Kicking Off This Year’s Book Festival

Today is the start of the 20th annual National Book Festival—and the first to be completely virtual. We hope you take the opportunity to check out the great crop of poets, fiction writers, and memoirists featured this year, in our on-demand programming and on the PBS special Sunday night. Also, we’re excited about all the participants we have lined up for live engagements through the weekend—including two of our former poets laureate, Juan Felipe Herrera and Robert Pinsky, and current LC Prize for American Fiction winner Colson Whitehead. Register on the Virtual Book Festival Platform to get started.

As you can imagine, this festival—which was slated to happen in-person until just a few months ago—has been quite the experience to create! But we’re happy to report that poetry and fiction are well represented. Highlights include:

  • Susan Minot and Karen Russell sharing their favorite short stories
  • Rita Dove and Joy Harjo recounting their experiences as grad students—and their work as poets laureate
  • Franny Choi and Danez Smith talking about poetry, podcasting, friendship, and community-building
  • Marlon James discussing the need for humor in dystopian fiction with Jeff VanderMeer
  • Ishmael Beah and Maaza Mengiste discussing craft in their novels and how African diaspora writers are too often narrowly characterized as narrators of war

We hope you will spend some time ranging through all the content and clicking on whatever interests you—we promise you’ll watch all the way through the sessions before you know it! And afterwards we hope you come to the live engagement sessions with the authors you’ve long loved or newly discovered, with questions aplenty. And most of all, we hope you feel like this festival inspires you to read more—and to discover poems and stories, perspectives and revelations, that change your life.

“How do you go about finding the heart?”: Aracelis Girmay on Poetry, Discovery, and Grief

This interview with poet Aracelis Girmay was conducted in 2012 by (then-intern, now National Book Award winning writer) Elizabeth Acevedo as part of the Poetry and Literature Center’s online Interview Series. The series featured emerging and established literary writers in dynamic and thought-provoking conversation. Though the series is no longer active, From the Catbird Seat is reprinting these interviews to bring them new light.

National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Research Guides: Literacy and Education for the Next Generation of Readers

This summer, Junior Fellow Mal Haselberger researched, developed, and published online research guides for all emeritus National Ambassadors for Young People’s Literature. In the process of creating the guides, she learned firsthand the importance of making details about the ambassadors’ work and outreach programs more accessible to the public.

Reflecting on James Baldwin and His Celebration of Youth

August 2 would have been the 96th birthday of James Baldwin, a literary icon widely known for his compelling, powerful writing, social advocacy, and civil rights activism. With the ongoing conversations about race and racism in the United States, Baldwin’s words have been echoed and analyzed and remain relevant for adults and teens alike.