Brooklyn Book Fest: Trying to Get Serious

Brooklyn Book Fest is coming this Sunday and once again I am so happy I live in NYC. Little is required of me; I just need to show up and be ready to absorb. I have to admit that I have never been as prepared for BBF (I know it’s an abbreviation, I’m not trying to create cool lingo, it’s so much easier to shorten it) as I should have been. As is typical for me with events, I show up, take it all in, wander around like I’ve lost my mother and nod and smile at strangers.

Somehow last year, I had the pleasure of getting in to the Art Speigelman session even though I was late and had to sit on the sloping auditorium floor. I had planned wanted to see other sessions and workshops that day as well, but gave myself no travel time to get from one location to another. I also underestimated how popular certain writers are; a rookie mistake of course. Television and Tumblr had me believing I was the only one reading anymore. I also wandered through the tables of literary magazines and Fitzgerald t-shirts, smiling and nodding, but not talking to anyone. I was like the creepy pale kid in science class no one asks to partner up with.

As I now take myself more seriously, I’m going in to BBF this year with a plan. I’ve reviewed the authors, the sessions, and the map. I’ve even scheduled them in by color into my Google calendar and have back up sessions should something go wrong. I even plan on talking to other humans that edit lit mags and use my words like an adult. It’s all pretty thrilling from where I am sitting!

For those interested, I’ve listed my choices for this year’s BBF below the cut. It was tough to narrow down what I wanted to see, but I am happy with my schedule and can’t wait to share the experience with you!

Bookend Events: Bookend Events take place the week leading up to BBF. Some aren’t “official” but are a good pre-game to Sunday. New authors hold readings and lit mags introduce themselves with open mic nights around the city. I’m only attending one of these events, because I work and sleep. I’m going to A Celebration of the Short Story at Smack Mellon in Dumbo. Arna Bontemps Hemenway is reading from his collection Elegy on Kinderklavier. This is when I should point out that I know Arna from undergrad at Iowa and I am thrilled he’s been published. His stories are intense but so honest you’ll wonder if they’re fiction at all. I’m happy and proud to be supporting an old friend. (Yes, Arna, we are friends because of the various states of dress and stress you’ve seen me in.)

The Big Show – Brooklyn Borough Hall & Plaza

11am – 21st Century Narrators presented by the London Review of Books: Some great names (Ben Lerner, Elif Batuman, Christine Smallwood, Lorin Stein) discussing something that I always wonder about. How has technology changed our narrators? How can I sound authentic when the majority of us spend our time with electronics?

1pm – How to Write About a City: My number one selection for the day. Philip Lopate’s curated The Art of the Personal Essay is almost Bible-like for me, so to see him in person is going to be pretty magical. I also write a lot about New York and would be interested in more tools and wisdom in this arena.

3pm – Hometown Fiction OR I Love You. The End.: This may be a game time decision. Both address themes I struggle with, writing about home/writing about love and both are geared towards fiction writers. I’ll have to figure out which I think will help me more as an essayist and go there. We will see.

4pm – Comedians as Authors: Despite my deep interest in comedy, I chose this one for pure fun. Bob Saget, John Leguizamo and Susie Essman are all hilarious and this will be a lighthearted end to my day.

I’ll report back on how I do this year. God, I hope no one mistakes me for a surly teenager.


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