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Everywhere Book Fest

How the book world has adjusted to virtual conferences, and how Everywhere Book Fest nailed it on the head

It’s no surprise that things are changing in the era of Coronavirus, but one thing it hasn’t changed is the love people have for books and their creators. This past weekend, the book world continued to adjust to a new type of gathering: a virtual conference. While it’s not the first time the CBC has participated in a virtual conference, it felt different this time around. Previously, it felt like a novelty, a temporary replacement during the COVID pandemic. However, logging on this time for the Everywhere Book Fest felt almost normal.

The idea of a virtual conference was once uninspiring and tragic, because the best part of going to conferences is meeting people and connecting with each other and the physical books. A reader can see and meet their favorite author, a chance meeting that they’ll be telling for the rest of their lives. There can be in-depth one-on-one conversations that can’t be had anywhere else. But, there are positives to the virtual version that can’t be ignored.

With a virtual conference, there is the opportunity to reach a wider audience. People who didn’t have the time or the money to travel for a weekend are now given a chance to participate from their own living rooms. By having a virtual conference, the attendees can participate without the restrictions that arise when they are held in-person.

There’s also the potential of having the entire conference documented. The Everywhere Book Fest had both recorded and live sessions, sometimes three in the same time slot. Luckily, if you were interested in more than one, you could watch the others later; the entire conference is stored online at the Everywhere Book Fest’s YouTube channel.

The sense of community surrounding the Everywhere Book Fest virtual conference was undeniable. All the authors who participated were excited and happy that the conference was still happening. The common thread was no one is alone during this time and, as a community of book lovers, we must stick together.

Within the panels, the authors and illustrators drew in crowds, sharing not only their books, but their stories of isolation during this pandemic. Here are some of the sessions we saw:

  • Gene Luen Yang, author and illustrator of American Born Chinese, Boxers, Saints, and Dragon Hoops, and former National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature (2016-17), welcomed all to the Everywhere Book Fest by sharing three things he learned from working on his books. One of those lessons is that “the stories we tell can make a difference in other people’s lives,” which is also significant during this pandemic and how it’s affecting us all.
  • Karyn Parsons, author of How High the Moon; Jason Reynolds, author of Stamped; Jewell Parker Rhodes, author of Black Brother, Black Brother; and Vashita Harrison, author of Little Legends, discussed the importance of how Black voices are represented in their books and how they reach their readers and community. They drew on their own challenges in writing their books, and expanded on how powerful language and books can be.
  • Jason Reynolds, author of Stamped, answered questions about his new book, discussing the challenges in taking on such an important project. He also shared his experiences as the current National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature and working with kids that “are hungry and thirsty for truth.”
  • Legends Series author, Marie Lu, discussed how she learned that language is powerful when she moved from China to the United States. She explained how this move made her feel alone and had to cope with that while also learning English by reading words from the dictionary. She also spoke about her perseverance in dealing with rejection. “I am not my writing” and therefore “it is not a rejection of you,” she expressed.
  • Author of Red at the Bone and former National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature (2018-19), Jacqueline Woodson talked about how she handled the shift from young adult to adult literature writing . She then delivered a powerful and emotional reading of Red at the Bone.
  • Author of Clean Getaway, Nic Stone, closed the Everywhere Book Fest with her STORY acronym advice for writers. She stressed that “it’s through stories about others that we learn more about ourselves.”

Everywhere Book Fest has provided a playlist on their YouTube channel for anyone to watch these and all their other panels.

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