Most people tend to go through many different choices when they decide what they want to be when they grow up, but I knew I wanted to be a writer from an early age. I’ve always loved interacting with other writers and other people who loved books. Last year, I found a more concrete community of literature lovers when I signed up to volunteer for the Boston Book Festival (BBF). It is a two day festival held annually in October, where those who love literature can attend free events that cover a wide variety of topics, all of which are run by authors and other experts in the field. The BBF is entirely run by volunteers and sponsors who offer their time and money to make this annual festival free to the public.
Since it was my first time volunteering last year, it was a little chaotic, but overall a great experience. I volunteered with my friend at the time as an usher, but for one of the events we were able to sit in an event as microphone runners for a Q & A session. The event was titled “Reading Like a Writer: Historical” and was run by authors, Ursula DeYoung, Susanna Kaysen and E.B. Moore. For the actual panel part, my friend and I were able to listen in and learn a lot from the writers themselves. I’m not particularly interested in historical writing, so if I had attended the festival as a guest, I know I would have glazed over the event. But surprisingly, I ended up really enjoying the event and found it be a unique and refreshing experience.
I’ve decided to volunteer for the second year in a row, and to me, that’s a testament to how successful this festival is. The BBF is run by volunteers who take a day or two out of their year to help make this festival run as smoothly as possible. The fact that volunteers continue to come back year after year is one of the reasons why the festival is constantly growing.
At the training I attended this year for all volunteers, Sarah Howard Parker, “Director of Operations,” mentioned that this year the BBF will be accepting donations. In the past, there have been surveys passed out after events so that attendees of the BBF could offer feedback. This year, those same surveys were passed out along with envelopes so that those able to donate could do so. This makes it so that the BBF can continue to be an event that is free and open to the public. Parker mentioned that it’s important to those at the BBF that everyone is able to attend this event. The organizers know that the only way to continue making this possible is to have it be free for all.
Although I did not get to sit in on any of the events this year, I got to work in a church handing out programs and directing attendees of the festival to various events. I enjoyed interacting with everyone a little more closely and seeing how everyone was enjoying the festival.
An anecdote I really feel embodies the festival is a story Parker mentioned during the volunteer training. At a past festival, Daniel Handler, more commonly known as Lemony Snicket, was signing books when he caught a glimpse of the bright orange t-shirts the volunteers wear. He immediately took a liking to the shirts, and asked if he could have one. He then proceeded to wear the bright orange shirt for the rest of the festival.
There’s something enjoyable about returning to an event for the second time. Things felt familiar, and though I’ve only volunteered for two years, I almost felt like I was returning to a family reunion. The Boston Book Festival is a great organization that brings people together from all walks of life by uniting them by one common love: literature. Whether you’re volunteering or just attending, and whether it’s your first or fifth festival, the BBF is an experience that I think everyone should have.