Bay Area book lovers have a new reason to celebrate. The first-ever Bay Area Book Festival, a free festival open to the public, will take place next year, on June 6-7, in downtown Berkeley. To drum up support for the event, organizers have launched an Indiegogo campaign timed to the #GivingTuesday, a global day dedicated to giving back to the community.
Cherilyn Parsons, founder and executive director of the festival, got the idea when she moved to the Bay Area six years ago. “I noticed that unlike other cities around the world, the Bay Area, despite being a literary mecca, didn’t have a big, public, weekend free book festival. So I decided to try to do something about that.”
The Indiegogo campaign, which is looking to raise $50,000, launched today (December 2), and organizers are hoping that, by timing it to #GivingTuesday, it will provide a refreshing antidote to the frenzy of Cyber Monday and the bleak consumerism of Black Friday.
While the Bay Area does have the annual literary festival Litquake, the Bay Area Book Festival will differ in that it’s entirely free, and takes place over the course of a single weekend in a half-square mile in downtown Berkeley. “The city of Berkeley is cordoning off a half-square mile for this festival, making it entirely walkable, and very family friendly,” said Parsons.
For two days, the area will be filled with exhibitors and around 150 authors from around the world, including include Sherman Alexie, Neil Gaiman, Daniel Handler, Pico Ayer, Yiyun Li, Michael Pollan, Jeff Chang, Luis Alberto Urrea, Ayelet Waldman, Michael Chabon, Vikram Chandra, Andre Dubus III, and Maxine Hong Kingston. With over 100,000 expected visitors, the festival will feature book booths, a cooking stage, panel discussions, presentations, a film and literature festival, and a large focus on children’s literature, including a children’s arena and storytelling stage.
Half Price Books, is planning to donate a free book for every child under 12. The festival is also partnering with the East Bay Children’s Book Project, and working with dozens of schools, libraries and organizations to help bring kids, particularly from underserved communities, to the festival.
“The vision for the Bay Area Book Festival is ambitious: a big, busy, public and entirely free street festival of the sort I’ve enjoyed so much in Los Angeles, Miami, and Brooklyn,” said Ethan Nosowsky, editorial director at Graywolf Press and one of the festival’s literary advisers. “Its aim is to celebrate the readers, writers, and books, that shape one of the most vibrant literary communities in the country."
Parsons also noted that the festival will honor readers with a more digital leaning. “The Bay Area is unique because it’s both a literary mecca and the global capital of digital innovation,” said Parsons. “We are celebrating the digital revolution in publishing by hosting panels on new digital publishing platforms, working with Twitter, featuring authors from the tech industry, and even Skyping in authors.”
While the Bay Area Book Festival is a nonprofit organization, receiving some financial support from corporations, publishers, and foundations, Parsons noted that the great majority of support comes from individuals, “particularly in the first year, when we are demonstrating to major funders what this festival can be.”