This past weekend I headed down to the Inner Harbor for the 2018 Baltimore Book Festival. The Baltimore Book Festival is a three-day event with multiple booths, panels and events for adults and children. Music performances and food and refreshment vendors are also scattered throughout the venue.
Many major literature organizations partnered with Baltimore for the festival, including the Enoch Pratt Free Library, The Ivy Bookshop, Johns Hopkins University Press and Peabody Library, the National Aquarium,and Red Emma’s Bookstore Coffeehouse.
The weather on Friday was beautiful, and musicians took to the main stage singing songs with acoustic guitar, which provided a perfect background for the event.
There were lots of people all along the Harbor’s waterside, as well as tents set up on both sides of the walkway by booksellers and organizations such as the SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America). Other special exhibits included the Radical Bookfair Pavilion (presented by Red Emma’s).
There were also several parked trucks that were open to the public and filled with free books. Outside one of the trucks — a Baltimore Ravens-themed one — there was a woman yelling, “Free books for kids! Free books from the Maryland Book Bank!” Visitors walked into the truck to browse books while a group of elementary students in book-themed costumes walked past.
Next to the Book Bank truck was the Bank’s tent filled with shelves upon shelves of books. There was a free section for adults and used books of every kind for sale: fiction, fantasy, sci-fi, cooking, history, self-help, political and more. There were several more of these tents along the walkways, some of which were more centred around older books and literary fiction, while others were more focused on action-thrillers and young-adult fiction.
There were multiple events happening when I visited on Friday. There was a Crafts Corridor where families were building DIY tesseracts and crafts themed around Madeleine L’Engle’s 1962 novel A Wrinkle in Time. In another section of the Festival, a literary trivia contest was taking place, and people were either sitting in quiet concentration or arguing intensely in groups. Over at the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Stage, there were authors taking part in the “What’s Your Writer Origin Story” panel, sharing their stories and inspirations from their careers and answering questions from the audience.
I visited again on Sunday; this time I had the chance to explore the rest of the Festival. I stopped by a truck selling frozen custard and then went over to the Charm City Comic Pavilion, where there was a wide selection of both modern and old comics to read and purchase.
The Ivy Bookshop Stage was holding a University Writers’ Program where student writers from local schools — Hopkins, Loyola, MICA, Morgan, Stevenson, Towson and others — were discussing their works and reading excerpts. They then spoke with visitors and sold their works of poetry, short fiction and novels.
I also stopped by the Radical Bookfair Pavilion, which was organized by Red Emma’s Bookstore Coffeehouse. It, unsurprisingly, had a lot of books discussing contemporary politics and social theory with a strong left bent.
Before I left, I browsed some of the merch at the Festival. They were selling book-themed T-shirts, pins and cut-and-fold book art. While I eventually left the Festival empty-handed, there was a huge collection of all different types of merchandise at these tents.
I also left with a newfound discovery thanks to the Ivy Bookshop’s website: There’s a whole list of book clubs in the Baltimore area there. I previously had no idea that these existed in Baltimore, and I would never have discovered this if I hadn’t attended the Festival.
The Baltimore Book Festival is a great way to get to know more about literary organizations based in the City and in greater Maryland. It’s a nice opportunity to pick up a few books that you normally would not buy otherwise or to attend events that showcase the wide range of writing happening at the university, local and state level.