Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Boston Book Festival '10

This past Saturday was the second annual Boston Book Festival, a free, public one-day celebration of all things literary. The day was packed with speakers, exhibits, booksellers and workshops; the event kicked off at 10am and went until early evening- and then into the evening, if you count parties and after-events.

My husband and I took the subway to Copley Place around 10:30, too late for the first event but just in time to get a head start on browsing the outdoor exhibits and displays. There were booksellers, journals and magazines, writing centers and more. And the weather couldn't have been better!

That's some of the swag we got- just some little things. The purple magazine is an issue of a local journal called "One Story," which features, yes, one short story per issue. This issue features a story by A.M. Homes. I also picked up a copy of Tom Perrotta's "The Smile on Happy Chang's Face," which was featured in the "One City, One Story" event, and a little package of tea with literary sayings on the tags.

I didn't attend the "One City, One Story" reading and discussion, and that was intentional- I didn't really like the story. I found it sort of uninspiring as short fiction goes, and I thought it was strange that for the Boston Book Festival, a story was chosen that takes place in New Jersey. Really? So I decided to skip that event.

The first talk we attended was at 12, "The Ancients," about the differences between portrayals of ancient history in the popular media and the real history. The panel included Caroline Alexander, Sir Peter Stothard and Stacy Schiff; it was moderated by Boston media notable Peter Kadzis. Alexander talked about the Iliad as a war poem, Stothard discussed Spartacus and Schiff talked about Cleopatra. It was fascinating!

Unfortunately we had to duck out a little early because I arranged a little tweetup at 1:00 at Bukowski's, a nearby bar that pays tribute to the late poet Charles Bukowski. Appropriate for a literary festival, no? Anyway a few friends made it out and we had a nice time chatting and noshing on their delicious food.

In the afternoon, Jeff and I attended "My Mother She Ate Me, My Father He Killed Me," a panel featuring authors Kathryn Davis and Kelly Link along with scholar Maria Tatar and hosted by author Kate Bernheimer, editor of a fairy-tale anthology of the same name in which Link and Davis are featured. Link and Davis read from the stories they contributed, and Tatar, a Harvard professor, talked about fairy tales from an academic point of view. I have a copy of the book for review and I've really been enjoying dipping into it. Books of short stories take me forever to finish but hopefully I'll have a review for you sometime in this lifetime!

Finally, Jeff and went to a free-writing poetry workshop hosted by Barbara Helfgott Hyett, a take-no-prisoners writing instructor and poet who for some reason latched on to my husband and teased him mercilessly about being a lawyer. Someone else in the workshop said she thought Ms. Hyett was uncomfortable because my husband was using his Blackberry for his writing exercises. Who knows. Anyway I really enjoyed her workshop and she was a very stimulating instructor. I'd love to work with her again.

I volunteered last year's festival but I didn't get to leave my venue all day so in a way I felt like this was the first year I got to go; I learned that it's important to plan your time and it's important to realize that while you'll never get to everything, with a little planning and forethought you'll get to enough and have a great time. Jeff and I had a fantastic time, aided by a beautiful fall day and lots of incredible choices, authors and events. Thank you so much to the organizers of this year's festival for an unforgettable day!