At this time last year, organizers of Virginia’s Festival of the Book decided to cancel that annual event in the face of a deadly pandemic. This year the festival returns – longer and richer than ever.
A two-man band from Oxford, Mississippi known as the Blues Doctors will perform as part of a program known as Reading Under the Influence.
“It was really planned as a way to incorporate music and perhaps a libation along with a reading," says Jane Kulow, Director of the Virginia Center for the Book. "This year we get an interesting program about music, race and history from three authors, music in church and hiphop and the history of all of those.”
That program and many more are available free on Zoom or Facebook Live, and readers who miss out can watch recordings on the festival’s website – vabook.org.
“Last year we only had about a week’s notice when we had to cancel, so we weren’t able to present the festival at all until we started launching virtual events in April," Kulow recalls. "Over the past 11 months we’ve reached over 28,000 people, and that has prepared us to present a 2-week festival.”
Also on the program, a conversation with Jacqueline Woodson, a children’s poet laureate and author of Brown Girl Dreaming – a memoir in verse.
“It’s really hard to beat Miss Woodson for her excellent writing, the recognition she’s had for all of her work, the MacArthur Genius Award this past year." says Kulow. "Woodson has received National Book Awards, and she’s received most of the top international children’s writers awards, and her work just continues to connect with people as she presents complex issues within really beautifully written stories.”
On the non-fiction front, Kulow says, the festival presents Acts of Exclusion – a guide to individuals and groups hoping to be more inclusive.
“Many of us are not aware of how our action may feel to others. Dr. Tiffany Jana wrote this book – Subtle Acts of Exclusion, a handbook for how we can get past excluding people and get to the point where we can all be welcoming to all.”
And for would-be authors, there are a half dozen programs: The Write Start, Editing and Publishing, Before and After the Book Deal, Audiobook Publishing, Law and Authors and an Agents Roundtable discussion.
The festival runs from March 13th through the 26th with two to four events each day.