Boro Book Festival launches for 2016

By Sadef Ali Kully

The Queens Book Festival, which debuts next summer, officially launched a campaign Wednesday to position iteself as the largest and most inclusive literary gathering in Queens.

The grassroots project began in 2014 by residents from across the borough as a way to bring literary culture to Queens, placing a particular focus on children and young adults while also celebrating authors and their contributions.

The Queens Book Festival’s executive director, Johanne Civil, and her small staff are pursuing partnerships with several businesses, publishers, independent bookstores and literary nonprofits across the city.

“The true purpose is to springboard kids into reading and aspects of literary culture,” said Civil, who is also a founder of the festival.

A Jamaica resident and poet, Civil found out while working with the Jamaica Business Improvement District that a book festival dedicated to Queens did not exist. She then set out to bring the first such event ever to the borough.

“Our goal is Citi Field,” Civil said about where the group would like the first book festival to take place.

The Queens Book Festival started its soft launch on Monday with an online campaign on Indiegogo to start raising funds for the festival.

“The purpose of the Indiegogo [campaign] was to make the community more involved—we are still a grassroots organization,” Civil said.

She said the group seeking support from 100 Queens-based businesses for the festival.

“If we don’t meet our goal, then it would be done on a much smaller scale,” Civil said.

The organizers for the Queens Book Festival began introducing themselves to different neighborhoods across the city through literary events, such as a spoken word poetry session at Governor’s Island and reading series “A borough without borders” held across Queens.

“We spent the entire summer getting acquainted with everyone,” Civil said.

The Queens Book Festival plans to have more than 100 authors, exhibits at a venue within walking distance of the festival and expects a diverse group of over 10,000 people of all ages to attend. The festival will be free to the public.

Civil said the book festival is not the only goal for the organization.

“We have a whole bunch of events coming up—this is an ongoing effort,” she said.

Civil said the organization has planned a Lit Crawl, where groups will bar-hop or lounge-hop to perform or read their works to complete strangers, in the spring of 2016.

Reach Reporter Sadef Ali Kully by e-mail at skully@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4546.