People still read. Who knew?
In what we fervently hope was just the first of many more to come, the inaugural l Empire State Book Festival took place on Saturday at the Empire State Plaza. It was crowded. People were buying books. People were carrying books. People were listening to other people talk about books.
Nippertown native Gregory Maguire, who has famously re-imagined the land of Oz in such bestselling novels as “A Lion Among Men,” “Son of a Witch” and “Wicked” (on which the long-running Broadway play “Wicked” was based) gave the keynote address, touching on growing up in Albany and his development as a writer. He then took his place at the signing table and graciously began signing books for the loooong line of hundreds of fans.
An ambitious slate of panel talks followed throughout the day as more than a hundred authors discussed books, recounted their experiences and gave advice to fledgling writers on writing, the business of writing and the future of writing.
A ring of exhibitors including several independent presses, book stores and gift shops circled the base of The Egg, and the love of the printed word didn’t stop at books, as Michael Albert exhibited some of his word collages and ran a day-long collage workshop for kids. We also liked Zachary’s Pastry Shoppe’s “Wicked” good cookies.
The festival kicked off the night before with a gala celebration for the first class of inductees into the New York Writer’s Hall of Fame – James Baldwin, Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Caro, Frederick Douglass, Mary Gordon, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Isaac B. Singer, Edith Wharton, E.B. White and Walt Whitman.