Face Your Fears at Lit Crawl 2021

This hectic pandemic year might have stoked our fears about any number of things, but authors Sandra A. Miller and Erica Ferencik want us to face those fears, now more than ever! Before their session at this year’s Lit Crawl Boston 2021, both authors remind us that treasures can be found when we look for them and work through our fears. Both Sandra and Erica will be presenting “Face Your Fears and Find Your Treasure” at Lit Crawl Boston. We sat down with Sandra and Erica to learn more about what Lit Crawlers can expect at their June 10 session (Register here now!).

BBF: Your session is titled “Face your Fears and Find Your Treasure.” What were your biggest fears writing your books? 

Erica: Frankly, I wake up every morning slightly terrified: will I be able to create a good chapter, paragraph, hell, even a good sentence today? It all feels like some kind of miracle when it does happen. Then there are the more general, three-o’clock-in-the-morning type jitters I’m guessing many writers have: will anyone buy my books? Read them? Like them? All I know is, I cannot simultaneously write and be afraid at the same time, which is a really good thing. I have to just take a deep breath and trust the process, trust that something good will happen every day I take a seat in my studio. 

Sandra: My book, Trove, is a memoir, and writing it was one of the most daunting experiences of my life. When I set out to tell the story of searching for treasure, I could not have imagined the dark places it would lead me. In order to accurately capture scenes of childhood abuse and dysfunction in writing, I had to re-traumatize myself over and over until the fear I felt was as gut-wrenching as when I first went through it. I spent much of my twenties living and traveling around the world—often alone—but nothing in my life has scared me as much as growing up with angry, volatile parents. Writing Trove brought all of that back. 

BBF: Have either of you two faced any fears during the pandemic? And did it lead to finding treasure on the other side? 

Erica: Facing the devastating realities of this pandemic is something we all had to do, and continue to do. I’m pretty isolated as a writer anyway, but my usual ways of breaking free from that had been eliminated. That said, the shutdown provided some relief from manic overscheduling, a bad habit of mine. Also, I had to face the reality of the ending of a couple of friendships that for whatever reason, didn’t survive the stress. So, treasure-wise, I learned: be more selective as to what you commit to. Take better care of all your relationships. And most of all, the world won’t end if you go on that trip or take the time to do something that brings you delight or your soul some sustenance and rejuvenation. Don’t postpone joy.

Sandra: Like Erica, I occasionally found myself ambushed by feelings of isolation. I started to retreat into myself and began to feel disconnected from my husband and two adult children who I was sharing a house with 24/7. Instead of the lovely ebb and flow of family life, nothing felt normal, because—well—nothing was. And for a while, I feared that our family would never feel normal again. Fortunately, my husband is a psychologist and was able to help me get to the other side, which is connection and love. There’s no better treasure than that. 

BBF: Erica, can you tell us the most fearful part of spending a month in the Amazon rainforest as part of the research for your novel Into the Jungle?!

Multiply any anxiety you might have about walking through the woods of New England by a thousand, and you have a trek through the jungle. You are walking food for countless predators—everything is either hunting, or hiding, or both. But it was the nighttime canoe trips through the floating forest— chocolate-colored water up to the waists of trees—that were the most terrifying for me. Above us, poisonous snakes lounged in huge tangled tree limbs; below us, the thick brown water hid its own perils: among them, piranha and electric eels that pack enough electricity to stun a horse. One night, one of these eels, disturbed by our boat, leapt from the water. Eight feet long, thick as a truck tire, it contorted itself in the air before splashing down in the brown soup. It was the only time I saw a glimmer of alarm in my native Peruvian guide’s face. But as the weeks went by, I became at peace with my fears about this place. You have to live a different way, at a heightened state of awareness of your surroundings. When I asked a young Peruvian woman if she was ever afraid, she shuddered and said: No, but I hear you have terrible ice storms in America. How does anyone survive this?

BBF: Sandra, what is the favorite treasure you’ve found as a treasure hunter? 

I have found thousands of treasures, so it’s hard to identify a favorite, but here’s a favorite story of finding treasure. It was my birthday, and I was in D.C. visiting my two best girlfriends whom I’ve known since our first year at our Catholic high school. I was waiting impatiently to hear if a publisher was going to take Trove, and I was on edge all weekend thinking about it. It was time to say goodbye and my friends were walking me to the Metro which I would take to the airport. When I looked down, I saw a little metal cross on the ground, then another, and another. I literally followed a path of 32 crosses to the Metro station, gathering them as I walked. My friends were laughing at me, but I saw it as a sign—many signs. The publisher took the book. 

Lit Crawl Boston 2021 promises treasures for all Bostonian booklovers. Register now for this event!


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Imagining Reality with Broad Universe at Lit Crawl 2021

From perilous quests and magical creatures to parallel universes and dystopias, speculative fiction and fantasy stories provide readers with a playground of endless possibilities. Broad Universe is dedicated to promoting women as well as other underrepresented identities in these genres. For Lit Crawl 2021, they are excited to present the “Rapid Fire Reading!” Preceding this presentation, writers E. C. Ambrose and Anne E. G. Nydam have answered some questions to indulge our imaginations for this exciting and unpredictable event. Register now for this event!

BBF: What unique perspectives do you think underrepresented voices have brought to the genre of science fiction?

E.C.: For a genre that claims to be about ideas and speculations, testing the limits of human possibility, SF has also, for far too long, been dominated by familiar ideas presented by familiar voices. By supporting and uplifting underrepresented voices, we reveal new layers of lived experience that can inform our visions of the future, as well as broadening perspectives on the issues of today that might be explored in fiction for the future. Speculative fiction has the ability to shake up the world and influence generations of thinkers. Exposing those dreamers to an expansive array of experiences, ideas, and perspectives can mean expanding our world.

Anne: Speculative fiction is all about imagining possibilities, and underrepresented people may perhaps have greater incentives to imagine new possibilities. Certainly in a field that’s all about opening minds and hearts by imagining new ways of being, we all benefit by hearing from as many different and diverse voices as possible.

BBF: What science fiction themes or tropes seem to particularly resonate with women and nonbinary science fiction readers and writers?

E.C.: Women and non-binary authors are exploring all kinds of topics, but one area I think is especially fruitful is concepts of leadership. So many of our expectations about the world and its fiction developed under the influence of very top-down, male-led power structures, and one key aspect of welcoming more voices is to question and explore what that influence means and what other models of leadership might be available.

Anne: Spec fic is a genre uniquely able to offer us new visions of what could be, instead of being bound by stereotypes and assumptions about “the way things are.” That means neither authors nor the characters they represent need to be bound by conventional ideas of what women can do and be, or how women can or should be treated by others. It’s a powerful place for us to reinvent or reclaim what it means to be female or non-binary.

BBF: There are so many powerful female characters in the science fiction world—do you have a favorite one? 

E.C.: Essun, the protagonist of N. K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth Trilogy, is a powerful figure in more ways than one. I won’t give the secrets away for those who haven’t read the books, but let’s just say that Jemisin’s approach allows for extraordinary depth of character development. It’s great to see a middle-aged woman who is willing and able to take on the world. If I can slide in a bonus character, one of my favorite nonbinary characters is Kepler, in Claire North’s Touch.  Kepler is one of a group of individuals who can slide into and temporarily possess the bodies of others. North uses this concept to unravel ideas around identity and human connection.

Anne: I can’t pick a favorite, but I think it’s worth noting how many strong girls appeared in the very earliest fantasy stories for children: Princess Irene, Alice, Dorothy. I think it’s no coincidence that nineteenth-century writers wrote fantasy when they wanted to show smart, courageous, self-willed girl.

BBF: Rapid readings are filled with surprises and unpredictability—what can audiences look forward to the most? Do you think these are essential factors when writing the science fiction genre?

E.C.: This particular reading includes four women writing from very different places in speculative fiction. The readings will include some ideas listeners may not have heard before, and also deliver insight into more familiar areas from a direction the listener may not have considered. Speculative fiction holds up a funhouse mirror to humanity and the present day, using its distortions to create revelation. At least, that’s what I’m hoping for!

Anne: People definitely love speculative fiction because of the surprises: entirely new worlds full of magic and possibility. At our readings you might get dragons, or spaceships, or magic spells, or aliens, or umbrellaphants… Or all of the above, or perhaps none of the above, because we write a wonderful diversity of styles within speculative fiction, and each author will bring something different to the mix. You can be sure you won’t get bored!

Don’t miss this fun occasion on June 10 at Lit Crawl 2021! Find more information on Broad Universe here and register for their “Rapid-Fire Reading” Lit Crawl session here!


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Cracking the Code for Lit Crawl 2021

The Mystery Writers of America is an organization that has been contributing to the mystery genre for over eighty years. During their presentation titled “Mystery Making, spectators are welcomed to put on their sleuth hats and come into close contact with their investigative side. Building up to this exciting yet mysterious event, we have asked Sarah Smith, Leslie Wheeler, Carolyn Marie Wilkins, Kate Flora, and Clea Simon some questions to get you started. From personal opinions to sneak peeks, we invite you to fish for any clues. 

BBF: I know mystery novels come in lots of different flavors—from hard-boiled to cozy. What range of sub-genres can readers expect to encounter at Lit Crawl?

Sarah: From me, you’ll be seeing a historical mystery: a woman in 1912 who suddenly doesn’t know whether she’s black or white. She has to solve a longstanding family secret—and decide what she’ll do about it.

Leslie: My first series, the Miranda Lewis mysteries, falls into the traditional/cozy category, while my Berkshire Hilltown Mysteries can be classified as either romantic suspense or domestic thrillers. And my short stories range from humorous to quite dark.

Carolyn: My book is a traditional mystery with paranormal elements and a dash of African American history thrown into the mix. The protagonist in my book Death at a Seance is an African American psychic who must survive in a segregated Indiana town run by the KKK at the height of the Roaring ‘20s.

Kate: Gritty police procedural, strong female amateur PI, and romantic suspense.

Clea: I’ll be wearing two genre hats at Lit Crawl. My most recent mystery, A Cat on the Case, is decidedly “cozy”—a very gentle puzzle-style mystery. But my next, Hold Me Down (coming in October from Polis Books), is psychological suspense, featuring a woman with a past that makes her a very unreliable narrator. 

BBF: I see that Edgar Allan Poe is very present in your image. Are there any other classic mystery authors in particular that have inspired your organization? 

Sarah: Poe terrified me when I was a kid, and I love Dorothy Sayers and Sherlock Holmes; but right now is a classic period for the mystery, with diverse writers like Alyssa Cole and Deepa Anappara bringing a whole new depth to the form.

Leslie: I grew up on Nancy Drew, then graduated to Dorothy L. Sayers, Agatha Christie, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Wilkie Collins, the Bronte sisters, Charlotte and Emily (for gothic mysteries), and Jane Austen, whom P. D. James is considered a great mystery writer, though no one gets killed in her books.

Carolyn: As a kid I grew up on Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers. I still love these English classics but am now thrilled to find great mysteries from a more diverse cohort of authors. Eleanor Taylor Bland, Barbara Neely, and Valerie Wilson Wesley were huge influences. 

Kate: Dorothy Sayers…strong female characters.

Clea: As much as I love Poe, my heart belongs to Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes. Devoured their works growing up, and I find myself still thinking of plot points I learned from them. This was after I outgrew my infatuation with Encyclopedia Brown, of course.

BBF: Some people say “there’s no such thing as a perfect crime.” Should audiences come with this mindset to Lit Crawl? 

Sarah: No perfect crimes, but perfect entertainment!

Leslie: I believe it occurs, though it takes a very clever criminal to pull this off.

Carolyn: There is definitely no perfect crime, at least not in my books. The villain is always caught and brought to justice in the end.

Kate: Perfect crime? Maybe…but modern forensics and the ubiquity of cameras make it difficult. Best bet? Stranger on stranger in a location with lots of tourists or transients.

Clea: What I would tell people looking for a perfect crime is simple: everything leaves a trace. 

BBF: From misleading clues to eccentric detectives, are there any beloved tropes that you are most fond of and we might expect in the event? 

Sarah: I love the long-kept family secret. 

Leslie: The hero’s journey, in which a character embarks on a quest, encounters many obstacles, but manages to prevail, and in the process, learns things about herself that enables her to grow and change. 

Carolyn: Look for a red herring or two along the way. We like to keep you guessing.

Kate: Hiding in plain sight/deliberate misdirection. The boy who cried wolf scenario, so the person isn’t believed when there is real danger. Casting suspicion on everyone à la Death on the Nile.

Clea: I love the red herring—the suspect who feasibly could have committed the crime if they were just pushed a little further…but didn’t!

BBF: Here’s a fun one. If you were forced to live as a mystery character for the rest of your lives, which one would it be? 

Sarah: Harriet Vane for the intelligence, the friendships, the feminism, the man who appreciates her as a human being—but Phryne Fisher for the clothes.

Leslie: Harriet Vane, from the Dorothy L. Sayers novel Gaudy Night, because she’s highly intelligent, strong-willed, a feminist, a successful mystery author, and has a beau who appreciates her for who she is. 

Carolyn: Sherlock Holmes. His life was never boring! 

Kate: Could I be both Whimsey and Harriet Vane? It would be nice to have Bunter to look after things.

Clea: Hmmm…. Could I join Inspector Brunetti’s family and live in Venice and eat all that wonderful food Donna Leon is always writing about? 

You can find out more about the Mystery Writers of America here. And then put on your deerstalker and register for their “Mystery Making” session on June 10 to continue your investigations at Lit Crawl 2021! 

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Q&A with Italian American Writers Association

The Boston Book Festival is excited to welcome the Italian American Writers Association to our 2021 Lit Crawl event! Being a community dedicated to progressing and promoting the work of Italian American writers, they hope to spread awareness on the beauty of the Italian American experience with a poetry reading. Leading up to this event, we have decided to ask our participants, Julia Lisella and Jennifer Martelli, some questions regarding what to expect during their presentation. And don’t forget to grab you tickets now to their session at the Dial Restaurant in Central Square, Cambridge!

BBF: What can audiences look forward to and take away from your Lit Crawl presentation?

Julia and Jennifer: Audiences will hear some good contemporary poetry and learn some fun facts about Italian Americans in the arts and culture. They will be introduced to a vibrant Italian American writing community in the Boston area. 

BBF: You’ve chosen a round-robin poetry reading as your artistic platform and presentation piece. What do you think makes this an especially appropriate platform for expressing the themes of your own poetry?

Julia and Jennifer: We were originally going to do a straight reading, as a way to present our aesthetic as Italian American writers and curators: one of us would read for 10 minutes, followed by the next. We felt this was somewhat static, so the idea of a “round robin” came up. This would create movement in the reading—like a dance! It also creates surprise for both of us: how will one reader respond to the poem they hear? This is how we try to pair readers when we solicit features, and it also is its own “open mic,” which is always fun. This format underscores the collaboration we hope we’ve fostered with the IAWA reading series.  

BBF: Your session is titled “Two Italian Gals Walk Into a Bookstore: Creating a Community for IA Writers in Boston.” What kind of readers and writers are you hoping to attract to your community with this event? 

Julia and Jennifer: We’d like to make lovers of poetry and literature aware of this growing community of published writers, educators, and editors. Anyone interested in poetry should attend, whether they’re Italian or not. We run an open mic and we often get asked if you have to be Italian to participate in it, or read Italian themes, but we welcome anyone who would like to join us. Our features are writers of Italian descent and we are trying to increase awareness of Italian Americans in the literary world. 

BBF: As you have a sister organization in New York, how has that city as well as Boston influenced your works?  

Julia and Jennifer: There’s a lot of cross-over of influences in our own poetry. One of us is from New York; we both write about New York. But our work as organizers of the series has really been to grow the Boston community of writers. Since we’ve been on Zoom we’ve joined as one reading series. The Italian diaspora is complex: we’ve welcomed participants from across the US, from Canada, and from Europe.

Registrations for Lit Crawl 2021 are now open! Be sure to check out Julia and Jennifer with their poetry reading on June 10 at the Dial Restaurant’s rooftop in Cambridge. Tickets are $15 and must be purchased in advance. You can read more about the Italian American Writers Association here


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Tell-All Boston on the Starlight Stage: Silence, Madness, Secrets, and Apologies

Tell-All Boston is a live memoir reading series we are pleased to have as part of Lit Crawl Boston 2021! Their session, “Silence, Madness, Secrets, and Apologies: A Night with Tell-All,” will feature four local authors (Sebastian Stuart, Michelle Bowdler, Molly Howes, E. Dolores Johnson) plus an MC, Alicia Googins on Lit Crawl’s main stage at Starlight Square. Group facilitator and co-founder Kristen Paulson-Nguyen offered some insights and introductions to the group. We’re sure you will find something to pique your interest as we near June 10!

Tell-All Boston’s Lineup

Tell-All Boston has lined up a few presenters for Lit Crawl Boston 2021. Kristen told us Sebastian Stuart is working on a psychological thriller set in Cambridge called Family Hold Back. Michelle Bowdler’s Is Rape a Crime?: A Memoir, an Investigation, and a Manifesto will be released in paperback on October 12. “I am really looking forward to doing in-person book signings,” said Michelle, “something I couldn’t do last July when my book was released.” She’s excited to be doing a public event with Anita Hill in late August for the Brandeis Feminist Ethics Project. Molly Howes, author of A Good Apology: Four Steps to Make Things Right, has been leading workshops based on her book. She’s spoken with all kinds of groups across the country, from teachers to clergy and congregations. Lastly, E. Dolores Johnson’s 2020 memoir on her parents’ interracial marriage, Say I’m Dead: A Family Memoir of Race, Secrets, and Love, is already in its second printing. Dolores is thrilled that Lit Crawl occurs so close to June 12, which is Loving Day, the day anti-race mixing laws were overturned, and June 19 or Juneteenth, when the last slaves were told they were free. “These historic American dates are the ideal time to talk about the themes of race and identity I’ve written about,” she says.

Tell-All’s History

For readers unfamiliar with Tell-All Boston, here is a brief history lesson. Kristen told us, “With the leadership of GrubStreet’s Memoir Incubator Instructor Alysia Abbott [who also happens to be on the Lit Crawl Boston committee!], several 2017 alumni met with Abbott in Central Square, Cambridge to talk about creating a nonfiction reading series. They brainstormed, and in 2018, with the support of GrubStreet, Tell-All Boston, the city’s only live on-stage literary reading series dedicated to the craft of memoir and personal essay, was born.

“Bestselling authors, award-winning writers, and emerging stars share the stage, mesmerizing with first-person stories that make meaning from lived experience,” she said. They are proud to have produced their latest — the eighth — Tell-All virtually on March 4, 2021 and feel incredibly honored to bring their show in person to Lit Crawl.

What Can Audiences Expect?

Tell-All Boston’s presenters hope attendees take away many experiences from their session. “I hope they will be delighted and inspired by the strength, diversity, and excitement of the Boston literary scene,” said Sebastian. 

“I hope that the trials and challenges of life,” said Dolores, “whether they be a crime, systemic racism, mental illness, or a travesty that should be atoned for, give us the opportunity to grow into our stronger selves.”

“I hope they enjoy the event and come away feeling moved. And I hope they get a sense of the vibrant nonfiction writers coming out of GrubStreet. It’s an incredible community,” said Michelle. Molly echoed a similar vision. “I hope they hear good stories and learn about GrubStreet’s Memoir Incubator and nonfiction writers.” 

Alicia Googins, the session’s MC and a writer and Memoir Incubator 2017 alum, as well as an actress, hopes attendees understand the Boston writing landscape. “I hope they get a sense of the close-knit, supportive, hard-working, and fun Boston creative nonfiction writing scene, a desire to write, and feel inspired to tell their own stories and share their unique voices to broaden and strengthen community and connection.”

Get Ready to Read

Lastly, like all writers, Tell-All’s presenters all had memoirs and personal essays to recommend to Lit Crawl Boston 2021 attendees. Kristen is excited to read Sebastian’s book, out July 15. She also loved “Walden” by Alicia Googins, an essay that appeared in the spring 2020 issue of Solstice Magazine. 

Sebastian loved Me, Elton John’s memoir, and Jesmyn Ward’s The Men We Reaped: A Memoir. “The sense of place was so intense, I could smell the thick Mississippi air,” he said. He also loved fashion legend André Leon Talley’s gossipy but ultimately moving The Chiffon Trenches and found Alysia Abbott’s Fairyland: A Memoir of My Father deeply moving.

Michelle recommends Abbott’s beautiful essay on the death of Lawrence Ferlinghetti and what his bookstore City Lights meant to Abbott and the city of San Francisco. She also suggests checking out Trần Vũ Thu-Hằng’s essay in Pangyrus about art and being a Vietnamese refugee, as well as 2018 Memoir Incubator alumna Rani Neutill’s poignant essay in The Lily. Molly is excited about 2014 alumna Judy Bolton-Fasman’s forthcoming memoir Asylum: A Memoir of Family Secrets (to be published September 5, 2021).

Dolores has several recommendations for narrative nonfiction, both classic and more recent:  Becoming by Michelle Obama, The Autobiography of Malcolm X  by Malcolm X and Alex Haley, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, and Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass. Finally, Dolores recommends Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Ann Jacobs.

Thank you to Tell-All Boston for participating in our questions and answers leading to Lit Crawl Boston 2021! More information on the presenters can be found on our website. And you can get your free tickets to Tell-All’s session by registering in advance here.


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Lit Crawl Boston 2021 FAQ

It’s been a while since we’ve hosted a live event, and we wager it’s been a while since you’ve attended one! You probably have a lot of questions about how Lit Crawl will work on June 10; we’ve done our best to anticipate some of them here, but if you have additional questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out via email to info@bostonbookfest.org. Can’t wait to “crawl” with you on June 10!

What’s new about Lit Crawl this year?

Well, first of all, the location is brand new! We’ve moved across the Charles River to Cambridge and are hosting Lit Crawl in a variety of locations in Central Square. Our map of venues will be available online soon. Other changes are in response to safe gathering guidelines and include hosting all Lit Crawl events outdoors and requiring registration or ticketing for most Lit Crawl events. Lit Crawl might not be quite the free-wheeling experience it’s been in the past, but it will still offer all the same fun and whimsy you expect from this event.

How is Lit Crawl organized?

Lit Crawl is organized into three “Phases” at 6:00, 7:00, and 8:00pm with your choice of four or five different activities happening during each phase. With the exception of drop-in activities, you will need to register for each activity you want to attend.

How does registration work, and why is it required this year?

With the exception of a handful of activities tagged as “drop in” on our schedule, advance registration is required for all Lit Crawl Boston events this year. This requirement is largely to help us stay within the gathering guidelines set by the state and by the city of Cambridge, but also so that we can manage attendee expectations and so that we can more readily assist with contact tracing if needed. All events taking place at Starlight Square and Popportunity are free to attend but still require registration (with the exception of those drop-in activities). All events taking place at restaurant venues (Area Four, Artifact Cider Project, The Dial, and Naco Taco) require a $15 ticket per person per session but come with complimentary snacks and maybe some fun surprises! Links to register are included in each session description on our website. Registration for Starlight Square mainstage events will take place on Eventbrite (links on schedule); all other pre-registration will take place directly within our website and schedule.

Do I need to print out my ticket(s) before arriving?

Presenting the proof of purchase/registration on your phone should be fine! For all events not happening on the Starlight Square mainstage, your name will be on a list kept by one of our volunteers.

Why are you charging for some sessions this year?

As you know, the past 14 months have been exceptionally challenging for restaurant owners and workers. We want to do our part to support our Central Square restaurant neighbors, so $12 of each $15 ticket will go directly to the restaurants in exchange for letting us use their valuable patio spaces for our Lit Crawl programs. The remainder of the ticket price goes to cover our expenses related to ticketing and credit card processing. We hope you’ll join us in supporting our host restaurants by buying drinks, tipping your servers, and making the most of your night out!

Will you maintain a waiting list for sold-out sessions?

The box office at Starlight Square may maintain a waiting list for any sold-out mainstage sessions and will notify people earlier in the day if a spot has opened up. In order to manage crowds, we discourage people from coming to Starlight Square in the hopes of snagging a seat to a sold-out show—though you are of course welcome to participate in any of the free activities available on a drop-in basis. We will not be maintaining waiting lists for the restaurant-hosted events.

Is there a rain date?

Yes, since our event is outdoors, we are holding Wednesday, June 16 as a rain date for events at Starlight Square. Rescheduling of restaurant events will be at the discretion of the host venue; ticket-holders for any events that cannot be rescheduled will be refunded. We will make decisions regarding weather-related cancellations in consultation with our host venues and will post any updates or postponements on our website and social media by noon on June 10.

Will books be available for sale?

Yes! We are partnering with Somerville’s All She Wrote Books to provide book sales and signings after many events. This year has been challenging for booksellers, too, so we hope you will patronize All She Wrote and support local authors and a brand-new local bookseller!

Are masks required to attend Lit Crawl Boston?

We ask Lit Crawl Boston attendees to follow the protocol at each host venue and the directions of our volunteers. In most cases, that means attendees will be asked to wear a mask except when seated and eating or drinking.

What other precautions are you taking to ensure attendee safety at this event?

We have added many extra measures this year to create a fun and safe event for all. At all venues, we will adhere to capacity limits as well as the current state and city guidelines to ensure proper social distancing and the safety of our performers and guests. Extra masks and hand sanitizer will be available at all venues. We’ll also have volunteers stationed throughout Central Square and at each Lit Crawl site to ensure guests and performers are adhering to guidelines for the event.

If we receive notification of a positive case of COVID by a Lit Crawl ticket holder or a guest at one of our venues (a non–Lit Crawl restaurant guest, for example), we will pass Lit Crawl ticket holder emails on to the Massachusetts Contract Tracing Collaborative for contact tracing purposes. Individual names related to positive cases will not be released publicly.  

What’s the best way to get to Lit Crawl Boston?

Cambridge’s Central Square is well served by public transportation, including the MBTA’s Red Line and several bus routes. There’s also bike parking available at Starlight Square and near several other venues. There is no car parking at Starlight Square; parking is available in several nearby garages and parking lots (see Starlight website for details) as well as in metered street spaces. Unless you are a Cambridge resident, please don’t park in residential permit spaces on the street.

Will food and drink be available at the venues?

Yes, food and alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages will be available for purchase from Comfort Kitchen at Starlight Square and at all the restaurant venues. Tickets to restaurant-hosted Lit Crawl sessions include complimentary snacks, which vary from venue to venue.

Will any of Lit Crawl be live-streamed if I don’t feel comfortable coming in person?

Yes, events taking place on Starlight’s mainstage will be live-streamed to Starlight’s website and can be watched at home free of charge.


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Poetry Meets Science at BBF’s Lit Crawl 2021

BBF is excited to host the Poetry of Science as part of this year’s all-outdoors Lit Crawl in Central Square, Cambridge! 

The Poetry of Science is a project aimed at addressing the lack of representation for People of Color (POC) in both poetry and the sciences. Their session at Lit Crawl Boston 2021, “Poetry+Science: New Realities,” will be their first demonstration of the similarities between the sciences and humanities. Joshua Sariñana, their director, was able to answer a few questions about Poetry of Science ahead of June 10. 


BBF: Could you tell us a little about your presenters for Poetry of Science? 

Joshua: Our seven presenters, selected by Jean-Dany Joachim, Cambridge Poet Populist from 2009 to 2011, are local poets of color, each of whom has a connection to the City of Cambridge. We have a great selection that includes emerging talent and notable poets, each with their own style and voice. We believe our selected poets will find a deep running connection among the stories of their scientist collaborators. 

[For the Poetry of Science project], poets will be meeting with scientists from fields that include quantum mechanics, social robotics, and radiology at the intersection of experimental design and neuroaesthetics; learning their motivations, research, and stories; and crafting original poetry about them. At the Lit Crawl, each will be presenting one poem that has, so far, come forth from this work.


BBF: What do you hope attendees and viewers at Lit Crawl Boston 2021 will take away from your “Poetry+Science: New Realities” session? 

Joshua: In the true spirit of poetry, we are hoping to convey a great deal through a few strategically placed, powerful words. For one, and central to this project, is representation. Our mission as a project is to reveal and give voice to representation of Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian and Pacific Islander, and People of Color’s experiences in the fields of poetry, the sciences, and the arts. We also aim to create new and positive links between People of Color, the arts, and the sciences to counter the negative associations handed down by systemic racism. The larger goal is to create novel realities, an aesthetic to resist systems of oppression. This is our first public display of those efforts.

Our hope is that the community and various audiences will feel the underlying current that bridges poetry and the sciences. Both are fields of passion centered around intimate details and original viewpoints, and, we believe, understand the awe in the work of each other. Both observers, they teach us about the world and ourselves. We are excited for attendees to access a new language of that synthesis.


BBF: How does Poetry of Science plan to change the racial disparities associated in the arts and sciences?

Joshua: Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and People of Color lack representation in many settings as compared to the percentage of the population they represent. There is a profound lack of diversity in publishing, which means we miss out on the voices of these poets and creative writers. Photography and mainstream media are bereft of, or misrepresent, POCs. And the racial/ethnic disparities we see across the sciences—so near to the heart of Cambridge itself—are stark. 

Our project gives contributing poets the opportunity to publish new work, and offer the scientists an avenue to understand their work in a new language, bridging the gap between the sciences and the humanities—an analogous gesture in linking and strengthening distinct communities of color.


BBF: Why has Poetry of Science decided to participate in Lit Crawl Boston 2021?

Joshua: Lit Crawl Boston is a celebration of literature, of culture, of voice. Sadly, the voices of poets and writers of color are often silenced when they should be heard and celebrated. To that end, we believe that participating in this effort helps rightly center the beautiful and talented voices of our local poets of color, and that by sharing their words with more members of the literary community, we can make a larger impact and progress toward our ultimate goals.


Come and see Poetry of Science’s unique project using the best of the humanities and the sciences. You can find more information on Poetry of Science, and our other presenters. Be sure to keep up to date as we approach Lit Crawl Boston 2021!


This interview was conducted by Edward Ganthier, an intern with the Boston Book Festival in 2021 and an Emerson College graduate student.

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BBF’s Roxbury Book Giveaway Keeps Reading Alive through Pandemic

By Edward Ganthier


The BBF may have gone virtual over the last year, but the festival has remained as committed as ever to getting physical books in the hands of kids. Over the last few weeks, the BBF, in collaboration with Madison Park Development Center (MPDC) and the Roxbury branch of the Boston Public Library made good on that commitment, delivering hundreds of new books and BBF swag bags to kids throughout the Roxbury community.


BBF’s founder and board chair, Deborah Z Porter, conceived of the Roxbury Book Giveaway after reading about how the principal at the Rafael Hernández K-8 Dual-Language School in Roxbury, the winner of BBF’s 2020 Shelf Help grant, emptied the library’s shelves at the beginning of the pandemic to ensure kids had something to read at home during the lockdown.


“That story really touched me deeply,” says Porter. “I thought that perhaps the BBF could mobilize to get books to more Boston school kids.”


“That story really touched me deeply,” says Porter. “I thought that perhaps the BBF could mobilize to get books to more Boston school kids.”


Several BBF board members stepped up and contributed to fund the book buy. BBF’s executive director, Norah Piehl, bought over 200 popular titles from First Book, a discounted book marketplace for educators and non-profits, as well hundreds more from Frugal Bookstore in Roxbury. Many of the book titles – from Nate the Great to Magic Mermaid – were provided by Philecia Harris, children’s librarian at the Roxbury branch of the Boston Public Library, to ensure the books were popular with kids in the neighborhood.


The first delivery of books went to Madison Park. The housing development offers many community programs for resident families, but like most activities during the pandemic, the majority have become remote. However, thanks to the efforts of Leslie Stafford, MDPC’s health equity and wellness coordinator, the children were still able to receive the BBF tote bags filled with books and goodies.

Children from Madison Park Development Corporation received BBF book bags with a new book and goodies.


“The books are being used to increase the brain development of our children that are being homeschooled,” says Stafford. She says the children specifically enjoy bedtime stories, gardening, and books about kids who look like them. “Most of the kids are avid readers. Sometimes I like to challenge those who are struggling to read a page to me aloud so I can encourage them that they can do it,” says Stafford.


The last stop on the BBF Roxbury Book Giveaway was the Roxbury branch of the Boston Public Library. Although the library remains closed to in-person activities, Philecia Harris, the children’s librarian, still managed to distribute the books and goodies to local families. She loaded boxes of books into her car and dropped them at doorsteps, ensuring that even with a pandemic, the books were going to get to the kids who most needed them. Inside the boxes were books popular at the Roxbury branch, including Shuri: The Vanished by Nic Stones and the author Rick Riordan. Next month, Harris will be distributing books at Nathan Hale Elementary after reading to the children there.


 “As an educator, it’s really exciting when you see a child hungry for a particular kind of knowledge and you can’t help but feed that and give them more,” says Harris.


“As an educator, it’s really exciting when you see a child hungry for a particular kind of knowledge and you can’t help but feed that and give them more,” says Harris.

She stressed the importance of childhood reading as knowledge the children own themselves and as something to share with their friends. She also talked about the importance of book ownership for a child’s education.

“Reading is the number one way that young people get information.… Every time they get another book, they’re adding to their home library,” she says. “We’re also creating a book culture with children.”


To learn more about how you can support providing books to kids through BBF programs, visit our Shelf Help page, where you can donate to bring books to school library shelves in need. 


Edward Ganthier is an intern with the Boston Book Festival in 2021 and an Emerson College graduate student.

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Q&A with Dave Barry, Librarian at the English High School and 2020 Shelf Help Winner

This year’s Shelf Help Program applications are now open for school librarians. We talked with one of last year’s winners, Dave Barry of the English High School, to learn more about what prompted him to apply for the grant program, how it benefitted the library, and what it was like to have author Jerry Craft visit the school (albeit virtually!).

What prompted you to apply for the Shelf Help grant?

Debbie Froggatt, the head of library services for Boston Public Schools, shared the grant application with the school librarians at the end of last year and encouraged us all to apply. Librarians can’t pass up an opportunity for free books!

How has receiving the ShelfHelp Grant helped you in your role as a librarian? 

It has really done wonders, especially as someone still relatively new in this role. I have met some great people and had the opportunity to grow a lot through the process. Carlin Carr from the Boston Book Festival has been outstanding from start to finish in ushering us through the process. I learned about book ordering from the folks at Mackin and the Boston Public Library. Reaching out to my colleagues for book ideas and to recruit students for the Craft visit helped me to get to know the staff at English High School better. Pam Yosca from Wondermore was fantastic in co-planning the Jerry Craft visit and is a great resource for future author visits. And of course, we were  able to meet Jerry Craft, which was exciting and a lot of fun.

Reaching out to my colleagues for book ideas and to recruit students for the Craft visit helped me to get to know the staff at English High School better.

How has the grant benefitted English H.S.’s library and the school more broadly?

We now have over $1,000 worth of new books for our library collection. Close to 80 of Jerry Craft’s graphic novels have been distributed to students for them to read and enjoy. As a school, we’ve seen how much fun an author visit can be. Hopefully students will now be that much more likely to get excited about the next author visit and about reading itself.

The English High School now has $1,000 worth of new books in its collection from the Shelf Help Program.

What were some of the highlights for you?

The Craft visit was a highlight of the year for sure. He was wise and funny and made great connections with the students. Also, collaborating with Carlin from the Boston Book Festival and Pam from Wondermore were great parts of a strange year.

As a school, we’ve seen how much fun an author visit can be.

Were there any challenges you had to face?

One challenge was getting the Craft books into the hands of students when most of them were not in school on a regular basis. Some students came to school for the books and many books were dropped off at students’ homes too.

Do you have any plans to build on the momentum from the new books and the Jerry Craft visit in the year to come? 

Author Jerry Craft created this personalized drawing for English High School during his online school visit.


Absolutely! We have all the new books on display right now. Students who are in the building have already begun to borrow them. Those will be a treasure for years to come. We look forward to working with Wondermore on more author visits for next year. Here’s a fun one: Jerry Craft drew a picture of Jordan (the protagonist from New Kid) saying hello to English High School. We are dropping that off at the framer’s and can’t wait to have that on the wall in the library.  

Learn more about applying for this year’s Shelf Help School Partnership program and apply online by May 31, 2021.


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Q&A with Cathryn Mercier, Chair of the Children’s Literature Department at Simmons

The Boston Book Festival has had a long-time partnership with Simmons University, especially its Department of Children’s Literature, with whom we collaborate on programming, volunteer opportunities, internships, session hosting, and more. We wanted to ask Cathryn Mercier, chair of the department, about what this partnership means for Simmons, especially this year.

What does a sponsorship of the BBF mean to Simmons and the Children’s Literature Department? How do Simmons faculty and students get involved with book festival events?  

Our sponsorship invests in the reading lives of the youngest and future generations as they listen to keynote speakers, talk with artists, and meet writers. Our graduate students volunteer and become an immediate part of the reading lifeline of the city. Our faculty moderate conversations where authors share their creative process or give insight to some of the knots of writing. These are opportunities for illumination—of literature, of self, of community. Finally, we are so proud of the BBF and its work; we’re particularly proud that the event was imagined and founded by one of our graduates, Deborah Porter. The whole event celebrates the things our program values: readers and reading, young people and creativity, civic engagement and responsibility, familiar and new friends.

How is Simmons University engaged as an active member in civic conversations around Boston? Besides the BBF, how else do you see Simmons engaging with the community?

At Simmons, commitment to community based learning and research cultivates civic agency in students and faculty, promotes socially responsible leadership, and sees that the futures of the University and our city are inextricably connected in co-creating a just future. Students participate in everything from JumpState to middle-school pen-pal programs, and work at 826Boston and develop curriculum for graduate programs in social work, health studies, and library science, which all help place them in work and internship positions throughout city agencies, hospitals, and public service organizations. One example of faculty engagement includes scientists who study the health and ecology of the Muddy River.

What efforts have you seen at Simmons in general, and in the Children’s Literature Department more specifically, to create a sense of campus community during this period? 

Our new University President, Dr Lynn Perry Wooten, gives us reason to celebrate the potential of what our community will become under her leadership. In the pandemic, she has focused on learning and relationships, and she sees higher education as needing to address systemic racism. Our community read, What the Eyes Don’t See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City by Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, began our discussion this year around “the role of developing citizens who are willing to fight to change the world.”

In ChLit, we host weekly “Virtual Book Nooks” and create programming that celebrates students: a graduate’s debut novel (Julieta and the Diamond Enigma by Luisana Duarte Amendariz), and an alumna’s (Autumn Allen) appointment as the 20–21 Children’s Writer in Residence at the BPL. The Ifill College’s Mentor-in-Residence program welcomes Boston’s activist artist Ekua Holmes in October—with many other larger programs planned for undergraduates out of our excellent Student Life Office. We build community day by day, person by person, relationship by relationship, even book by book. Is it harder on Zoom — yes! Is it impossible, no.  

What are you most excited about when you think about the future of Simmons and your department? 

I’m excited about Dr Lynn Perry Wooten, our first African American President and an inclusive leader, skilled in crisis management, and powerful in her commitment to positive leadership and diversity. I am always most excited about our students—the  new writers, illustrators, teachers, librarians, publishers, booksellers, academics, critics, award committee judges—who change the world one book, one reader at a time. They believe in the power of the book to change the reader, and they charge the reader to change the world.  

And back to the BBF before we close . . . you’ve attended many BBF events and moderated more than a few—what has been your favorite session to date, and what are you excited about this year?  

This year I’m so pleased that Simmons will sponsor Jerry Craft’s keynote for young people.  With words and images, Craft mixes hard truths with moments of liberating humor and asks us all to see the revolutionary in the quotidian. 

 My favorite past event, though, was the kind of serendipitous encounter that happens all the time at BBF. Kristin Cashore was speaking. I went to the location of her panel and waited in line. When my friend and I were about to be let in—the last people in what had been a long line and a long wait—the teenaged girl behind me wailed and grabbed her friend, nearly weeping, “Oh no! I have to tell her this book [Graceling] changed my life.” I looked at my friend, we nodded, then turned to the two young people and said, “Why don’t you take our seats?” I knew Kristin, I had taught her—she had already changed my life and, more than anything else, she deserved to know that she had changed this young reader’s life.

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