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Q&A with Maria Burchill, of Schlow Library, on what’s new for BookFest 2019

by on July 01, 2019 5:08 PM

BookFest is back to open another chapter on July 13, and Maria Burchill says she is looking forward to the “look of fascination” on the faces of visitors as they interact with favorite authors.

More than 20 authors and artists are expected at Schlow Centre Region Library for the event, which celebrates “Comics to Cozies.”

BookFest 2019 is part of the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, which takes place in downtown State College July 10-14. 

Burchill, BookFest organizer and the head of adult services at Schlow Centre Region Library, discussed the event with Town&Gown.


T&G: How did BookFest come about?

Burchill: Bookfest PA is the brainchild of Patricia Griffith (the former head of adult services for Schlow), Rick Bryant (the director of the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts), the Nittany Valley Writers Network, and Webster's Bookstore. It began in 2010 to celebrate the art of the story, with a focus on local authors and their stories.

It has since grown to include authors and creators (I say creators, because stories can be told in a variety of ways) across Pennsylvania and neighboring states, while still including local authors. We further focused, recently, to celebrate our readers' favorites genres. 

T&G: What’s behind the name “Comics to Cozies”?

Burchill: We wanted to acknowledge the new focus on specific, creative contributions to literature, including graphic novelists, webtoon authors and artists, as well as the genre authors who inspire tenacious reader loyalty. So, comics for comics, and “cozies” refers to a certain style of mystery novel that has a wide and avid following. 

T&G: What are some highlights of this year’s event? Anything new planned?

Burchill: We are excited to welcome Pennsylvania Center for the Book's Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award program to BookFest this year. It gives us a special opportunity to celebrate children's literature and we have some great children's authors in the tent as well to support the program. Andrea Davis Pinkney will visit to accept her award and sign books. Her husband, Brian, who illustrated the winning book (Martin Rising: Requiem for a King) will also attend.

We'll have Usborne Books in the tent, which is new for us. We've never had such a large publisher attend before. We're also particularly excited to announce a partnership with Setsucon, the local anime and manga convention planners, who will sponsor this year's costume contest. 

T&G: How did the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award come about here?

Burchill: Schlow has a close relationship with the Pennsylvania Center for the Book. They have been partners of BookFest for years now and have helped us bring in speakers and identify program topics. We're very grateful to them for their support. When they came to us and proposed moving the award ceremony here, specifically during the festival, we were intrigued. It meant an opportunity for the community and our visitors to meet Pinkney and that was a big deal to us. 
T&G: Please tell us a bit more about this year’s honoree.

Burchill: Andrea Pinkney is a very well-known New York Times bestselling and award-winning children's author. We have 23 books by her in the Schlow collection and I'm sure that's not all of them. She's a prolific African-American author of poetry, nonfiction, and picture books, and her contributions to not only the literary catalog, but also to publishing, have had a tremendous impact on representation in children's literature. 
T&G: What is your favorite part of BookFest?

Burchill: That's a tough question. I love to see visitors interacting with the authors. That look of fascination and interest on their face while they discuss other worlds, other experiences, is priceless. I also enjoy seeing the support that the authors get from the community. Knowing their work is read and appreciated helps encourage them to keep dreaming up new stories, worlds, and characters. 


BookFest 2019 will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 13 under a tent in Schlow Centre Region Library’s parking lot. The event is sponsored by the Schlow Library Foundation, The Pennsylvania Center for the Book, and artist Jason Lenox. For more information, visit, or

Mark Brackenbury is editorial director of Town&Gown.



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