A book festival is coming to Berkeley. Doubtless many people will say, “It’s about time.”
On Saturday June 21, a launch party was held for the Bay Area Book Festival, an ambitious literary love fest which will take place in the heart of downtown Berkeley on June 6-7, 2015.
The festival is the brainchild of Cherilyn Parsons who decided that it was time somebody started a book festival given that, in many other ways, the area is a literary mecca.
Parsons, a Southern California native who has long admired the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, and attends other literary gatherings around the world such as the Jaipur Literature Festival, was most recently the director of development and strategic initiatives at the Center for Investigative Reporting.
The vision for the Bay Area Book Festival is that it will take over downtown Berkeley, closing several streets for the two-day event — eventually drawing as many as 100,000 people to an entirely walkable smörgåsbord of bookish activities. These will run the gamut from author readings, panels, and a dedicated children’s area in Civic Center Park.
Crucially, the festival will embrace digital books — accepting that ebooks and reading tomes on iPads is increasingly becoming the norm.
Parsons also said at the launch event, held at the Berkeley home of Linda Schacht Gage and John Gage, that all different literary genres will be included.
“Our festival will include the Nobel laureate writers, the National Book Award winners, the Pulitzer Prize winners, and also very popular genre writers that you might not have ever heard of if you don’t follow that particular genre,” she told the San Francisco Chronicle’s book editor John McMurtrie. That includes science fiction, fantasy and romance, she said, even though there are those who might turn up their noses at the latter. “We want to please all different kinds of readers,” she stressed.
Authors who are expected to take part in the festival include Michael Pollan, Sherman Alexie, Cara Black, Vikram Chandra, Maxine Hong Kingston, Andre Dubus III, Susan Straight, Neil Gaiman, Katie Hafner, Daniel Handler, Pico Iyer, Yiyun Li, Jacquelyn Mitchard, Roy Blount Jr., Robert Scheer, Lisa See, Robin Sloan, and Luis Alberto Urrea, among others
A nonprofit organization, the festival is aiming to get financial assistance from corporate sponsors, foundations and individual donors, and has already signed up as partners UC Berkeley, the City of Berkeley, the San Francisco Chronicle, and KQED.
UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks said at the launch party that the university was thrilled to be partnering with the festival and the community. “We hope this will be kicked off with huge success and become one of the great literary events anywhere in the world.”
The festival already won a $25,000 grant from the UC Berkeley Chancellor’s Community Partnership Fund.
For more information about the Bay Area Book Festival, visit the festival’s website.
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