Books flying in the street

Book Festivals, 2020 Style

Two years ago, my sister invited me to go to the Twin Cities Book Festival with her. I’d never been to a book festival before, but I love books and festivals can be fun, so I decided to go.

The TCBF takes place in mid-October on the Minnesota State Fair grounds. In the Eco building, there was a gigantic used book sale and row upon row of exhibitors — authors, publishers, universities, librarians, all promoting books or services or programs. Many had small activities or free publications. A calligrapher was personalizing bookmarks.

The building was packed full of people who love books. It was like a Scholastic Book Fair, but with fewer sparkly pens and more people who want to geek out about literature. And that was just in the exhibit building.

Across the street in the Fine Arts building were the event stages. There, they had author readings, Q&A’s, panels, and activities. Unprepared as I was that first year, I didn’t have time to attend any of the events, though my sister stuck around for a discussion and book signing with YA authors Neal and Jarrod Shusterman.

Last year, I absolutely wanted to go again. I planned better and attended a discussion between William Kent Krueger and Leif Enger about the art of storytelling.

Attendee looking at books at book festivalThis year, like all other events, the Twin Cities Book Festival has had to adapt to the coronavirus. It’s their 20th year and, rather than cancelling, the TCBF is going virtual. They recently released the author lineup and there’s something for every age and interest.

Am I disappointed that I can’t physically attend? Yes. Are virtual events as exciting as in person events? Not at all. But I am glad that the festival wasn’t cancelled and I’m really looking forward to hearing from Kate DiCamillo.

There’s a silver lining, too. When I looked up the Twin Cities Book Festival, I discovered many other book festivals also transitioning to online platforms. This year, you can attend virtual literary events from all over the country. Have you ever wanted to attend New York Comic Con? They’ll be streaming four days of free panels live on YouTube. I also recommend checking out the Brooklyn Book Festival events this week. Plan ahead, though; while most book festivals are free, many are requiring pre-registration.

Like everyone, I’m tired of cancelling or adapting plans. I miss spontaneous weekend trips and seeing people’s faces. I hope that next year I can go back to the TCBF in person. In the meantime, though, I have lessons in pandemic cooking and Jedi mindfulness to attend.

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