Festival Newsletter: October 2017

Are the next festival’s dates on your calendar yet? April 28-29, 2018!

We’ve gone through some dark times recently in the Bay Area, the skies literally darkening, and so many people have faced devastation. We want to offer some solace through what we know best, literature, so instead of closing our newsletter as usual with a poem, we’ll start with one.

“The Peace of Wild Things” by Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds,
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Used with permission from Counterpoint Press


How are the children in your life doing amid the fire tragedies and terrible air? How are you doing? We were happy to hear that when the Red Cross brought supplies to our neighbors in the North Bay, they also brought books. Here’s what one of the best children’s writers of today, Katherine Applegate, said in her acceptance speech for the Newbery Medal:

“Children know all about sadness. We can’t hide it from them. We can only teach them how to cope with its inevitability and to harness their imaginations in the search for joy and wonder. Nothing, nothing in the world, can do that better than a book.. [E]very time you find the right, the necessary, book for a child — a book about sadness overcome, unfairness battled, heart mended — you perform the best kind of magic… [Y]ou’ve allowed a child to make a leap out of her own life, with all its limitations and fears — and, yes, sometimes sadness — into another, to imagine new possibilities for herself and for her world.”

If you now want to run out and buy these kinds of books, how about Applegate’s latest — just out, and already a New York Times bestseller? “Wishtree”, told from the POV of a special tree that watched over the neighborhood, is about prejudice, division, love, and trust. The New York Times Book Review called it “a beautifully written, morally bracing story that will leave its imprint on a reader of any age.” Publishers Weekly said it’s “a distinctive call for kindness, delivered by an unforgettable narrator.”

And yes, Katherine Applegate is coming to the next Bay Area Book Festival for a major interview. Now really be sure to mark your calendars!

Noteworthy: 10 Lit Links Worth Reading

1. A heretofore unpublished short story from Kurt Vonnegut! 2. Rupi Kaur, wildly successful 25-year-old “Instagram poet: “i am a museum full of art / but you had your eyes shut.” 3. She created a bot that tweeted every word in the English language over seven years and now may be the future of poetry in a digital world. 4. One writer’s synthesis of advice to her by 150 great contemporary authors. 5. Why are we solely telling stories about Black people’s pain rather than vitality? 6. What the next generation of readers can do with their literature. 7. Not all readers can see themselves in Elizabeth Bennett — the case for class representation and genre fiction in the mainstream. 8. Are humans even worth writing about? (Asks Salman Rushdie.) 9. After you’ve binged through our 2017 Festival recordings, check out these other podcasts tailor made for book lovers. 10. How about a lighthearted literary costume this Halloween?

Tricks & Treats

Our first 10 podcasts are live! We’ll be rolling out more 2017 podcast recordings for you soon, so stay tuned. For now: Roxane Gay, Walter Mosley, Paul Hawken, oh my!

Berkeleyside’s Uncharted Festival Ideas is almost here: October 27-28! As of now, there are still tickets available. But hurry or all the good candy will be gone.

“All the world’s a stage… and one man in his time plays many parts,” wrote Shakespeare. An unusual workshop at a private home in Berkeley on Oct. 29 takes participants on a journey into self as collection of characters, aiming to help self-awareness and navigation of life and relationships. To learn more, visit https://www.laurainserra.com/theroundtableofinnercharacters.

Are you a college student, or do you know one who’d like to earn academic credit for helping create the festival? We have internships! Cal will even offer a Bay Area Book Festival class this spring, but we also welcome students from a variety of colleges and universities. Check out our internship web page. Applications are competitive and open now; don’t hesitate to reach out!

People have been emailing us asking how to exhibit at the festival or become a speaker. Nomination forms for speakers are on our website now. As of Nov. 1, exhibitor applications will be on our Exhibit page. Enter your email address on our website to get a reminder email.

Here’s what we’re reading:

Books are our favorite treats. Below, some more great loot from the candy bag:

“How a Mountain was Made” by Greg Sarris
Greg Sarris takes us on a complex, layered journey of our very own Sonoma mountains through a series of short, interconnected stories that make up the range’s identity. Sarris heads the creative writing program at Sonoma State University, where he also teaches Native Studies. He also serves as the chairman of the Federated Indians of the Graton Rancheria. (He appeared at the 2017 festival; check out the video.)

The narrative he weaves in this new book is accessible and delightful, leaving the reader feeling warm after each literary gem. This book will stick with you for a while — in the best possible way.


“The 57 Bus” by Dashka Slater
The lives of two Oakland teens became forever intertwined in 2013 when a fire broke out on the 57 Bus. The result is a heart-wrenching tale of tolerance, economic disparity, and community. Dashka Slater’s new book chronicles the true story of Sasha and Richard, the affluent white teen battling burns and the disadvantaged Black teen facing hate crime charges and life imprisonment.

The book, and Slater’s New York Times piece that started it all, are essential reads for anyone in the Bay.


“What it Means When a Man Falls From the Sky” by Lesley Nneka Arimah
Arimah, a 2017 festival speaker, made the list of the National Book Foundation’s “5 under 35” — naming her as one of the new fiction writers sure to make a mark on the genre. (Did we mention all of the honorees were women?) The novel tells of human struggle using a unique vocabulary of fantasy, realism, and fable. Check out her festival cameo here.


Another poem

Two years ago, then U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera graced the Bay Area Book Festival—and he’s coming back in 2018, but with a children’s book, “Jabberwalking,” but, like all the best kids’ books, it’s a treat for all ages. Available in March 2018, Herrera aims to teach aspiring poets how to observe, create, and, as he puts it, “scribble!”

Enjoy a special moment with him from the 2016 festival that brought our audience to tears—go to moment 59:20 in this video —or enjoy his clip on people coming together at the National Book Festival.

We also love this except from “Water Water Water Wind Water,” written for New Orleans and the people of the Gulf Coast in 2008:

… again and again a new land edge emerges
a new people emerges where race and class and death
and life and water and tears and loss
and life and death destruction and life and tears
compassion and loss and a fire stolen bus
rumbles toward you all directions wherever
you are alive still

Read on!
The Bay Area Book Festival

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