Five Reasons You Won’t Want to Miss Exhibiting at BBF 2021

We know this is going to be a special year as BBF returns to in-person programming after a yearlong hiatus, and we wanted to share with you all the reasons you’ll want to be a part of it. As a business or organization, you’ll have the opportunity to promote your business in front of BBF’s smart and thoughtful audience — and actually talk to visitors as they browse your booth and many others. Our lively street market on Copley Square is always a highlight for festival-goers, and we’re excited to be bringing the festival energy outdoors in Roxbury with a new exhibitor area. Read on for five exciting highlights and apply to exhibit today (applications due Friday, July 9).

1) You get to meet our audience live and in-person! BBF is founded on the idea of celebrating all things literary together as a community, and we have definitely missed this component over the last year. As a business or organization, being a part of our buzzing outdoor street fair in Copley Square or Nubian Square, Roxbury, offers a unique opportunity to introduce yourself to potential new customers or clients, hand out materials, sell books from your press, or sign up people interested in your organization or products.

2) Copley Square will be buzzing with outdoor programming stages for the first time. We’re mixing things up this year and bringing even more energy and excitement outdoors, which we think will bring even more visitors to the exhibitor area. We’ll have programming right on Copley Square for the first time and will be hosting more sessions that engage people in the city. All of these outdoor activities will bring more people to the exhibitor area, even if we have programmed a smaller festival this year.

3) We’re launching a brand-new exhibitor area in Nubian Square, Roxbury, with live music and food trucks. We are just so excited about this new addition in Roxbury! We’ve been wanting to do more activities outdoors in Nubian Square, and this year, we’ll have an outdoor programming tent for kids at the DeWitt Center, indoor and outdoor activities at the Roxbury Branch of the Boston Public Library, and a happening exhibitor area at the Blair Lot in the heart of Nubian. The Blair Lot, which is an empty lot that has been transformed into a hip outdoor venue space, will also have music and food trucks and be the festival hub.

4) We’re expanding to a weeklong festival with programming and exhibitor areas on two Saturdays. The Boston Book Festival has been expanding over the last few years as its grown into Roxbury, and now, BBF will be a weeklong festival! Events will start on Saturday, October 16, in Copley Square and end on Saturday, October 23, in Nubian Square, with events throughout the city and online in the intervening days. We’re excited to be hosting the festival on two Saturdays to allow for even more visitors to join us, particularly in Roxbury.

5) We have bundle discounts to exhibit at both Copley and Roxbury (and get a free Virtual Marketplace listing!). Who doesn’t love a good discount? Check out our Exhibitor page to find out more about how to bundle Copley and Roxbury and get a discount AND a free Virtual Marketplace listing.

This is definitely going to be an historic year for the Boston Book Festival, and we hope you will join us for this return to programming and to celebrating the power of the written word together. Visit and apply by July 9!


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BBF 2021: Meet the Interns

If you attended Lit Crawl Boston last week, you might have met one of our three fabulous 2021 interns without even realizing it. If not, here’s your chance to get to know three of the smart, capable folks hard at work behind the scenes here at BBF HQ. Edward, Cristina, and Molly (L–R above) are excited to help bring BBF 2021 from vision to reality—and we couldn’t do it without all that they do!


Cristina, born and raised in Puerto Rico, is currently pursuing her master’s degree in publishing and writing at Emerson College. She is this year’s Author and Publisher Liaison.

Edward is currently a fiction student in the MFA creative writing program at Emerson College. He is this year’s Partnerships and Outreach intern.

Molly McCaul, born and raised in Massachusetts, is an English with Creative Writing Major at Wellesley College. She is this year’s One City One Story Project Manager.

What is your favorite book and genre?

Cristina: This is always a tough question for me! If I had to pick one, it would definitely be 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It tells the multigenerational story of a family in the fictional town of Macondo. It is a story crawling with symbolism and metaphors making it an unpredictable and unique read. With this said, one of my favorite genres is magical realism. I’m also a big fan of mystery books.

Edward: Definitely a question that changes every day, but I’m in the mood to reread Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer. It’s a future of flying cars, infinite travel, and political schemes involving every level of society! Science fiction is a great medium for writing about the present and future as creatively as possible.

Molly: Back in January I read Nell Scovell’s memoir, Just the Funny Parts, about her career behind the scenes in television. As someone interested in screenwriting, it was a wonderful resource for inspiration and information on the industry. In terms of fiction, though, I recently read The Color Purple by Alice Walker; it’s incredibly well-written and moving.

What is your favorite book turned movie?

Cristina: I am very fond of the Persepolis adaptation. The black-and-white animation was incredible. It is also super engaging with a story that has a lot to unravel.

Edward: Frank Herbert’s Dune has a special place in my heart, and the upcoming new movies better be good or I’ll never shut up about the book always being better.

Molly: It might be childish, but the film adaptation of Fantastic Mr. Fox definitely comes to mind. The book inspired a love of reading for me, and the adaptation was inadvertently the first Wes Anderson film I saw. I think both of them really show the artistic qualities of their respective mediums.

What BBF panel or event are you most excited about? 

 Cristina: I am very excited for the festival itself. I have seen firsthand all the authors that are participating and discovered new books that I can’t wait for audiences to come across and read as well.

Edward: I’m excited for Lit Crawl Boston! It’ll be my first time out in Boston, doing something with plenty of people. After a year of Zoom, it’s a welcomed change.

Molly: I’m excited about One City One Story! Apart from being this year’s 1C1S Project Manager, it’s a fantastic program and I think this year, between what we have in store and the general return to in-person events, is going to be especially fun.

What is your go-to book recommendation?

Cristina: I always recommend All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr to anyone. I find that it is a must-read for any historical fiction lover as well. It’s a beautiful story about two characters that cross paths during WWII that will definitely leave a lasting impact on anyone.

Edward: Binti by Nnedi Okorafor. It’s short, impactful, and the best of what modern science fiction has to offer! A diverse cast with aliens, space travel, and a determined heroine.

Molly: I had a friend recommend The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller to me recently, and it was an incredible read. It retells the Iliad from Patroclus’s point of view, and recently gained traction through TikTok. Highly recommend!

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BBF Unbound 2021: Seeking Submissions

The BBF Unbound series of community-curated sessions annually offers a bounty of creative sessions and workshops proposed by members of our community. Over the past ten years, BBF Unbound sessions have focused on self-publishing, political storytelling, writing about animals, writing about homelands and their complicated histories, and writings by veterans. We love hearing your ideas for sessions and working with you to develop successful BBF presentations and workshops—and putting BBF Unbound on hiatus was one of the hardest decisions we made when planning 2020’s virtual BBF.

In 2021, however, we are back in person and eager to re-launch the BBF Unbound program, too! We’re now accepting proposals for 2021 BBF Unbound sessions, to be presented at the Boston Book Festival on October 16 (in Copley Square) and October 23 (in Nubian Square/Roxbury), or in various other locations Boston-wide during the intervening weekdays.

We are looking for outside groups/individuals who can introduce fresh voices and new ideas to the BBF. Be creative! The session can involve a debate, demo, workshop, literary improv, dramatic readings, panel discussion, literary games, etc. We are not looking for product promotions, plugs for businesses, or sessions featuring a single author publicizing his or her book. We are especially interested in program proposals from organizations and individuals based in Roxbury, as well as by curators who represent communities historically underrepresented in publishing and literary programming. 

Note that in 2021, due to venue limitations, we are particularly interested in proposals that move outdoors or outside of the traditional classroom or lecture hall setting. Have an idea for a literary themed walking tour, scavenger hunt, traveling performance, immersive workshop, or dance party that engages with the cityscapes of Back Bay, Roxbury, or beyond? Get inspired, and pitch it to us! Not sure if your session is what we’re looking for? Try us! We are always willing to work with BBF Unbound producers to fine-tune their proposals so they’ll work within the larger literary landscape of the Boston Book Festival.

You will be responsible for running your session, i.e., gathering participants, beginning and ending on time, and covering any expenses (beyond room rental and basic A/V). We will publicize your session on our website and in our Program Guide, and we will expect you to publicize it via your networks as well. Presenters who come to us via BBF Unbound receive all the same benefits as any invited presenters: a presenter badge, a headshot and bio on the BBF website, and invitations to the kickoff cocktail reception and afterparty.

We will evaluate proposals based on: 1. Will the content appeal to the BBF audience? 2. Does the content offer something different from standard BBF fare? 3. Is the individual/group offering a plausible plan for implementing the session?

The deadline to apply has now passed—applicants will be notified of their selection by mid-July.

Questions?: Contact Norah Piehl,

If you would like to submit a hard copy of your proposal, or if you would like to submit supporting materials, please send them to:

Norah Piehl, Executive Director
Boston Book Festival
32R Essex St. Cambridge, MA 02139

We look forward to reviewing your submissions!

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Calling All School Librarians: BBF Shelf Help Applications Now Open

Do you know a school library in need? We are very excited to announce that this year’s Shelf Help School Partnership Grant application is now open!

Many area schools lack the resources to fully stock their school libraries with contemporary, high-quality books. BBF’s Shelf Help Program aims to change that.

Our competitive grant program provides two winning school libraries (one K-8 and one 9-12) with new, locally relevant books to expand and update their collections. In addition, each school will have a memorable visit by an author or illustrator curated by Wondermore, a local organization dedicated to inspiring young readers.

Last year’s winners, the Rafael Hernández K-8 Dual Language School in Roxbury and the English High School, were treated to virtual visits by award-winning authors Juana Medina and Jerry Craft, respectively. Dave Barry, librarian at English had this to say after receiving the award, “To have Newbery and Coretta Scott King award winner Jerry Craft visit us in October will be a joy and a fantastic way to get everyone talking about reading.”

If you know a library professional at a school that needs some Shelf Help, please forward them this Request for Proposals, which has links to an online application. Applications will be open until May 31, 2021.


  •       A school with a dedicated library space
  •       A school located within Greater Boston
  •       A school with a dedicated library professional (paid or volunteer)
  •       A school that has shelf space for at least 50 new books
  •       A school that has the capacity to host an author/illustrator visit or the capacity to collaborate on an online event (coordinated by the Boston Book Festival and Wondermore)

Read more about the English High School’s Shelf Help grant and how librarian Dave Barry planned to get students “jazzed” about reading.

Read about how the Hernández School emptied its shelves during the pandemic and how Shelf Help worked to restock them.

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Apply: BBF 2021 Festival Internship Apps Now Open

Like books? Interested in going behind the scenes at New England’s premier literary event? The Boston Book Festival is seeking interns to help us prepare and execute the festival in October 2021. Given the circumstances of this year, we do not yet have all the details about what BBF 2021 will look like, so we are looking for interns who can be flexible as we determine how to host this beloved signature event in the city. 


For this year, we are looking for self-starters who have experience with the following: copywriting and editing; creating and maintaining documents and spreadsheets using Word, Excel, Google Drive, and Google Forms; and familiarity with website content management systems.

It would also be wonderful if you have familiarity with or a willingness to learn about: graphic design; social media marketing (on behalf of a brand, not just you!); communicating with media outlets and community organizations; and distributing marketing collateral.

We hope that you have excellent written and oral communication skills, are highly organized, motivated, project-oriented, willing to work on a team, and knowledgeable about and/or interested in some or all of the following: event production, logistics, project management, and (of course) literature! We really hope that you are fun, friendly, and eager to work with a small, committed group of people in a casual office environment. The good news/bad news is: everyone does everything! Some of it is boring but all of it is important.

The ideal candidate will be able to join the team in March and work through Thanksgiving 2021. Candidates can expect to work between 8 and 12 hours per week through May, and 12-15 hours per week through October. Hours and schedules are flexible; there may be evening hours for special events (plenty of advance notice will be given). We will be able to determine whether hours will be remote or in-person as we get closer to the internship start date.

We anticipate one evening event per month from March through August (some of these will likely be remote, so a good internet connection at home is key). You will also be expected to check your BBF email daily and respond as needed, even when you are not in the office. Boston Book Festival offices are located in Central Square, Cambridge.

Please send a cover letter and resume to Carlin Carr,, and please specify any restrictions. Candidates who are invited to interview will be asked to provide a writing sample. Applications are due February 15th.

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BBF 2020: Full Lineup Now Live

In this most unusual festival year, we’ve been announcing our lineup in a different way, rolling out our presenter lineup over the last several weeks. Overall, the lineup for BBF 2020 consists of more than 140 authors and moderators who will participate in 55 live and prerecorded events. Just like our attendees, they’ll be tuning in from all over; our presenters hail from 21 states plus the District of Columbia, as well as the United Kingdom and Kenya! Our schedule announcements will be coming soon, but in the meantime, we wanted to share our final set of presenters for BBF 2020, featuring notable names in nonfiction.

Philosophy, Kindness, and Comfort Food

  • An uplifting session on How to Be a Good Human features Brad Aronson (HumanKind), Max Bazerman (Better, Not Perfect), and Molly Howes (A Good Apology).
  • A session on gastronomy and memory will whet audiences’ appetites for stories of pioneering figures in the culinary world. John Birdsall‘s The Man Who Ate Too Much is the definitive biography of James Beard. And in her memoir Always Home, Fanny Singer combines mouthwatering recipes with recollections of her mother, the chef Alice Waters.
  • A fascinating conversation with author Andrew S. Curran on the life and legacy of the philosopher Denis Diderot, based on his book Diderot and the Art of Thinking Freely.

Science, Business, and Technology

As at past BBFs, we will feature several issues delving into current issues in business, science, and technology:
  • Pioneering reproductive medicine specialist Merle J. Berger reflects on his career in his memoir Conception, and Harvard Business School’s Debora L. Spar focuses on the intersections of how technology governs our intimate lives in Work Mate Marry Love, as part of a session on Love and Technology.
  • A timely session on Pathogens and Pills brings together biomedical engineer Muhammad H. Zaman—whose new book, Biography of Resistance, traces the tension between humans and pathogens over millennia—and virologist and drug industry expert Peter Kolchinsky, who insightfully explores biomedical research and the pharmaceutical industry in The Great American Drug Deal.
  • In a session considering troubles in the tech industry, Dipayan Ghosh, author of Terms of Disservice, makes the case for helping the internet work for all of us, not just those in Silicon Valley. Speaking of which, in their new book Voices from the Valley, Ben Tarnoff and Moira Weigel interview several professionals at all levels to find out what working in Silicon Valley is really like.
  • The past, present, and future of women of color in the tech industry is the focus of a conversation with Ainissa Ramirez (The Alchemy of Us), Susanne Tedrick (Women of Color in Tech), and Bridgette Wallace (co-founder of Roxbury ‘s G|Code House, a co-living, working and learning community for young women interested in tech professions).
  • Finally, in a session that looks at the upside of business, Rebecca Henderson (Reimagining Capitalism in a World on Fire) explores how restructured capitalism can help tackle critical problems, while Myriam Sidibe (Brands on a Mission) provides numerous case studies of how businesses can both bolster sales and also promote healthy habits.

Stay tuned for schedule announcements (and maybe a few more surprises) coming soon, and in the meantime, if you’re interested in technology issues, you’ll want to check out the audio archives of the BBF 2019 session Technologies of Freedom or Control? with Shoshana Zuboff and Roger McNamee, and then check out the new Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma, which features Zuboff and McNamee and offers great background info for the tech session at BBF 2020!

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The Tenth Anniversary of One City One Story: how a decade has passed in a flash

Photograph by Nancy Connery and Judith Stone.


“It all started around ten years ago—with the appearance of flash mobs.”

I’m sitting at a park in Brookline video conferencing with Judith Stone and Nancy Connery, wondering how the sudden appearance of a large group of people dancing in our current COVID-19 climate would look, and how my interview about this year’s One City One Story (1C1S) initiative of street team volunteers started with a reference to flash mobs.

What a welcome sight a flash mob would be. The idea of a random group of people suddenly bursting into odd, rhythmic movements (regardless of being a little out of sync from only practicing via Zoom), makes me smile. Imagine that wonderful celebration of people coming together, if for nothing else than to express their full-bodied enthusiasm for a few minutes while the world stops and stares.

I can’t help but feel that, at the moment, we are attempting something similar with the tenth annual One City One Story initiative. Each year the Boston Book Festival has chosen a piece of short fiction as a city-wide read, to be shared in classrooms, coffee shops, T stops, and library windows. It is a single story read by a city of thousands, a community built around a shared reading experience, and on the bright side there is no rhythm requirement to join.

In a typical year, the month of September would signal the beginning of the Boston Book Festival season with the distribution of the 1C1S pamphlets to gear up for a weekend long outdoor festival in October; but I, like many in our community, am still wondering when we’ll begin to once again venture outside en masse for things like outdoor festivals.

Executive director Norah Piehl said, “Every year since I started with the BBF in 2011, I’ve put on my One City One Story t-shirt and handed out stories at farmers’ markets, charity bike rides, arts festivals, food festivals, concerts, T stations, and more. Although I’ll miss connecting with Boston’s readers at the same scale this year, I’m really grateful to the BBF fans and volunteers who are helping get the stories out to their own communities.” In a typical year, the Boston Book Festival prints up to 30,000 copies of the winning story in English and Spanish to distribute to area residents, but with the impact of the pandemic lasting through the summer, we haven’t been able to rely on businesses the same way as in past years to help with the distribution of the pamphlets. Grace Talusan, the author whose story “The Book of Life and Death” was selected as this year’s all-city read, suggested a street team of volunteers. In the vibrant writing community of Boston surely there are people who have loved these stories as much as we do and would be willing to help.

Connery and Stone were among the forty or so volunteers who answered the call for help. When I asked them what 1C1S meant to them, Connery responded, “Around 2011, the idea of a book club became too much. We visited the Boston Book Festival and loved the idea of using a short story, like 1C1S, that was easily accessible—this kind of flash fiction. We could give people a week or two to read it and we didn’t have to stick to a regular schedule.”

Stone chimes in, “We noticed people were not serious or careful enough about the books they chose; the titles weren’t always worthwhile. We picked a few of our own short stories, but we knew that with using the 1C1S story, a jury of prospects would have already read it—and even if we didn’t like the story, it would be chosen for its literary merit.”

Hilary Sallick, another volunteer to sign up with our street team of distributors, is a teacher at SCALE, the Somerville Center for Adult Learning Experiences. Sallick used the 2013 1C1S pick “Karma” by Rishi Reddi in a class of hers and was hoping this year’s story would provide a similar teaching opportunity.

She said, “1C1S is an amazing material for students. The writing is engaging, and while it can be a challenging read for the students, it’s rewarding. I remember from ‘Karma’ the theme of immigration and the relationships between the family members. It was beautifully written, quality literature. 1C1S is the real deal, and the booklets are really nice.”

Barbie Savacool, another dedicated 1C1S reader, shared a little about her reading group, Short Fiction on Faith, led by parishioners at Trinity Church in Copley Square, “We meet every other week during the school year, and discuss short stories which are not necessarily overtly religious, but whose themes bring up issues that people of faith can wrestle with. We have been meeting for over ten years, and our material has ranged from classic literature, contemporary fiction, to very recent stories from The New Yorker or Narrative Magazine. We have included the 1C1S stories almost every year, as the material tends to fit our criteria, and we enjoy the local flavor of the stories as well.”

“Distributing each year’s story is a great chance to connect in a very personal way with readers across Boston,” said Piehl, so we knew that despite moving to a virtual festival, we still wanted to give readers the pleasure of having a physical pamphlet. Talusan said, “As a writer, I want readers for my stories, especially those who do not often find themselves reflected in books and TV shows. It’s so thrilling to know that my story will be printed, distributed, and given away for free to anyone who wants it (including in translation and audio).”

This year, Sallick will be teaching her students through remote classes. “The online format of Zoom can be depressing, and it is very, very challenging being thrust into remote learning, but the idea of having and being able to give my students something to hold in their hands is such a gift,” she says. “Having to build a community when we’re not physically in a space is hard,” but Sallick says she has high hopes for “The Book of Life and Death” and the rich ability to read and enter the story with her students.

“This may be a year that everyone hopes to survive and then promptly never think about again,” said Talusan. “There are times when the news of our country is bleak and crushing, but I’m hoping that Marybelle’s story will offer a momentary distraction, a brief respite that reading can bring, and the opportunity to talk to each other and connect about it.”

With the looming election and a focus on social studies, this year’s story, “Sounds like just what we need,” said Sallick. “1C1S is a gift and a resource; I will get the pamphlets into the hands of readers. I promise!” Sallick asserts.

Connery and Stone are also looking forward to sitting down to read and spend the time going through the themes of the story. They host a “Lit Flash” event every year in celebration of 1C1S and have a friend of theirs, Joanne Baker, a 7th and 8th grade English teacher at Boston’s Jewish Community Day School, help teach them what to look for and analyze in short stories. “We’re not Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas,” Stone laughs, but even through our brief interaction, I can see that no matter how you choose to read 1C1S, you will find a way to connect with and enjoy the story.

These volunteers have shown me what the 1C1S project aims to project in such a wonderful way: that full-bodied enthusiasm over helping a piece of flash fiction appear all around the city and last only a brief moment before it dissipates, leaving the Boston community a little more aware and in awe of the crowd of bodies moving around them.

Before I ended the call, Nancy held up all the past stories she’s saved fanned out in her hands, “We have the whole collection!”

I almost got up to dance.


Grace Talusan’s One City One Story virtual event will be held on Crowdcast Friday, October 16, 2020 at 6:00pm.

Additional resources can be found on the 1C1S webpage, including questions for at home book club discussions, a link to submit a piece of writing in response to “The Book of Life and Death,” links to locations where to find the pamphlets around Boston, and links to download the digital pamphlet as well as translations and audio of the story.



Ellie Manning is this year’s One City One Story project manager. She is a second year master’s student at Emerson College in the Publishing and Writing program.

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BBF 2020: Youth Programming

The Boston Book Festival has always featured talented creators of books for all ages, and this year is no exception! We’re bringing together authors and artists for a variety of creative and enriching sessions for young people—you’ll be able to take advantage of the interaction of a live session, or watch lively content on your own time!

Picture Books

Picture book sessions will be divided into three primary themes:
To coincide with World Space Week (October 4–10), authors and illustrators whose work unlocks the mysteries of space and the universe:
Jason Chin, Your Place in the Universe
Julia Denos, Starcrossed
Oneeka Williams, Dr. Dee Dee Dynamo’s Saturn Surprise
Books that celebrate identity:
Derrick Barnes (with illustrator Gordon James), I Am Every Good Thing
Tami Charles (with illustrator Bryan Collier), All Because You Matter
Jessica Love, Julián at the Wedding
ML Marroquin (with illustrator Tonya Engel), My Hair Is Magic
Ashok Banker (with illustrator Sandhya Prabhat), I Am Brown
The sessions above–along with previously announced sessions on social justice and activism–will feature readings from each book, along with interactive content (such as writing exercises and drawing prompts) and, in many cases, an opportunity for live Q&A with the books’ creators. Readings and other sessions will be archived online for the duration of the festival (and in many cases beyond) so that parents and educators can utilize these engaging presentations, readings, and discussions to enrich virtual learning this fall.

Middle Grade

Continuing the outer space theme from our picture book sessions, long-time space enthusiast John Rocco will present his gorgeously illustrated book for middle-grade readers, How We Got to the Moon, which was recently long-listed for the National Book Award.

We’re pleased to feature a highly interactive Illustrator Draw-Off sponsored by Candlewick Press, where artists of middle-grade graphic novels face off in a lively and hilarious series of drawing challenges, hosted by Cagen Luse of Comics in Color. The best part? The audience gets to judge each round and crown the overall winner! Confirmed illustrators are Jeffrey Brown (Once Upon a Space-Time), Sophie Escabasse (Witches of Brooklyn), and Shannon Wright (Twins).
As previously announced, we are featuring author-illustrators Juana Medina and Jerry Craft during the BBF and as part of our Shelf Help partnerships with the Rafael Hernández K–8 School and Boston English High School. In addition to being BBF featured presenters, the authors will also virtually visit the two schools in specially organized events by our partners at Wondermore. Donations received in conjunction with their BBF events will be earmarked to expand the schools’ library collections. Jerry Craft’s session at the BBF is sponsored by Simmons University.

Young Adult

For teens, we have two panels featuring a great lineup of talented writers.
First, a session on authenticity and identity, featuring Arvin Ahmadi (How It All Blew Up), Daven McQueen (The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones), and former One City One Story author Jennifer De Leon (Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From).
Secondly, we have a thoughtful session about friendship and its end, with Justin A. Reynolds (Early Departures), Amy Spalding (We Used to Be Friends), and Ashley Woodfolk (When You Were Everything).

Story Walks

We know that no one (including kids!) wants to spend all day on screens, so we’re giving families two opportunities to explore Boston’s diverse neighborhoods–and to discover great books at the same time. During the month of October, kids and families will find Story Walks in Nubian Square and in Downtown Crossing, with pages from award-winning picture books posted in store windows–just follow the route to read the book in order!

The Nubian Square Story Walk features the book The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander, with artwork by Kadir Nelson, and has been developed in partnership with the Boston Public Library. Thanks to a generous donation by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, the first fifty families who complete the Story Walk and visit Frugal Bookstore will receive their own copy of The Undefeated to continue enjoying at home.

The Downtown Crossing Story Walk is generously sponsored by Downtown Boston Business Improvement District and will feature the book Saturday by BBF 2019 presenter Oge Mora.

Stay tuned, and check back often on our presenters page  for more announcements and updates!

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BBF 2020: Fiction and Memoir

This week’s lineup announcement is all about writers who craft great stories—from hair-raising horror and suspense to tales of magic, from elaborate revenge plots to true stories that trace the patterns of a life. Get to know our fiction and memoir presenters, and make plans to join their fascinating conversations—on screen or through your headphones—this October!


We will be producing this year’s memoir sessions as a series of four audio-only sessions consisting of brief interviews that will illuminate these writers’ captivating stories.

On the theme of Extraordinary Beginnings, memoirists Megan Margulies (My Captain America) will speak about her relationship with her grandfather, a pioneering cartoonist. Indie musician Mikel Jollett (Hollywood Park) recounts his childhood before and after escaping from a cult. And poet Honor Moore (Our Revolution) uses letters, scrapbooks, and interviews to reconstruct the complex, contradictory life of her mother.

Three memoirists recall their academic and professional development in Intellectual Histories. Novelist Claire Messud (Kant’s Little Prussian Head) uses a series of essays to interrogate her own childhood and to explore her relationships with family members and with the work of authors who have shaped her own writing. Influential psychologist Howard Gardner (A Synthesizing Mind) offers insights into his background as well as into the development and continued refinement of his famous multiple intelligences theory. And technology advocate Rana el Kaliouby (Girl, Decoded) writes both an immigration memoir and a passionate argument for her professional work: an emotionally informed artificial intelligence.

Three writers confront emotional trauma and resilience in Secrets, Lies, and the Mysteries of Youth. In her second family memoir, Helen Fremont (The Escape Artist) takes on her family’s history of hiding secrets at all costs. In his latest memoir, Nick Flynn (This Is the Night Our House Will Catch Fire) connects his unhappiness as an adult with his mother’s depression and eventual suicide when Flynn was a child and young man. And poet Betsy Bonner (The Book of Atlantis Black) addresses her sister’s disappearance in a dramatic and innovatively structured memoir.

And finally, three memoirists offer their unique reflections on race and identity. E. Dolores Johnson (Say I’m Dead) traces five generations of interracial relationships. Sejal Shah (This Is One Way to Dance) brings together linked essays on culture, language, and identity as she recounts her experience “growing up Indian outside of India.” And Issac J. Bailey (Why Didn’t We Riot?) combines personal memoir with social commentary as he calls out the racism and hypocrisy at the heart of what he calls “Trumpland.”


Just in time for dark and spooky evenings this fall, we have a star-studded horror/suspense fiction panel, featuring Stephen Chbosky (Imaginary Friend), Joe Hill (Full Throttle), Paul Tremblay (Survivor Song), and Jen Waite (Survival Instincts).

Continuing the Halloween theme, the session “Witches and Other Bad Heroines” brings together four novelists whose work explores female transgression, revenge, and empowerment: Quan Barry (We Ride Upon Sticks), Emily M. Danforth (Plain Bad Heroines), Layne Fargo (They Never Learn), and Alix Harrow (We Were Once Witches).

Three novelists take varied approaches to recasting fairy and folk tales in their latest work. Gregory Maguire (A Wild Winter Swan) sets a Hans Christian Andersen tale in 1960s New York. Andrea Hairston (Master of Poisons) weaves elements of African folktales into her latest epic fantasy. And SL Huang (Burning Roses) merges Chinese mythology and European fairy tales in her latest novella.

Finally, we present a riveting conversation between two novelists whose latest work grapples with the all-too-real emergency of climate change: Lydia Millet (A Children’s Bible) and Jenny Offill (Weather).

And, as an update to an earlier announcement, debut novelist Asha Lemmie (Fifty Words for Rain) will be joining our Reading Like a Writer lineup.

Stay tuned, and check back often on our presenters page  for more announcements and updates!

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With Shelf Help Award, a first-year librarian aims to get English High “jazzed” about reading

America’s first public high school, Boston’s English High School, has a storied history and today it’s responding to the very diverse needs of its 21st-century student body. 

In the hallways, languages from Spanish to Haitian Creole can be heard alongside many others with students coming from diverse Boston neighborhoods. For first-year librarian Dave Barry, the range of interests and languages at his school poses an exciting challenge for the school’s library–one he hopes to take on with a boost from Boston Book Festival’s Shelf Help Award.

Read more about this year’s Shelf Help winners. Books can be bought and donated to the English’s book wish list or by visiting BBF’s donate page. Upon checking out, select “Make this a gift” and designate “Shelf Help” as the gift recipient in the appropriate box. 

NYTs bestselling author Jerry Craft to visit 

The English High School library is the recipient of our 2020 Shelf Help School Partnership, which awards two Boston-area public schools with at least 50 new, specifically curated books as well as a visit by a well-known children’s author or illustrator in collaboration with the Boston Book Festival’s October activities. This year, the visit will be virtual during BBF Online in October, and English High School students will be treated to a very special online appearance by Newbery Medalist Jerry Craft, organized by local literacy non-profit Wondermore.

“To have Newbery and Coretta Scott King award winner Jerry Craft visit us in October will be a joy and a fantastic way to get everyone talking about reading,” says Barry.

Craft is a New York Times–bestselling author-illustrator who has worked on numerous picture books, graphic novels, and middle grade novels, including the graphic novel New Kid, which is being made into a movie in collaboration with LeBron James. “To have Newbery and Coretta Scott King award winner Jerry Craft visit us in October will be a joy and a fantastic way to get everyone talking about reading,” says Barry. Craft’s next novel, Class Act, is a companion to New Kid and will be published this fall.

A school with heart

Getting kids talking about—and hooked on—reading is one of the reasons this long-time high school English teacher switched careers and got certified as a librarian. He saw the library as a place where he could really have a lifelong impact on students. 

“I try to get them jazzed about independent reading, everything from fantasy to biography to graphic novels,” he says, “which will hopefully get them excited about reading and learning in general.” Barry is not short on ideas about how to do this. And if the students don’t come to the library, he’ll go to them. “I will also have a mobile book cart and will be visiting classes and taking high interest books with me.”

“I try to get them jazzed about independent reading, everything from fantasy to biography to graphic novels,” he says, “which will hopefully get them excited about reading and learning in general.”

This type of effort is one of many ways the English High School faculty and staff go “above and beyond” for their students. Barry says the school focuses a lot on making students “feel comfortable and inspiring them … and helping them find their dreams.” Teachers host after-school walks to show kids different green spaces like the Arboretum and Jamaica Pond that might be right around the corner, but that students may not have ever seen. English also hosts a Thanksgiving feast every year, where the faculty and staff serve the students. Barry says it’s yet another gesture to make the school into a place where students—many of whom are first-generation Americans—feel like they are part of a supportive community that cares.

Readers for life

For his own efforts, Barry has worked to make the library space lively and interesting. He hopes the Craft visit and new books continue to enliven the library and make it into a school centerpoint. “Once a student loves to read, they’ll have books to turn to life for solace, for inspiration, for information, and for current events,” says Barry. “I think it’s one of the best jobs in education to be a librarian. You get to turn kids on to something that once they see how great it is, then this will be something they can do for their entire lives.”

Read more about this year’s Shelf Help winners. Books can be bought and donated to the English’s book wish list or by visiting BBF’s donate page. Upon checking out, select “Make this a gift” and designate “Shelf Help” as the gift recipient in the appropriate box. 

Photos courtesy of the English High School.

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