ReadUp Greenville 2016 Recap


Today, a YA & MG book festival launched in my city. I have many, many feels about this, but let me try to convey them in some semblance of coherence.

The Significance

group of authors at read up bookfest

Some of the authors. (Photo from @readupbookfest, with permission)

The previous (and first) book festival I attended was 5-6 hours away. I got a hotel room and drove all by myself to meet authors and attend panels. Growing up, I didn’t know that festivals like this existed. I never imagined that I would meet an author, much less many of them. I never imagined that they would give me writing advice and geek out over my Doctor Who t-shirts. So now, to have this festival in my city? That is a dream I didn’t even know to dream for so long.

The Line-up

jay asher author speaking

Jay Asher, the opening keynote presentation (photo from @readupbookfest, with permission)

Read Up featured 27 authors. I was familiar with about half of them. Major draws for me:

I was excited about meeting new authors though. Hearing an author talk about their story always makes me more interested. 🙂

Some panel topics included:

  • Harry Potter
  • Magic
  • Audiobooks
  • “Bad Blood”
  • The Writing Process
  • Relationships (Romantic & not)

The event ran from 9:30 to 7:30, with a regular rotation of panels, book signings, and keynotes.

The Execution

First year festivals can be rocky. There are some major ways that festivals can falter:

Bad Blood panel (I'm in the front row!)  (photo from @readupbookfest, with permission)

Bad Blood panel (I’m in the front row!)
(photo from @readupbookfest, with permission)

  • star power
  • traffic management/crowding
  • cost
  • panel moderation
  • signing snafus
  • panel topics

At least, those are the things I care about. Read Up rocked all of them. There was plenty of space, both in panels and signings. Plenty of volunteers kept things moving. Security kept the authors and audience safe.

The only ticketed events were the keynotes–$7 each or $15 for all three. That’s super affordable.

Panels: While there were some typical topics (Harry Potter), Read Up also featured panels on audiobooks (very progressive!), Middle Eastern lore/literature, and revenge stories. Also, a keynote on race relations (featuring Jason Reynolds & Brendan Kiely, who were fabulous and thought-provoking). The 3 moderators I saw did a great job of asking good questions, giving the authors freedom to talk, and handling audience questions.

Ice Cream Social (in a gorgeous setting!) (photo from @readupbookfest, with permission)

Ice Cream Social (in a gorgeous setting!)
(photo from @readupbookfest, with permission)

Bonus points: Read Up hosted a free ice cream party (with yummy flavors & sorbet too)!

Also, there was loads of swag, including ARCs, tote bags, audiobooks, stickers, and buttons. Nearly everyone got some swag.

Concerns

For a festival that wants to “encourage youth to continue their love for reading and hopefully encourage non-readers to become readers,” I didn’t see as many MG/teen readers as I would have liked. The crowd did grow throughout the day, but I have high hopes that next year Read Up will have better partnerships with local schools. Bringing this festival to school children, especially disadvantaged ones, could make a huge difference.

Conclusion

This was a remarkable first-year festival. Kudos to Lee Yarborough and the entire Read Up team. Huge thanks to the many, many sponsors who made it possible to make such a cool event so affordable.

I have many more personal feelings I’d love to share, but this is long already, so I’ll just say: support your local book community. Go to book festivals. And if you’re anywhere near Greenville, SC, tag Read Up Greenville as a festival you want to attend next year!

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