Kid Lit Authors Organize Virtual Book Festival for May

The Everywhere Book Fest will be held May 1 and 2.

The coronavirus pandemic response to shut down schools and ban large gatherings means no book festivals, publishing and educator conferences, or school visits  for a while. The impact has been felt on publishers, creators, educators, and readers. Authors Ellen Oh and Christina Soontornvat were disappointed by all of the cancellations and the ripple effect it would have on the industry. They were contemplating options, originally considering a virtual chat as a replacement for a canceled book festival.

“But as the number of canceled events started stacking up and schools around the country started to close, it quickly became clear that there was a need for something much bigger,” Soontornvat wrote in an email.

So Oh took to Twitter.

“We wondered what we could do to maybe have a book festival online,” she tweeted on March 9. “So we're currently brainstorming ideas, especially for authors w/ books out this month. Would people be interested in a virtual book festival?”

It took only days for the kid lit community to rally behind the idea. Author Melanie Conklin joined Oh and Soontornvat to organize, and the Everywhere Book Fest will be held May 1 and 2. Author and illustrator Grace Lin designed the logo.

“Public events such as book festivals, conferences, and school visits are big opportunities for authors to make real, human connections with readers, booksellers, and educators,” Soontornvat wrote in an email. “Events like this can really help get your book on people's radar and get them talking about your title. And of course, there is the potential to actually sell books and sign them for readers in real time. The loss of sales has been devastating for some booksellers who were counting on the revenue from the events. But, for authors, I would say that the loss of connecting face-to-face with readers is the hardest part of all this. We get so few opportunities to meet them otherwise. That sort of human connection can make such a big impression on a young reader. It really can make a big difference in their life or turn them into a lifelong reader. And of course, our hearts especially go out to the debut authors, who have waited so long and worked so hard for their moment to shine.”

There will be panels—livestreams and pre-recorded content—in picture books, middle grade, and YA, prioritizing authors and independent booksellers who had an event canceled because of COVID-19, spring debut authors, and authors from marginalized backgrounds. Children’s authors and illustrators will take live questions from viewers at home, do demos, tell stories, and give sneak peeks into their daily lives, according to Soontornvat.

“The days will be fun and lively, which is something we could all use in our lives right now, especially the children who are home from school,” she said. “Attendees who want to purchase books will be directed to independent bookstores where they can order signed copies from the authors in the festival.”

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Kara Yorio

Kara Yorio (, @karayorio) is news editor at School Library Journal.

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Trish Baker

Great idea. Well done.

Posted : Mar 22, 2020 04:02

Tanya Newson

Will this be open to Canadian residents?

Posted : Mar 20, 2020 06:28

Teresa Craven

Neat idea!

Posted : Mar 20, 2020 03:59

Andrew Phipps


Posted : Mar 19, 2020 11:51

Natasha Wing

I would love to be part of this. I've had booksignings, school events and a workshop cancelled. And expecting more.

Posted : Mar 18, 2020 03:37

Mary Carrico

I love this idea, part of my job is to introduce students to the many amazing authors!
Please consider that it’s possible that book stores may not be open as the virus spreads and more closures are announced.
Let’s hope we’re all in a better place by May. Looking forward to it!

Posted : Mar 18, 2020 11:13

Shilpa Shamanna

This sounds wonderful! My 8 year old is an avid reader and would appreciate this so much !!

Posted : Mar 18, 2020 02:38

Jhumur Saeed

Great idea!!

Posted : Mar 17, 2020 10:38



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