On March 11th, I was texting with author and close friend Jillian Cantor about how the Tucson Festival of Books, one of the nation’s largest book festivals, was cancelled due to Coronavirus. That day we also both had heard of numerous canceled author tours.
Based upon that conversation, an idea sparked. Maybe in person events weren’t possible or safe right now, but people needed to read and discuss books more than ever. I realized I could start a virtual book festival where authors could still share their books with readers online.
For three years, I have run a book salon called Great Thoughts Great Readers. We have over 5,400 readers and authors chatting all things books daily. Thus, it was easy to quickly organize a virtual festival. The beauty of an established private group on Facebook is that we already have the avid readers who are always up for a new book. By keeping the festival in the Facebook group, readers can always go back and read or watch author presentations at their leisure.
On March 12th, The Great Thoughts Great Readers Festival of Books kicked off with authors Susie Orman Schnall and Brenda Janowitz. Since then, we have had over 20 other authors presenting their books to us including New York Times bestselling authors Chris Bohjalian, Patti Callahan Henry, Mary Kay Andrews and Cristina Alger as well as debut authors like Alison Hammer, Michael Zapata and Allison Ashley. It was also so exciting to have Nguyen Phan Que Mai present from her home in Vietnam. The festival book genres vary from historical fiction, book club fiction, young adult, thriller to literary fiction. On average, over 4,000 see every post and the festival has garnered 15,000 comments and reactions.
The beauty of this virtual book festival is two-fold. Readers are at home and anxious. The need for books and escapism is high. Authors make their livings by writing. If we can enjoy books AND help authors, it truly is book love in the time of corona.