Participating bookstores deemed NEBA's inaugural 10-day book festival, Read Around New England (RANE), which began just days after the association's trade show closed, and ran from October 4—14, a success. From large stores such as WordsWorth Books in Harvard Square, which hosted Zadie Smith and Garrison Keillor, to Bear Pond Books in Montpelier, Vt., which had an evening with Elinor Lipman, independent bookstores connected books and readers.
According to NEBA past president Donna Urey, who headed the RANE committee, 20% of NEBA's member stores, 80 bookstores in all, hosted events and displayed RANE posters and bookmarks with distinctive art work donated by New England artist Mary Azarian. "Our first-year goal was 60 stores, and we exceeded our goal," Urey told PW. From her perspective as the owner of White Birch Books in North Conway, Vt., she added, "We had two really great events, and we got good local press that played up the whole idea of the festival."
Susan Little, owner of Jabberwocky Bookshop & Café in Newburyport, Mass., had an equally positive response from her community. "Our local paper gave us a nice big article on RANE, and they listed all our events," she said. "We hope that NEBA will continue RANE and grow it. It would be great to have all independents do events during one week."
"What I'm hearing from stores," commented festival coordinator Ginie Thorp, who facilitated author appearances and handled regional publicity, in addition to providing stores with promotional materials and templates for press releases, "is that they achieved solid events and enjoyed that they were part of something bigger." RANE will definitely be back next year, according to Thorp. "There's a long-term commitment. We're planning to do it again with a little fine tuning."
One of the goals that the festival achieved was to encourage booksellers to try new types of events. For instance, The Book Cellar and Collected Works inaugurated the Brattleboro Literary Festival the weekend of October 4—6 as part of RANE. "We talked about the festival last year, when we had an opportunity to get Saul Bellow," said Sandy Rouse, who relocated from Dallas after buying The Book Cellar three years ago. "He got sick and we delayed the event. Then I got the notice about RANE and called some more authors. That was the motivating factor." In addition to Bellow, Galway Kinnell, Malachy McCourt, Chris Bohjalian and Archer Mayer were among the many writers who participated in mystery panels, discussions of fine printing and readings. "It was great," said Rouse. "I got an e-mail from one of the authors that he immediately contacted Random House and said that Brattleboro should be on his tour."
On Martha's Vineyard, Bunch of Grapes joined together with the libraries on the island to create a one-book/one-island program around John Casey's Spartina (Vintage) and, for younger readers, Louis Sachar's Holes (Dell/Yearling). "Everything worked out so well," said events coordinator Ann Bassett, "that we're hoping to make this an annual event. What RANE gave us was the structure, the format. The minute we tied this in with RANE, there were 10 days, which incorporated two Fridays and a holiday." Bunch of Grapes brought John Casey to the island and, with the libraries, sponsored an improvisational performance based on Holes by a local theater group, boat-yard tours and knot-tying presentations.
For Urey, this year's festival got RANE off to a solid start. "I'm really happy we got as far as we got this year. You take one year and build on it," she said. She and other members of the NEBA board will soon begin planning for RANE 2003.