I admit that I don't have the numbers to back me up, but all my life I have been struck by the amount of people here who have no interest in reading, who have never picked up a book and who also hint at scorn when they realize else someone is a reader. The fact that we have a book festival reminds me that there are kindred spirits out there who feel as I do about reading.
The festival organizers have been doing a great job every year to increase the value and diversity of the events and workshops they offer. (They've even been recognized internationally!) There are workshops for people interested in publishing and writing in different genres. There are live readings and appearances by some fairly high profile authors (Nalo Hopkinson was an amazing addition a few years ago.) They actually acknowledge the existence of people interested in writing in the young adult genre and science fiction and fantasy by having workshops on these topics. I wish they would do more. I have often found that among the limited numbers of Caribbean writers out there, there doesn't seem to be a lot of quality work in those genres. I sense that some writers here still don't think these are "real" genres, and I am happy to hear of initiatives that take genre writers seriously and encourage them.
Despite my joy in the festival, I always know that there will be several events and activities that don't appeal to me. I think my interests are sometimes a bit too specific for that, so I don't blame them. I am just glad that there is a group out there championing reading and taking it seriously when so few people here don't. I want them to keep doing what they're doing and grow bigger every year.
This year I'll be attending Free Seminars on the Book Business. "True Confessions of a Literary Agent" looks interesting for example. Hopefully the seminars will run on time - one of the few complaints I have had when attending sessions in the past. I'm particularly interested in the Writing for Young Adults. Another concern I have is because of the awful situation of our local publishing industry, these kinds of sessions might be based on the budding North American YA market while ours is just stagnant. I hope that the workshop will address how someone from the Caribbean can reach international publishers. I think that's the best chance I have to eventually get out there. Look out for my take on my experiences soon, and check out the schedule of events and activities yourself.
Are you going to be attending the festival yourself? What do you think of it? What have you enjoyed in the past and what do you think you could change?