If you were walking around Downtown Berkeley on the weekend of May 7, you may have stumbled upon the largest annual book festival in the Bay Area. Every year, the Bay Area Book Festival draws authors and readers to Berkeley from all across the country. This year’s fair included stands from authors, writing associations, and book stores; it also hosted events, panels, and food trucks. This year was the festival’s first year back since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the energy and atmosphere picked up right from where it left off.
The fair is an excellent way to get writers, such as Minneapolis-based author Tracy Moore, and their books large public exposure. Moore came to the fair to promote her new book, The Fire She Fights, a novel based on the true stories of female firefighters in Metropolitan Minneapolis. According to Moore’s website, she served as a firefighter for over twenty years.
“Berkeley is awesome. California is awesome,” Moore said. “I know people really like to read here. I knew it would be a sunny, beautiful day. I just thought that this would be the perfect setting for my book, which promotes women in a city that is progressive.”
Lea Angstman was another author who traveled from out of state to attend the Bay Area Book Festival. Angstman traveled from Colorado to debut her newest novel, Out Front the Following Sea. She chose the Bay Area Book Festival to exhibit her work because, “It’s a really great place to get my book into people’s hands, and meet readers one-on -one.”
“[The festival] is a good way to connect to other people who are passionate about reading and who are willing to read new things and find new books,” Angstman said.
The festival promises abundant exposure for the work of first-time writers. Andy Shay has been working on his fantasy book, Generations of Shade, on and off for the past ten years and was finally able to publish his work in 2022. “I found out about this book fair online and thought it could be cool,” Shay said.
According to Shay, his publisher was unsuccessful in widely distributing news of his book. Shay said that aside from selling his book at the book fair, he hoped to gain a larger social following both among readers and fellow authors.
In addition to authors, there were stands at the fair for writing courses, associations, and clubs. M.D. Neu, an award winning fiction author and founder of the Bay Area Queer Writers Association (BAQWA), came to the fair with the group to represent an inclusive community of writers. “This is one the larger book events, and we wanted to make sure we were here to represent the queer community,” Neu said.
As a child, Neu saw little queer representation in the writing industry and decided to create that atmosphere himself. “When I grew up, there weren’t a lot of queer books around, and I never saw books by queer authors, and I needed more representation, so I started writing,” Neu said. “We’re a diverse world, and we have to [represent] all of the voices that can be heard.”
The book fair also offered a wide variety of events and panels. One of the highlighted events was “Historical Fiction: China and California”, which featured four Chinese-American authors who answered questions about their Asian American protagonist-driven historical fiction novels. At the end of the event, audience members were able to go up and talk to the authors about their books.
“I feel like I’m meeting people and having excellent conversations with them,” Moore said. “I’m meeting other authors and seeing their great projects. So all in all, the whole book fair is amazing for the relationships and connections that I’m making here.”