Marchant, formerly Program Director of PEN America Literary Awards, becomes Director for Artistic Inclusion, and Piehl, former Executive Director of the Boston Book Festival, is Director for Literary Programs

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Contact: Julia Drake, Wildbound PR

Nov. 24, 2021, Berkeley, California— The Bay Area Book Festival (baybookfest.org), an integral part of the San Francisco Bay Area’s rich literary landscape since 2015, is expanding its core leadership team with two new hires. Both positions—a Director for Artistic Inclusion (Jane Marchant) and a Director for Literary Programs (Norah Piehl)—are entirely new roles, created to meet the extraordinary moment in which the festival, along with all cultural event-based organizations, finds itself in the wake of the challenging and illuminating past two years.

Both Marchant and Piehl officially join the festival on December 1, 2021 and will work in close collaboration with each another and festival founder and Executive Director Cherilyn Parsons, who will continue to steer the organization’s overall direction and vision.

Jane Marchant, the new Director for Artistic Inclusion, is a writer and artist with a BA and MFA in nonfiction writing from Columbia University. In November 2021, she left her most recent position as Program Director of PEN America Literary Awards and made permanent her home in the Bay Area, to devote more time to her own writing pursuits and contribute to the Bay’s literary landscape. As part of the overall curatorial team with Parsons and Piehl, she will focus on featuring a spectrum of diverse voices within the world-class festival and on building partnerships with local communities to represent the distinctive and rich cultural history and talents of Bay Area residents. She will work with festival staff to secure a variety of financial resources to sustain these activities and the organization as a whole. She will also help grow the organization’s year-round Women Lit series, championing female-identifying authors and their allies. Marchant, a multi-racial woman born and raised in the Bay Area, brings extensive event planning experience and connections in the literary and publishing world, as well as a sincere and demonstrated passion for fostering equity and inclusion. She can now be reached at jane@baybookfest.org.

Norah Piehl, the new Director for Literary Programs, is a book festival veteran, having served as both Deputy Director and subsequently Executive Director of the renowned Boston Book Festival (BBF). Under her leadership, BBF experienced tremendous growth in programming, attendance, and revenue. In addition to producing the long-running BBF, she collaborated with local libraries and other community organizations to produce year-round programming and to launch a second day-long festival in Boston’s Nubian Square. In partnership with Parsons and Marchant, Piehl will be the key program director for the annual festival, sharing in curation and holding responsibility for managing all adult programming. Working with the festival’s Managing Director, Samee Roberts, Piehl also will curate, design, and implement all youth programs. She also will share her wealth of experience in building community partnerships. Further, she will help develop the year-round Women Lit series and will help secure a variety of financial resources to sustain these activities and the organization. She can now be reached at norah@baybookfest.org.

These new hires come after an unpredictable time that saw the festival’s audience numbers soar due its virtual year-round program series, #UNBOUND, and two virtual festivals (2020 and 2021), together encompassing 100+ virtual programs featuring prominent authors such as Kazuo Ishiguro, George Saunders, Ann Patchett, Anthony Doerr, and Tracy K. Smith. With a larger reach came a need to build even more capacity to create offerings that are accessible, relevant, and culturally informed. Both new hires will play a key role in transitioning the festival organization back to in-person programs, alongside livestreams and virtual offerings, starting with the eighth annual festival— to be held May 7-8, 2022.

Executive Director Cherilyn Parsons notes, “In hiring Jane and Norah, we’re bringing the Bay Area Book Festival to a whole new level. Jane and Norah are both absolute dynamos, full of energy, passion, fresh ideas, and commitment to equity and social justice, which has always characterized our Berkeley-based festival. Our whole team is thrilled to work with both of them as we enter a transformative new era for the fest.”

About the Bay Area Book Festival

The eighth annual festival will take place May 7-8 in Downtown Berkeley, to be held in-person with livestream and virtual components. The festival typically presents 200–300 notable speakers each year, including winners of all the major literary awards, from throughout the U.S. and a dozen other countries. The festival features approximately 80 free or low-cost programs for adults and 30 free programs for children. Within a compact, walkable footprint, the festival uses ten indoor venues, mounts a large outdoor stage, and presents a free, vibrant Outdoor Fair with around 200 literary exhibitors and food vendors open to the public. An estimated 25,000 people attend each year.

In 2018, the organization created Women Lit, a year-round, membership-based program featuring prominent female-identifying authors such as Gloria Steinem, V (Eve Ensler), Tayari Jones, and Leïla Slimani. In March 2020, after the pandemic forced cancellation of the festival scheduled for May, the organization pivoted to create #UNBOUND, a virtual series that has garnered worldwide viewership.