Photo Credit: The Bronx is Reading ™
It was a beautiful sunny day on June 8th The stages were set and the chairs were ready for the hundreds of people that were expected to come through. It was the beginning of the 2nd annual Bronx Book Festival. With Keynote speakers such as Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Lilliam Rivera, along with Sonia Manzano, and the Bronx Book Festival founder herself, Saraceia Fennel, this book festival was starting off with a bang.
I strolled towards Fordham Plaza where the registration table awaited me. After, registering, I headed over to Fordham University entrance where a small but mighty line formed for the Sonias’. Forty-five minutes later, we descended towards the chairs lining the Walsh Library. We were ready for the Sonias’!
The Sonias’ are in the Bronx!
If you are ever lucky enough to see both Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Sonia Manzano, you will know that their presence alone is both inspirational and magical. The panel consisted of inspirational words, talks bout their books, and reminiscing on the memories they had of Puerto Rico. Sonia Manzano talked briefly about her Sesame Street days and how it was like being one of few Latinas on the mainstream English tv. Sonia Sotomayor talked about her journey and experience in the justice system before reaching the Supreme Court.
Some of my main takeaways from the panels were the following:
- It takes a lot of work to reach your dreams, but also remember that failure is part of that path
- “Fear is what keeps us from expanding our reach, and is the greatest obstacles t our own success.” – Sonia Sotomayor
- Libraries were and still are a part of everyone’s story
Agents on Deck!
After a memorable signing with the Sonias, I was to the next interesting panel, the KidLit Agent Panel. We were joined by agents Beth Phelan (Gallt & Zacker), Jennifer Udden (Barry Goldblatt Literary), Brooks Sherman (Janklow & Nesbit Associates) and Quressa Robinson (Nelson Literary Agency) who was the moderator. The KIdLit panel delved into the world of agents and how the role of the agent plays into the publishing process. The agents began the panel discussion with discussing what factors bring htem to pick up a manuscript and moved forward with it. Answers included: A compelling narrative, a book that is the author’s voice overall and a book that your gut tells you its good.
This followed discussing more about the role of the agent. The panelists mentioned that agents are not throwing authors to the wolves, they are there to make sure that the author is providing their best work for publication. As mentioned during the panel, the role of the agent has changed in the last decade. An agent was more sales position focused but in the last decade has definitely evolved, which I thought was pretty fascinating to hear. The agents also noted a few of their agent no-no’s which included: in query letters, bashing other books, not following submission deadlines and envisioning what the movie version would be of their book. Overall, they closed it off by saying that not one agent is the same, you want to always do research on agents to get the one that fits the most towards your vision and that there are bad agents out there so researching is always key.
As the day progressed, it only got better!
Due to me becoming more involved in just listening in on the panels, I forgot to continue my notes. With that being said, there were a couple of panels that had some key points to remember:
- Children of color should be able to experience sci-fi/fantasy adventures and be able to view themselves into those adventures, so authors of color should be able to write their own narratives in those stories and bringing forth very unique experiences.
- Sometimes authors write stories with conflicts because sometimes grown-ups forget the complexity of the teenage emotion and sometimes are reflective of what the author may have experienced as a teen
- The publishing world can be hard to navigate but it is also a fun experience where you are able to learn new things and meet new people who you eventually become pretty cool with.
The Bronx Book Festival came out with all the magical cards and they nailed it. Saraceia Fennel, Founder of the Bronx Book Festival, cultivated such a diverse experience that I have no doubt she will continue to bring great perspectives, speakers and fun to this event. Sunburned and all, I was happy to support a festival that brings readers together in the Bronx, and continued to fall in love with the experience through each panel I attended. During the beginning of the festival Saraceia told us to live in the moment, embrace the experience by not relying on recordings on our cameras. It was a statement that I really appreciated but also practiced throughout the festival and it changed everything about how I experienced each panel. I would recommend everyone next year to take a trip down to the Bronx and immerse yourself in this exciting panels filled, fun filled experience. You truly won’t regret it!