THE SEVENTH ANNUAL CHAPPAQUA CHILDREN’S BOOK FESTIVAL brings together exciting authors, favorite characters, and heartfelt stories for children and teens. This small, welcoming town is the place to make a lasting connection between young readers and books. How did this wonderful event come to be? I asked founder, Dawn Greenburg that question–and lots of others.
Q. What was the intent of the original Chappaqua festival? How, if at all, has it changed?
DG We remain focused on our original intent with the Chappaqua festival: to connect authors and readers. I probably didn’t fully grasp what that meant originally, but in truth there is something so special about seeing a kid chatting away unguarded to an author they only met before in the pages of a book. We want kids to love books but we also want them to realize that the act of writing is as simple as putting pen to paper and letting your mind go. In having our authors explain how and why they write what they do, I think it greatly expands our kids view of what they can capture with their own words.
The beauty of our festival is that the excitement is palpable as those connections happen. I hear from so many parents and community members their gratitude and relief that we have shown that books still matter in our digital world — and that we bring so much excitement to our sleepy town one day each year.
Q. Can you remember a book that made an impression on you in middle grade?
DG I was a voracious reader and had read all of the Nancy Drew books by second grade. From there, I think I graduated to Agatha Christie. I grew up in a small town and much like Miss Marple, I fancied myself able to see the intrigue beyond the picket fence.
Q. In October, Chappaqua will host its seventh annual book festival. Does any year stand out as memorable to you, and why? Do you have a story to share about a glitch, dilemma, or mini crisis that popped up in any year?
DG Every year I say the festival was the best ever and we’ll never top it. I log almost 20 miles on festival day making sure our authors are happy and that everything is glitch-free. We’re on our feet from 5 am to 8 pm when the last box is packed away. We try to present a “what me worry?” face to the world, but we fuss over every detail to make sure the day works. However, there is always, without fail, one book that doesn’t arrive. We work on our order for months and go line by line with our fastidious book handler and yet we still manage to have a shipment that doesn’t come. The first few years, it would absolutely ruin my day, but I’ve learned to take it a little more in stride.
Q. What advice would you give adults about attending the fair with their kids?
DG My best advice on festival day is to have a plan using our website author biographies, but allow for a lot of serendipity. With this many authors, you should try to make a list of the top ten or 15 that are “must sees” for you. We are trying to help that process greatly with more maps and color-coded guides this year, hopefully even an app. But you’ll be amazed at the authors that you’ll find just by wandering. Our area is so very rich with marvelous and celebrated authors! You should keep your eyes open and your energy high for chance encounters. You should prioritize authors who aren’t from our immediate area — Jarrett Krosoczka, Cece Bell, Cynthia Levinson, Kate Messner — because we can’t guarantee they’ll be back next year.
Q. Do you have any great tips for authors about how to be a success at a book fair?
DG For authors, I’d suggest arriving rested and relaxed. The first 30 minutes can be a bit overwhelming as everyone rushes to find their table, but you’ll settle in soon. In fact, we ask our local orchestra to provide a three-piece ensemble from 9-10 am to keep everyone’s nerves under control. Authors who bring something cute and eye-catching seem to do well with the youngest readers. For example, Diana Murray’s unicorn horn is a huge hit. But giveaways aren’t necessary. A colorful pile of books and a warm smile is enough.
Q. I read that you’ll be hosting 145 authors this year. Last year there were 90. What are the challenges of putting together such a huge fair? What innovations can we look forward to?
DG In addition to adding almost 50 authors, we will have a kick off keynote address by Jarrett Krosoczka and three author panels. We were given the approval to expand our “footprint” on the school fields, so we’ve taken the opportunity to add even more authors we admire — including SIX Project Lit Club authors — and to add panel discussions. Additionally, we’ll be closing the street in front of the field, which will allow a bit more of a flow for our families as well as easy access to the town gazebo where we’ll hold our author readings. We’re also thrilled that KidLit TV will be on hand and authors will be interviewing each other and streaming live from the festival! We hope to create a lot of wonderful content from those interviews. We love when our authors have time to catch up and discuss future collaborations.
Mark your calendar for Sat, Oct 5th, 2019 @ Bell Middle School in Chappaqua, NY 10514. Rain or Shine.
DAWN GREENBERG and a group of friends founded the Chappaqua Children’s Book Festival in 2013. Since then it has grown from 65 authors to 145 from all across the northeast. In her professional life, Dawn managed international rights for United Feature Syndicate and Warner Bros./DC Comics. She is the mom of two boys, 16 and 13. She believes books can change lives.