Welcome to a new blog from the Library, “Bookmarked,” where we talk about contemporary writers, book programs, and collections connections to the literary world, including our annual National Book Festival. The blog is produced by the Literary Initiatives Office with contributions from other Library divisions.
Like this blog, the National Book Festival is an endeavor produced by many Library departments, including my office, the Signature Programs Office, plus volunteer coordinators, communications specialists, designers, our development office and more – and you’ll have a chance to get to know them on this blog.
Our Literary Initiatives team specifically is made up of the people who think a lot about which writers should appear at the Festival each year. We talk to small and large publishers about the books they’re publishing this year, think about the trends and themes of those new books, and joust with each other about why some beloved writers should be invited over others—there are only a limited number of speaking slots at the Festival. It’s like playing chess with a live octopus, in a lot of ways.
Figuring out which writers will have the right chemistry together on a panel is rarely easy—that work requires a lot of reading, a fair amount of online video sleuthing, and sometimes a little behind-the-scenes détente. Sometimes a book is so multi-faceted that we have several different events where we could place the writer; we have to choose one and that can feel wrenching. And of course, we are always thinking about the attendees of our literary programs. Here are some questions we ask ourselves as we talk about you, our audience:
- Which writers do you all want to hear from?
- Should we do more fiction this year than last year? More nonfiction?
- What’s the perfect National Book Festival event you’d like to attend, if any of your favorite living writers could be featured?
The best way is to hear directly from the book lovers who attend (or would like to attend) our events, in person or online. Feel free to respond to any of these questions in the comments!
There are a number of other things the Literary Initiatives office does at the Library. After the Librarian of Congress selects the U.S. Poet Laureate and a children’s writer to become the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, we send those ambassadors around the nation to talk to Americans about books and reading and big, big ideas. We get a lot of help from the nonprofit Every Child a Reader as far as the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature is concerned.
But I stress our work on the National Book Festival because our Literary Initiatives staff are deep into program ideas for this year’s festival. In this brand-new blog, we’re excited to provide this sort of behind-the-scenes coverage for all of you who subscribed to our National Book Festival blog. For those of you who subscribed to the “From the Catbird Seat” poetry blog, don’t worry: we’ll still be featuring the same year-round content you’ve always loved, even during the National Book Festival planning period. We’re also looking to feature interviews with contemporary writers whose new books are connected to Library of Congress collections in intriguing ways and coverage of what the Library’s ambassadors are doing out in United States.
We hope you like our new look, and we really hope you enjoy having one place to learn about all the ways we feature writers and books. And stay tuned for a big National Book Festival 2023 announcement, coming soon!