Virtual Lit Festivals: May & June

One of the pandemic silver linings that Wordplay 2020 really highlighted is that a virtual community can exist anywhere and everywhere. You didn't need to buy a plane ticket or gas up your car to attend—it was all happening right there in your home. Well, Wordplay isn't the only virtual lit fest.

This summer, there are a ton of online events happening. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't normally be able to get to 90 percent of them. When you have a job and a family and myriad other responsibilities, traveling to the east or west coast just isn't feasible. So I know I'm going to be taking advantage of accessing all of these lit fests from my couch. I hope you'll join me for these six festivals happening in May and June. Then check back, because we'll be rounding up July and August ones as well.

1) You'll have to hurry up if you want to catch the final event of the Bay Area Book Festival—and believe me, you won't want to miss it. Tonight (5/28) at 7 p.m. PST, Carol Anderson, author of White Rage, a National Book Critics Circle Award–winning bestseller that chronicles the history of systemic injustices that have impeded black progress in America from Reconstruction to the present day, and One Person, No Vote, a National Book Award longlist that zeros in on the fallout from the 2013 Supreme Court ruling that gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965, will be in conversation with esteemed Congresswoman Barbara Lee. You can register for this free even here (and even throw in a donation while you're at it). 

2) The Gaithersburg Book Festival kicked off on May 16 and goes until Sunday, June 14, so you have plenty of time to mark some events on your calendar. Their weekly scheduling features live author presentations, YouTube watch parties, children's book programming, and writing workshops (registration is required for those). Take a peek at their featured authors here. (Hint: if you are or have a kid who is a huge Marvel fan, definitely tune in to hear Nic Stone, author of Shuri: A Black Panther Novel.) 

3) For all you SFF fans out there, the Nebula Conference, put on by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, can't be beat. This conference isn't free, but it really hones in on topics such as craft development and career management, taught by a stellar (pun intended) lineup, as always. The cost of the conference includes virtual attendance to the annual Nebula Awards, as well. Clear your calendars, because it's happening this weekend, May 29–31

4) This year, the Lighthouse Writer's Workshop Lit Fest is spanning from June 1 to July 3. This is another festival that isn't free but is well worth the money, offering craft seminars, agent and editor consultations, business panels, readings, and advanced workshops. You can purchase either an all-encompassing event pass or events á la carte, whatever works for your budget. A few of their featured authors: Hanif Abdurraqib, Steve AlmondMelissa FebosSheila Heti, Jane Hirshfield, and Danez Smith.

5) #TheBronxIsReading has one of the most robust children's and teen lineup of authors and programming of any fest out there, and they set a high bar with their keynote speakers: Jason Reynolds and Gabby Rivera. There's adult programming as well, featuring such powerhouses as Ibram X. Kendi, author of Stamped from the Beginning; Tochi Onyebuchi, author of Riot Baby; and Melissa Rivero, author of The Affairs of the Falcóns. The festival takes place on Saturday, June 6.

6) The American Library Association announced ALA Virtual - Community through Connection, which will take place June 24–26Roxane Gay, Sophia Thakur, and Natalie Portman are just three of the featured speakers sure to make this event worth the price tag ($250 for non–ALA members). The conference schedule is packed for three days straight, so you'll have ample events to choose from.