MORRISTOWN, NJ - The fifth annual Morristown Festival of Books, “where readers and authors meet,” took place on October 12 and 13 in downtown Morristown. The event was kicked off Friday evening at the Mayo Performing Arts Center with a sold-out keynote by former secretary of state, U.S. senator, and Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry. The event was moderated by award-winning journalist Ann Curry. Copies of Kerry’s new book “Every Day is Extra, A Call to Service: My Vision for a Better America” were distributed to the audience.
As stated in the program for the event, “a key mission of the Morristown Festival of Books is fostering literacy within the community. This year we are partnering with the Morris Educational Foundation, an organization that enriches educational opportunities for more than 5,200 students in each of the 10 schools within the Morris School District. We will donate money from our ticket sales as a matching grant with MEF to provide the school libraries with books to enrich social and emotional learning, the process through which children acquire and apply the knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals and feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.” Linda Hellstrom, Founder of the Morristown Festival of Books stated in the program “I cannot believe that in five short years this Festival has grown in size and reputation, not only within the NY/NJ Metropolitan area but it has also gained prominence with authors and publishers nationwide.”
Over 300 volunteers helped put on the festival and Saturday saw a nonstop literary festival beginning with an all-day Kidfest at the Presbyterian Church Parish House. Children were treated to talks by popular children’s book authors, a craft tent, balloon making, and games. Food trucks fed the crowd. Bookends Bookstore of Ridgewood had on hand 155 titles. The bookstore’s co-owner Pat Boyer stated “this is a wonderful opportunity for young and old to come together to learn more about current day authors and to share their love of books with each other and their favorite authors.” All authors at the day’s events donated their time and the audiences were gently encouraged to purchase their books in appreciation.
The speakers at the Kidfest were Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich and Audrey Vernick, Debbi Michiko Florence; Jessica Love, Laura Numeroff (If you Give a Mouse a Cookie series), Margaret McNamara, Roda Ahmed, David Ezra Stein Christopher Elipoulos, Heather Alexander, Eliot Schrefer, Sayantani DasGupta, Tracey West, Peter Lerangis, Dan Gutman, and Ibtihaj Muhammad.
The featured author and illustrator at the Kidfest were Matt de la Pena and Christian Robinson whose new book “Carmela Full of Wishes” was read and discussed with a room full of attentive children. De la Pena is a #1 New York Times best-selling author and Newberry Medal-winning author and Robinson is the 2016 Caldecott honoree and the Coretta Scott King Illustrator honoree.
Kidfest was sponsored by Atlantic Health System and Goryeb Children’s Hospital, and by Far Hills Country Day School, Gill St. Bernard’s, Oak Knoll, Morristown-Beard School, The Peck School, and The Red Oaks School.
Mother of two and reviewer of children’s books, Rosemary D’Urso, a resident of Mendham, opined that the festival “is a great way of sparking love of books…Listening to de la Pena read his book was incredibly cool and I realize I had been reading it to my kids all wrong.” D’Urso’s reviews are available at librarymom.com
Fantasy and Young Adult authors met their audience at the Presbyterian Church and included Dhonielle Clayton, Zoriada Cordova, Kass Morgan, Emily X.R. Pan, Jennifer E. Smith, IBi Zoboi, and Laini Taylor.
Adult readers were treated to talks by nonfiction and fiction writers, many of the top-selling writers of the day. These talks were moderated by many successful fellow authors who engaged in lively talks about books and the writing process. Nonfiction authors were Caroline Campion, Christian Davenport, Michael Dickman, Bob Dury, Jeff Goodell, Leslie Jamison, Sandeep Jauhar, Gilbert King, Chris Matthews, Kate Moore, Ibithaj, Greogy Pardlo, and Oanj Ngto Usadi. Fiction authors were Megan Abbott, Alafar Burke, Diane Chamberlain, Fiona Davis, Mark Di Ionno, Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie, Dee Ernst, A.J. Finn, Uzodinma Iweala, William Kent Krueger, Julie Maloney, Sujata Massey, Aimee Molloy, Kate Morton, Rhiannon Navin, Joyce Carol Oates, Kate Quinn, Rakesh Satyal, Susan Holloway Scott, Jennifer Smith, and Ibi Zoboi.
There was a panel for aspiring writers entitled “How to Get Published,” which included Cherise Fisher, Kate Quinn and Tara Parsons.
The official festival sponsor was Morgan Stanley Private Wealth Management. The keynote sponsor was investorsBank. The special event sponsor was Mariner Wealth Advisors. The presenting sponsors were Community Foundation of New Jersey, Wendy and Chris DeVries, Jockey Hollow Bar & Kitchen, Mayo Performing Arts Center The New Jersey Hills Media Group, New Jersey Monthly, Towne Hyundai and Toyota.
Sponsor Wendy DeVries explained that this was her fourth year being involved with the festival. She described her love of reading which began when she was a small child raised in Morristown. Every week she checked six books out of the library until she earned the trust of the librarian and could then take out seven, one for each day of the week. Her husband Chris DeVries stated “Open a book, open your life.”