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Books are Magic: The 2021 Brooklyn Book Festival

On October 3rd, Susquehanna University sent eleven first-year publishing majors to New York for the annual Brooklyn Book Festival. Although the festival had been switched to a hybrid model, with certain events online and a slight reduction in author programs, I had the privilege of attending the trip.

Our day began outside of Deg, our campus center, at 6:45 in the morning. Although the early morning was dark and extremely foggy, we knew a bright day was ahead of us. We arrived in Brooklyn around 11:00am, following a four-hour bus trip. Professor Roth, our supervisor, instructed us to meet him at the entrance to the festival at 4:30pm, leaving us five and a half hours to ourselves. We split off into groups and were off; the festival was ours.

The marketplace was filled with representative booksellers and publishers, all of whom situated themselves under white tents. It was extremely crowded; droves of people went from tent to tent looking to expand their TBR (to be read) list. The booksellers ranged in popularity, some very well-known while others only existed in obscurity. Some of the vendors there were AWST Press, Cambridge University Press, Soho Press, and the Romance Writers of America. Everyone returned from the trip with a stack of books, myself most certainly included.

There were also programs that we had the option to attend. During these programs, established writers and authors would speak to an audience about a topic pertaining to their craft. The authors then signed books immediately following their program. Some of the authors there included Joyce Carol Oates, Hanif Abdurraqib, Lauren Groff, and Viet Thanh Nguyen. I attended Iconic Across Genres, a panel and reading hosted by Joyce Carol Oates and Paul Aster. Both authors discussed their writing process before reading a passage of their works. The highlight of my day came immediately afterwards, when Oates signed my copy of the Ecco Anthology of Contemporary American Short Fiction.

Of course, it isn’t without saying that we were precarious in regards to COVID-19. As mentioned, the festival was hybrid, and only four author programs were held per hour. Although the majority of the festival took place outdoors, masking was compulsory, and the vaccine was mandatory in order to attend any of the events. In direct spite of the virus, everyone had come together as a community of readers and writers.

At 4:30pm, we met up with Professor Roth and headed over to Monty Q’s, a brick-oven pizza parlor right outside of Downtown Brooklyn. After getting some iconic New York pizza, we returned to the bus for a five-hour trip home that took us through the rural highlands of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. We snapped photos of the books we got and started reading on the bus, the pages illuminated by red emergency lights. After all, books are magic, and we had all come to realize after this trip.

"No woman was ever ruined by a book." – Jimmy Walker
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