I’m finally back in Kansas City from the Brooklyn Book Festival. More than 45,000 people attended the festival, and 200 stalls sprawled across three blocks in the heart of downtown Brooklyn, representing a cross-section of independent bookstores, independent presses and magazines. At times, the crowd was so packed it was difficult to move. New York City's largest free literary event offered a long list of lectures, conversations and presentations at fourteen different locations. Sunday afternoon presentations included famous authors with Brooklyn connections, such as Edwidge Danticat, Pete Hamill, and Colum McCann.
After a weeklong series of over 60 “Bookend” events from Sept. 16 – 22, the Brooklyn Book Festival consisted of 90-plus panels, readings and workshops spread across 14 stages. Among the venues were Brooklyn Borough Hall and Plaza, Columbus Park, Brooklyn Law School, St. Francis College, the Brooklyn Historical Society, and St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Church.
I wasn’t sure I’d make it safely to the festival from my Brooklyn hotel since my cab driver couldn’t find the address and ended up driving while wearing his reading glasses so he could decipher his cell phone’s GPS. But he managed to deliver me safe and sound to St. Francis College where my 10:00 a.m. panel was to take place.
On the panel called “Six Degrees of Separation,” Meredith Walters of the Brooklyn Public Library moderated Brooklyn poet laureate Tina Chang, novelist Ray Robertson, memoirist Leigh Newman, and me as we read from our work and discussed the similarities and differences of between the different genres of writing. The conversation ranged across the topics of voice, setting, and characters/personae and found us agreeing with and learning from each other as we examined the process of writing.
Next for me came a reading with other great Latino authors at the Las Comadres/La Casa Azul Bookstore booth in the small city of vendor booths that had sprung up on the Brooklyn Borough Hall plaza. A lovely crowd gathered and grew as the reading progressed. The crowds moving among the stalls warmed my heart—so many readers and booklovers.
All too soon in midafternoon, I had to leave the festival to make the trip down the Hudson River to the Hudson Valley Writers Center, a beautiful restored train station, to give another reading with the incredibly talented Sergio Troncoso. This center is located in Sleepy Hollow, New York, one of the loveliest towns you’ll ever see.
All this whirlwind of activity was bookended by a grueling road trip from Kansas City to New York City and back. Now, all I want to do is sleep. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world, though.
Do you like to attend book festivals or writers conferences? Do you return energized or drained?