Twin Cities Book Festival goes virtual for its twentieth anniversary

The great Minnesota literary get-together will feature more than three dozen authors, continuing its mission of advocacy and accessibility.

Nina Raemont

Bookworms from all over the country come to the Twin Cities Book Festival each year, seeking inspiration from authors, poets, graphic novelists and everyone in between. And even though the format of the event has gone from in-person to virtual, the TCBF continues to uphold that mission.

From Oct. 15-17, the Twin Cities Book Festival, presented by Rain Taxi, a local literary organization, will go virtual for the twentieth anniversary of the great Minnesotan book-lovers get-together.

The festival has historically championed accessibility, providing free transit and parking passes, and not charging entrance fees. This year is no different, and the online format only expands upon accessibility efforts, as literary enthusiasts from all over the world can tune into this three-day festival, according to Linda Stack-Nelson, Rain Taxi’s exhibit coordinator and editorial assistant.

Annually, the festival brings together approximately 6,000 attendees. This year, due to the lack of geographical limitations, Director of Rain Taxi Eric Lorberer said he thinks attendance may increase.

“The lack of limitations on geography helps not just to bring in more attendees, but also more authors who normally wouldn’t be able to all make it,” said Stack-Nelson.

There are more than three dozen writers on the lineup for this year’s festival. Some of this year’s notable writers include Kate DiCamillo, the author of “Tales of Despereaux” and “Because of Winn-Dixie,” Frank B. Wilderson III, who recently published “Afropessimism,” Yona Harvey, an American poet and writer of Marvel’s “World of Wakanda,” and Ayad Akhtar, a Pulitzer Prize winning playwright.

In lieu of the exhibition hall that hosts the book fair — “the beating heart of the festival,” as Lorberer described it, usually filled with tables, stacked with new books and packed with people — each exhibitor, from nonprofits to press houses to independent authors, will have their own exhibit page on the TCBF website.

“We can’t walk down an aisle and browse, but what we can do in the digital world is still advocate for these, you know, really amazing publishers and organizations and people who are just putting their all into the book world,” said Lorberer.

This summer, after the police killing of George Floyd, Rain Taxi invited local Black poets to submit an original poem for their upcoming chapbook that will be released at the festival. Titled “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop,” the poems provide a range of perspectives from different generations and genders, said Mary Moore Easter, the editor for the collection and a Rain Taxi board member, in an email to the Minnesota Daily.

“As I say in the introduction, ‘These [B]lack poets sing their grief, resistance and heart-bruised love in this time of turmoil,’” said Easter. “I think readers will join in these feelings.”

Easter remembers visiting the Twin Cities Book Festival six years ago. As she walked around the tables that teemed with books and the patrons perusing them, she knew that one day she wanted to have a book of her own, published and distributed at this very festival. Four years later, that wish came true.

Easter’s story of literary success is one of many at the TCBF. Stack-Nelson remembers discussing books until midnight one night at the festival with Lana Wood Johnson, who was a featured presenter of that year. The next day, Stack-Nelson looked at the program to find a picture of Wood Johnson, sitting in the audience one year earlier.

“That was such a cool, full circle moment,” said Stack-Nelson. “To see somebody who’s been an attendee at the festival come and present their work, and the way that the community is cyclical in that way and can converse with itself over time, I just thought that was really fun to see.”

Correction: A previous version of the article misstated the name of Rain Taxi’s poetry collection.