Helen Geckle / Gavel Media

Boston Book Festival Celebrates Local Writers

This past Saturday, October 29, 2022, marked the 14th annual Boston Book Festival, returning after two years of virtual programming. Held in Copley Square, the Festival was free and open to the public, attracting hundreds of curious visitors and enthusiastic book lovers. Authors, vendors, and sponsors for the Festival all gathered to celebrate the Festival’s dedication to the culture of reading and ideas in the vibrant city of Boston.

Around 200 authors were present starting from the event kickoff on Friday evening and throughout Saturday, many of them local. Their areas of interest and expertise ranged from stories over the pandemic, personal memoirs, science fiction, and more. This year’s keynote speaker was Patrick Radden Keefe, a journalist and author of New York Times bestsellers Say Nothing and Empire of Pain. Also a Boston native, he recently released his new book, Rogues: True Stories of Grifters, Killers, Rebels and Crooks. Workshops and speaking events included a poetry reading from 2021 Mass Book Award Winners Peter Gizzi, Gail Mazur, Enzo Silon Surin, and Karolina Zapal. For younger children was a story time by Ekua Holmes, a Lebanese-American author and illustrator who read from her latest release Hope Is an Arrow. The local author fiction reading panelists were those who were based in Greater Boston, including Rita Zoey Chin who has teaching experience at the local writing center, GrubStreet. There were also presentations of comics, poetry and prose workshops, and mystery and horror readings, creating a fitting mood for Halloween.

There were also booths set up by various universities in the area as their student press organizations displayed and sold student publications. This included Emerson University, Harvard University Press, MIT Press Bookstore, and Simmons University. Other vendors included local bookstores such as Brattle Book Shop, Usborne Books & More, and Barefoot Books. A string of people continued to stop by at a stand and browse titles where used books were sold for five dollars or less. Street vendors and performers on the Berklee Festival Stage accompanied the crowd with the fragrance of delectables and music. 

Some notable exhibits were “Boston in 100 Words” and “She Writes Press.” Boston in 100 Words is an annual community-based fiction writing contest. The contest is open for anyone living, working, or going to school in Boston and the surrounding area. The stories must be 100 words or less and about Boston. Winning entries are decided by local authors, and the winners’ stories are illustrated and displayed on digital screens and posters throughout the city, bringing together Bostonians’ culture and diversity through the power of storytelling. The exhibit had small prints of last year’s winning entries: the winners’ ages ranged from as young as 13 to 51.  She Writes Press is a female-run independent publisher for women writers. It was a recipient of the 2019 Independent Publisher of the Year, and is acknowledged as a platform that uplifts women writers in a competitive field for aspiring writers. Some of the authors at the “She Writes Press” exhibit were Melissa Norton Carro with her book Mt. Moriah’s Wake, Deborah K. Shepherd and her book So Happy Together, and Sharon Dukett with her memoir No Rules. These organizations’ participation in the Festival amplified the often unseen diversity of the literary community. The Festival highlighted the fact that writing can be a profession or a hobby, and can be pursued by anyone.

The Boston Book Festival is a central component to the rich and bookish history of the city. The Festival is a founding partner of Boston's Literary Cultural District alongside the Boston Public Library and other literary groups. It celebrates the power of words and modern day contributions of Boston. The Greater Boston area is home to 54 colleges and universities, with Harvard University in Cambridge being the oldest college in the country. With over 250,000 students living in Greater Boston and the city continuing to attract young people, the Boston Book Festival is a testament to the universal acknowledgment that Boston is a global center for higher education. Still, appreciation and love for books is constant across all generations and age groups. Whether it be for leisure or for educational purposes, reading is an activity that unites people across various backgrounds.

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