-illustrator Vashti Harrison (Little Legends); National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Jason Reynolds (Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You); and Coretta Scott King Honoree Jewell Parker Rhodes (Black Brother, Black Brother) for a discussion about race and intersectionality. Sharing that he initially found it difficult to take on nonfiction with his young readers adaptation of Dr. Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped, Reynolds said, “In order for me to settle into myself, I had to subvert everything that people thought his book was.”
Diversity was a major emphasis of the festival. One attendee told the organizers after the event, “The wholly glorious takeaway for me was seeing on screen the full beauty of diversity. I watched 18 sessions, and in each one, I found intense pleasure and pride to see such talented people who reflect me. My family’s immigration story. My life in a duality of cultures. People who look like me. People who get me.”
The “Marvel: Heroes of Tomorrow” panel featured (top row, from l.) Marvel editor Lauren Bisom (moderator), author-artist Skottie Young (Strange Academy series), Preeti Chhibber (Orientation: Marvel’s Avenger’s Assembly #1); (bottom row, from l.) Saladin Ahmed (Throne of the Crescent Moon), and Nic Stone (Shuri) with ASL interpreter Brian Truitt.
Authors (top row, from l.) Samira Ahmed (Mad, Bad, & Dangerous to Know), Abigail Hing Wen (Loveboat, Taipei), Gabby Rivera (Juliet Takes a Breath); (bottom row, l.) and Libba Bray (the Diviners series) discussed writing feminist YA, during the “Write #HerStory” session.
YA authors Ismée Williams (This Train Is Being Held) (top l.), I.W. Gregorio (This Is My Brain in Love) (top r.); Mayra Cuevas (Salty, Bitter, Sweet) (bottom l.), and Natalia Sylvester (Running) (bottom r.) answered questions and took on dares from fans (center).
During her closing keynote, William C. Morris Award finalist Nic Stone (Dear Martin; Clean Getaway) spoke about her craft and outlined the essential components of a strong narrative. Stone said, “The whole point of what I am telling you right now is to emphasize the fact that we are all living a story, and that is why story is so important.”
The panels and speeches featured on the festival website and on YouTube will be available to readers, teachers, and parents for a calendar year.