Bronx Book Festival founder Saraciea Fennell told the media that the inaugural event, which took place on Saturday, May 19, outdoors at Fordham University Plaza, was a great success.
The event consisted of six panels featuring adult, young adult, and middle-grade authors, including a keynote featuring Daniel José Older (Shadowshaper, Scholastic, and Star Wars: Last Shot, Del Rey), and Elizabeth Acevedo (The Poet X, HarperTeen) in conversation with Fennell.
“I was completely shocked because there were so many people,” said Fennell. “It was overwhelming and beautiful. People were staying and listening and talking to the authors, even if it was not necessarily something they were interested in. It was phenomenal.”
Noëlle Santos, owner of The Lit. Bar, a bookstore/wine bar in Bronx opening this summer, was the official bookseller for the festival, handling all pre-orders and selling books the day of the event. This included the 600 books Fennell bought from Santos to give out to local students as part of “The Bronx is Reading“, her new literacy initiative launching along with the festival.
Fennell said she has been slowly planning this festival for the last six years, but Veterans Day 2017 was the festival’s first official planning meeting.
“Most of the people behind the planning committee work in publishing or were editors or literary agents,” said Fennell, who has lived in Bronx since the age of eight and has worked as a publicist for Tor Books. “A lot of the volunteers were students from Bronx high schools; some came from Penguin Random House, some were from the Children’s Book Council. Besides Fordham, we also partnered with the New York City Department of Transportation and the mayor’s office.”
Fennell, who said next year’s festival will most likely take place on May 18 at the same location, said she has always felt there was excitement for books in Bronx. But, she said, the outcry after the borough’s Barnes & Noble threatened to close in 2014 (it did close in 2016) was what really sparked the current energy to keep the Bronx from the fate of “bookstore desert.”
“I remember when I was a publicist, it took a year to try to get an author up into that Barnes & Noble,” said Fennell. “There was a lot of resistance because there was the stigma that no one is going to come out for an event there. But I think we’ve proven everyone wrong because people came out in the pouring rain and stayed from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and they were so happy to be there. So that really goes to show you something about the borough.”
For more information on the Bronx Book Festival, please visit here.
Image No. 1 – Daniel José Older (center) and Elizabeth Acevedo (right) appeared in conversation with Bronx Book Festival founder Saraciea Fennell (left).
Image No. 2 – Bronx Book Festival volunteers work to keep the inaugural festival up and running.