Your crash course for the Baltimore Book Festival

By ARIELLA SHUA | September 27, 2018

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The annual Baltimore Book Festival draws hundreds of visitors each September. Above, the Book Festival in 2016.

Baltimore is no longer officially known as “The City That Reads,” but this weekend, it may as well revert to its old slogan. That’s because it’s finally the time of year that we (or at least, I and 17,000 other people, according to Facebook) have been waiting for. No, it’s not fall break quite yet, but it’ll still be an exciting few days — the Baltimore Book Festival is this weekend, taking over the Inner Harbor from Friday to Sunday.

Produced by the Baltimore Office of Promotion & the Arts, the Festival has been a staple in Baltimore since 1995. The event is hosted at the perfect time of year: the start of fall, when it’s still warm enough to browse the outdoor exhibits, armed with the knowledge that it will be cold soon and there will be a constant desire to curl up in bed with some entertaining reading material. For 23 years, the Festival organizers have provided a free three-day event that appeals to readers of all ages.

The Baltimore Book Festival aims to spread a love and appreciation of reading to all, with hundreds of authors speaking, book signings, live music and even cooking demos. A perfect weekend could be had without leaving the Festival except for sleep. 

However, we’ve all got busy lives. Most of us won’t spend three days studying books unless we’ve also got a highlighter in hand. Fortunately, the Festival offers a variety of options, so you’ll be able to stop by and check out what most interests you. I can’t possibly list all of the events that will be offered, so here’s a crash course to some highlights of the Baltimore Book Festival.

Comics/Cartoons

You may not know her name, but you’ve probably liked or tagged someone in a comic strip by Catana Chetwynd. Her Catana Comics, cute, humorous depictions of daily life with her boyfriend John, are all over social media. Her recent publication, Little Moments of Love, is a collection of the comics, and she’ll be speaking on Saturday!

Other popular cartoonists and comic artists will be at the Festival as well. Stop by the Charm City Comic Pavilion at any point during the weekend, especially if you want to participate in a drawing workshop. Topics include drawing superheroes and villains, Japanese-style chibi characters, and even a session on how to sketch Pokémon. (It’s worth mentioning that Baltimore’s Comic-Con is also this weekend, located only half a mile from the Harbor at the Baltimore Convention Center.)

Politics

The Festival offers great content if you’re into reading about government. With everything going on in Washington on a given day, politics have been nearly as exciting as many action thrillers.

April Ryan, author of Under Fire: Reporting from the Front Lines of the Trump White House, was named the National Association of Black Journalists’ Reporter of the Year last year. She’ll be speaking about her experiences with Bill Whitaker of CBS News on Sunday.

Another option is hearing from Carol Anderson, who will be discussing her recent publication, One Person, No Vote. The book details voter suppression and is long-listed for the National Book Award. There’s also the Radical Bookfair Pavilion (presented by Red Emma’s Bookstore Coffeehouse) which will feature discussions that the Festival’s website calls “cutting-edge, uncompromising views on contemporary politics, social theory, and beyond.”

Food

A good book and a great snack are always a winning combo, and fortunately the Festival provides. A number of food vendors offer various international cuisines to choose from. There will also be alcoholic drinks for those over 21.

If you absolutely need food to be a central part of the Festival itself, there’s also the Food for Thought stage, which will feature celebrity chefs leading cooking demos. Some of their creations will even be available for consumption. Be sure to check out Chef John Shields, co-owner of the Baltimore Museum of Art’s Gertrude’s restaurant.

CityLit Stage

Partially sponsored by the University’s Master’s in Writing Advanced Academic Programs, the CityLit Stage is run by CityLit Project. It will feature local writers and performers. Come here to listen to unique panel presentations, such as “Where are all the Asian Beach Reads?” and introductions to debuting authors. And if you need to bring up that IFP grade, pre-register for Free Feedback Friday. Thirty minutes to meet with professional writers discussing your own work? Sign me up.

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