It was a daunting task: Creating a book festival out of thin air.
But Robert Lasner showed he was up to the challenge, and then some.
Lasner, who is Editor-in-Chief at IG Publishing, noticed a lack of book festivals in New Jersey when he and his family moved here from Brooklyn in 2015. “We were inspired by the Brooklyn Book Festival, and looked for a similar event in New Jersey. But the closest festival at that point was in Morristown. We live in such a literary community. I wanted to do something here,” he said.
Lasner began a planning process that lasted close to two years. “We reached out to the townships, authors and book people. The response was overwhelming,” Lasner reported.
After a kickoff event at SOPAC on Friday, June 9 with acclaimed science writer Mary Roach, the Festival centered on events at The Woodland and the Burgdorff Center in Maplewood. Panels tackled topics — such as Race & Gentrification — and genres like YA and poetry.
Originally, Lasner aimed to host 50 authors. But the response was so great, he broadened the scope of the event to include 85 authors. Of these authors, approximately half live in New Jersey, and a quarter are from the Maplewood South Orange area.
More than 1,000 people attended.
“We were very happy with the support we received in our first year, from the community and our many sponsors,” said Lasner. “Overall, the feedback has been positive, and we look to build upon that for next year, and beyond. We are already working on the 2018 festival, which will include an expanded children’s area, among other things. Save the dates: June 8 and 9, 2018.”