Despite the dearth of live events during the winter of COVID-19, there are enough virtual literary events to keep one’s mind engaged.
From poetry to fiction to children’s literature and books with local themes and authors, this year’s offerings, while reduced, offer enough stimulation and diversion to almost make you forget our altered state of collective reality.
Palm Beach Book Festival
“Sun, palm trees and New York Times best-selling, award-winning and celebrity authors. What more could you ask for?” asks Palm Beach Book Festival founder Lois Cahall about the festival she founded in 2015.
Florida Atlantic University’s Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters has teamed up with the Palm Beach Book Festival to present this year’s event in a virtual interview format. The sole event includes award-winning poet Kwame Alexander and celebrity author James Patterson discussing their collaboration – a young adult novel, “Becoming Mohammad Ali” on Thursday at 5:30 p.m.
Visit fau.edu/bookfestival. Registration for this event is $10 and all proceeds from ticket sales will benefit student scholarships in the college.
Miami Book Fair International
For the first time in 37 years, Miami Dade College (MDC) will transform its weeklong celebration of books and writers in downtown Miami, into a free virtual event from Nov. 15-22 hosting more than 200 authors and moderators.
According to MBF’s Programs Director Lissette Mendez: “We seek to bring books to the readers where ever they are. I am a cheerleader for reading; an evangelist for books.”
“It doesn’t matter which, as long as they make the reader joyful,” she says. “So we are bringing the books and authors to readers where they are now, and that is at home.”
Some of Mendez’s highlights include author James McBride and his new book, Deacon King Kong; Miami Beach resident and photographer Gary Monroe’s The Last Resort; past poet laureate Natasha Trethewey’s memoir Memorial Drive; Roddy Doyle’s Love; Chuck Palahniuk’s The Invention of Sound and Tamara Payne and Les Payne’s biography of Malcolm X, The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X.
This year the fair includes a new digital project called “Here in Florida!” highlighting books set in the Sunshine State and others featuring Florida writers.
One of those Florida writers is Parkland father Fred Guttenberg, who will speak about his new book, Find the Helpers: What 9/11 and Parkland Taught Me About Recovery, Purpose, and Hope, in memory of his daughter, Jamie, 14, a dancer who was killed in the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting massacre.
Other Florida writers include James A. Kushlan (Seeking the American Tropics: South Florida’s Early Naturalists); John Gregersen (Yamato Colony: The Pioneers Who Brought Japan to Florida); Les Standiford (Miami Noir: The Classics); and Rick Kilby (Florida’s Healing Waters: Gilded Age Mineral Springs, Seaside Resorts, and Health Spas).
Of local interest to Miamians are books by Amy Paige Condon, A Nervous Man Shouldn’t Be Here in the First Place: The Life of Bill Baggs, and George Hurchalla’s The Extraordinary Life of Jane Wood Reno: Miami’s Trailblazing Journalist, both biographies of prominent Miami journalists.
Additionally, the fair will feature programs across genres in English, Spanish and Haitian Creole, as well as programs for children and teens.
For more information or to become a Friend of the Fair, a fundraising membership program, please visit miamibookfair.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow the Miami Book Fair on social media @miamibookfair #MiamiBookFair2020 #MBF2020 #MiamiBookFairOnline
Palm Beach Poetry Festival
The 17th annual Palm Beach Poetry Festival returns this year in a virtual format for the 2021 event.
Founded by poet and Palm Beach resident Miles Coon, the nationally recognized festival brings to Delray Beach some of the biggest names in poetry – names such as the late Thomas Lux and past U.S. Poet Laureates Billy Collins, Charles Simic and Natasha Trethewey, among others, for readings, workshops and poetry slams.
“Our festival is all about light,” says director Susan R. Williamson, “ … the light that we reach for from darkness, and find in poetry … together. So we will not succumb to the uncertainties of the pandemic and go dark in 2021.”
This year’s offerings include readings, craft talks, special events, and poetry workshops featuring David Baker, Laure-Anne Bosselaar, Traci Brimhall, Eduardo C. Corral, Vievee Francis, Kevin Prufer, Martha Rhodes and Tim Seibles. Special guest poet Gregory Orr will present The Beloved, a poetry-song cycle created in collaboration with the Parkington Sisters.
“In January, we will once again listen to each other’s words and see each other’s faces,
even if we cannot be together in Delray Beach. Our experience and our goals are always to be inspired and share what we know in our hearts: poetry brings us together,” Coon says on the festival website.
Visit palmbeachpoetryfestival.org for more information.
Festival of the Arts Boca
Boca Raton’s own literary, musical and arts festival returns for its 15th season in 2021, running from March 5-13, 2021, with much of its programming streaming on its website, festivalboca.org.
Sadly, festival co-founder Charlie Siemon died in September at the age of 74.
“Our 15th installment will celebrate the tremendous talent in South Florida, showcase the beauty of Boca Raton from various venues and honor the legacy of our co-founder, Charlie Siemon,” says Joanna Marie Kaye, executive director of the Festival of the Arts Boca.
“Charlie would have been thrilled to see that paradoxically, we have the opportunity to reach our biggest audience ever in 2021 with all of our events filmed and broadcast worldwide,” said Kaye.
This season’s Authors & Ideas program includes interactive discussions with two authors, science journalist Sonia Shah, author of The Next Great Migration: The Beauty and Terror of Life on the Move and New York Times best-selling author Bruce Feiler, whose book is Life Is in the Transitions: Mastering Change At Any Age, via Zoom between March 8-11.
Exact dates and times are not available as of this writing.
For more information visit festivalboca.org or call (561) 571- 5270.
Broward Public Library Foundation – Literary Feast
Established in 1988 to support public library literacy programs in Broward County, over the years this event has connected South Floridians with more than 500 renowned authors and raised $4 million for programs and services for children and teens.
According to Jennifer Keljik, marketing manager for the Foundation, their expectations for a virtual event this year did not materialize.
“We were trying to get another virtual event going this year but we did not get the traction we were hoping for,” she said.
Visit bplfoundation.org for more information.
Key West Literary Seminar
Traditionally, each winter the Key West Literary Seminar chooses a particular literary theme to explore. The theme for the next event, “A Seminar Named Desire,” has been postponed, and is now scheduled for Jan. 6-9, 2022.
Focusing on what they say is the elemental urge at the center of human activity: desire, the seminar will focus on literary explorations of “the profane and the profound, the inventive, the graphic, and the deeply felt.”
The most expensive of the local literary festivals, with a registration fee of $675, last year the organization bought the former 19th-century home of celebrated American poet Elizabeth Bishop, who lived there during the 1930s and 1940s.
Last February, the seminar hosted a series of lectures, films, discussions, and events that explored Bishop’s work in the context of Key West.
Typically, the final afternoon session of the seminar is free and open to the public on a first-come, first-seated basis. The goal of the festival is to expand the reach and visibility of the festival while deepening its connection to literary Key West.
Confirmed speakers for 2022 include: Jami Attenberg, dubbed “the queen of dysfunctional families,” and author of the 2019 novel, All This Could Be Yours; children’s book author and New York Times bestselling author, Judy Blume, writer of the YA classic Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret; Jericho Brown, author of Please and The Tradition; John Irving, best known for his 1980 novel The World According to Garp; and Susan Choi, author of Trust Exercise, which won the 2019 National Book Award for Fiction.
Visit kwls.org for more information.