Brooklyn Book Festival 2017: Exploration, Books, and New Members!

book festival

Photo Credit Allison Keene


Sunshine and bustling crowds brought streams of book lovers to the WNBA’s Brooklyn Book Festival booth this year.

Many of the visitors were first time attendees, including Dakota Blackman and Abigail Demsas. They came to watch Colson Whitehead read from his 2016 hit The Underground Railroad, and they were inspired to explore the Literary Marketplace.

book festival

Photo Credit Allison Keene

“We’re interested in learning more about the organizations here,” Blackman said. “[We’ve been] wandering about and exploring the tents.”

For New Jersey poet Holly Scalera, the Brooklyn Book Festival is an excellent place to connect with NYC writers and literary organizations.

“As far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing better to do than reading and writing,” Scalera said. “It’s all about the stories.”

Scalera came to the festival to support her daughter, a professional Romance writer and volunteer at the Romance Writers of America booth. She expressed interest in the WNBA as a networking opportunity for her and her daughter, both of whom identify as feminist writers.

Like Scalera, high school ESL teacher and College Counselor Erin Dowding said that the festival is an exciting event for book lovers. Inspired by the launch of her book club, Dowding attended panels featuring Elif Batuman and Pajtim Statovci, both of whose work her club has read.

book festival

Photo Credit Allison Keene

“I find that the chance to hear authors speak is so enriching,” Dowding said. “It adds a whole other element.”

For new and returning visitors, the Brooklyn Book Festival offers a unique opportunity to connect with the NYC literary scene. For Dowding in particular, the book festival is a way to reconnect with why she fell in love with reading in the first place.

“I know that I’m a better person when I’m reading,” Dowding said. “It gets you to look at the world with a variety of perspectives.”

Reported by Allison Keene, @keeneallison


Photo Credit Allison Keene

WNBA has always been supported by its enthusiastic and dedicated volunteers, and this year’s BBF group was no exception. They spent the balmy, overcast, late summer day sharing their love of books, knowledge of WNBA’s wealth of offerings, and information why membership is such a boon.

“I had just arrived as a member six months ago, and have enjoyed the reading group. I work as a translator (Polish/English), and found a home with WNBA. I respect the organization and will gladly contribute when possible,” Ala Wesolowska said. “It was interesting to learn more about the organization….As a newcomer, I feel welcome.”

Ann Kemper, a WNBA member for many years, enjoyed meeting different types of people. “Being a volunteer [at BFF] and WNBA member allows me to connect and see the broadest view of what’s happening in the literary landscape, and to do something different than what I do every day off in my editorial niche.” She noted that the Festival drew more traffic than usual. “WNBA continues to attract…members who are from different backgrounds, men and women, interns. If this event helps, it’s a good thing.”

Lei Zhong co-directed WNBA at BBF with Rachel Slaiman for the second year in a row, even though she has only been a member for two years. “Because last year we [both] did it for the first time, it was a learning experience. This year we were well-prepared and more successful. I feel responsible to promote such a great organization and connect people together.” Lei pointed out that 100- year anniversary has interested people in WNBA’s history and reputation.

Photo Credit Allison Keene

Marilyn Berkman, longtime member and a WNBA liaison to the United Nations, was able to offer a rich slice of WNBA’s history to those interested in who we were and what we stood for.

Finally, volunteer Annette Racond, a writer and comedian, shared these words. “It is a pleasure to see such interest in the world of publishing, especially for women writers. I’m from the days of the typewriter, and I love the scent of freshly printed pages. It’s nice to meet wonderful and gracious people who cherish the written word. WNBA is an awesome organization, and I enjoyed my experience interacting with everyone at the booth. Here’s too many more productive years.”

If I had to sum up what WNBA volunteers contributed at the BBF, I’d say a collective knowledge of WNBA’s past, a celebration of its presence, and an embrace of the next centennial. We are all here for the love of books and community.

Reported by Sheila Lewis,

Allison Keene is an Editorial Assistant at Springer Nature Publishing and a lifelong book nerd. She primarily reads the classics, literary fiction, and young adult fiction, but any book with a strong female lead is her cup of tea. Follow @keeneallison on Twitter.

Sheila Lewis is a writer, editor, and recent co-author of My Calm Place: Yoga, Mindfulness & Meditation Strategies for Children (, with 50 exercises that match her passion for meditation with effective learning techniques. She teaches classes and workshops at the JCC and citywide. She has been a WNBA member since 2008. Contact her at


About Blog Editor

The Women’s National Book Association was founded in 1917 by female booksellers who weren’t allowed in the men’s organizations. Nearly 100 years later, the WNBA is still supporting women in the book industry through literary events, networking, literacy projects, workshops, open mic nights, book clubs, and many other entertaining programs throughout the season!

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