17th Annual Louisiana Book Festival’s virtual edition features more than 80 authors and speakers. Here’s what to expect

In a normal year, about 30,000 attendees flock downtown in late October or early November for the Louisiana Book Festival and its lively programs for readers and writers. One of Baton Rouge’s most popular fall gatherings, the festival was shuttered in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. It’s back this year, but in a virtual format due to ongoing public health concerns, organizers say.

Fans of the written word won’t have a chance to mingle face-to-face with their favorite authors or attend in-person book discussions, but there’s good news. This year’s virtual event serves up extensive programs over three consecutive weekends, including 80 featured authors and speakers and 40 workshop sessions.

Authors participating in this year’s festival include 2021 Louisiana Writer Award recipient Fatima Shaik, Louisiana Poet Laureate Mona Lisa Saloy, and Louisiana Young Readers’ Choice Award-winning author Tommy Greenwald (Game Changer). Other featured authors include David Armand (The Lord’s Acre), Rickie Lee Jones (Last Chance Texaco), Alecia Long (Cruising for Conspirators), Robert Mann (Backrooms and Bayous), Joshua Prager (The Family Roe) and Steven V. Roberts, whose new book, Cokie: A Life Well Lived, chronicles the life and professional accomplishments of well-known journalist Cokie Roberts, his late wife and a Louisiana native.

Check out the program guide for the schedule, and view virtual programs, which start on Saturday, Oct. 30, on the Louisiana Book Festival YouTube channel. Programming continues on Sunday, Oct. 31, and will follow over the next two weekends, Friday, Nov. 5, through Sunday, Nov. 7, and Friday, Nov. 12, through Sunday, Nov. 14.

“I am thrilled for us to be able to present this virtual version of the Louisiana Book Festival, and I am especially excited to participate by interviewing the iconic singer/songwriter Rickie Lee Jones about her memoir,” State Librarian Rebecca Hamilton said in a press release. “Although we will miss the personal interaction and intimacy only an in-person festival can bring, we are grateful for the many authors and participants who cooperated to make this year’s festival possible.”

Baton Rouge Poet Laureate and local artist Jonathan Mayers was commissioned to create a work of art for the 2021 festival poster. The piece is titled “Lané a kawènn-la,” which means “The Year of the Turtle” in the Creole language Kouri-Vini. The original painting was photographed by David Humphreys. 

Baton Rouge Poet Laureate and artist Jonathan Mayers created the work, “The Year of the Turtle,” for 2021 Louisiana Book Festival poster. Photographed by David Humphreys

The festival’s annual “One Book One Festival” event, in which festivalgoers are invited to read a shared title, takes place again this year. The selection is Ernest J. Gaines’s A Gathering of Old Men. University of Mary Washington professor of English and Southern literature expert Gary Richards will lead a discussion on the novel.

Ordinarily, festival attendees purchase the works of featured authors at the book festival marketplace, but this year, books can be ordered through Denham Springs-based independent bookseller, Cavalier House Books, which will offer a discount.

Organizers say the festival should return to its normal in-person format in 2022.

For more information about this year’s Louisiana Book Festival authors and participants, visit the featured author page. More information is available on the Louisiana Book Festival website and on Facebook.

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