Long live the book festival

Blog, On reading

For the past thremonths or so I’ve been working behind the scenes on one of the new literary festivals on the block – the Jewish Literary Festival – which takes place this Sunday (17 June) at the Gardens Community Centre.  

When asked to volunteer my skills to make this event possible, I jumped at the chance. Why? Because I’m a shameless bibliophile and because the thought of attending (and more especially being involved in the creation of) an all-day event dedicated solely to the love of books is my idea of heaven. It’s the same impulse that guides me away from my errands at the mall and into the nearest bookshop, where I’ll lose myself for hours in the solitary and intimate pastime of flicking through the stories that capture my imagination and deeply inhaling the smell of fresh paper that puffs up from their pages.

So what is it that makes book festivals draw such crowds? And why does a team of unpaid volunteers sign up to put on such an event with no reward other than the pure joy of seeing others flock to author signings, new book launches and panels of writers gathering to discuss how their stories and ideas intersect?

My guess is that it’s the appeal of that rare opportunity of face-to-face interaction between readers and writers. For so many authors, solitude is their way of being in the world and for the hungry reader, this makes book festivals all the more thrilling. At these events, authors are willing to show up and speak about their craft and we as readers get to glimpse the magician who conjures up lives and stories from words. We want to be able to know how they do what they do and we want them to know that they’ve touched us with their stories.

“I loved your book,” we gush at the signing table; it hardly conveys the depth of our appreciation for their words. But I guess it’s the reason why they do what they do and why we merely flock to the places they gather.

Some of the authors you can look forward to interacting with at the festival on Sunday are Rahla Xenopoulos, Gail Schimmel, Stephanie Urdang, Lyndall Gordon, Joanne Jowell, Mark Winkler, Mandy Wiener, Damon Galgut and Rachel Zadok.

See you there!

Written by Melissa Fagan, freelance non-fiction editor

I help non-fiction publishers deliver award-winning content. I am an internationally qualified non-fiction editor with 11 years’ publishing experience, specialising in education, lifestyle and literacy.

Email me: melissa.fagan@mfedit.com

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