With nearly 100 featured authors and more than a dozen interactive workshops in the line-up, the Gaithersburg Book Festival is preparing to write its best chapter yet.
Renowned authors, local writers, poets and other literary artists are expected to converge at the annual festival, which is scheduled to take place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. May 17 on the grounds of City Hall at 31 S. Summit Ave. in Gaithersburg. Admission is free.
Gaithersburg Book Festival founder and City Councilman Jud Ashman said he’s hoping this year’s event draws the largest crowd in its five-year history — more than 20,000 people. Last year’s attendance was around 18,000, he said.
Featured authors will be on hand to chat with attendees and sign books. In addition to the featured authors, about 50 more will be exhibiting their works.
Fiction writers like Anthony Marra, author of the novel “A Constellation of Vital Phenomena,” and Alice McDermott, a National Book Award winner who has authored seven novels, will be in attendance.
Mark Leibovich, who wrote the New York Times best-seller “This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral — plus plenty of valet parking! — in America’s Gilded Capital,” as well as famed sports writer John Feinstein, are set to appear.
A new resource for festival attendees this year is an interactive, online schedule that allows them to search and plan in advance which people and activities the want to visit. Details about author presentations, workshops, book signings and other programs are included. Visitors can search by time, title, author, genre and location.
“We put it in this interactive schedule so you can really search and look at the program in a number of different ways,” Ashman said. “We think it’s going to make it easier for the attendees to get their arms around all this programming.”
In support of the festival and its book-selling partner Politics & Prose, event goers have the new option of purchasing books online from the bookstore and picking them up in advance.
Those interested can buy books by going to the author’s biography page on the festival website, gaithersburgbookfestival.org. Books can be picked up at the store in Washington D.C., 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW, in the days before the event, or at the bookstore’s tent on the day of.
“Independent booksellers have a really difficult time staying alive in this era of Amazon,” Ashman said. “Here’s a chance to support the local economy and local jobs, and support the festival.”
Members of Split the Rock’s D.C. Youth Poetry Slam Team will show the power of the spoken word with their first-ever appearance at the event. Two poets from the group, which comprises middle and high school-age students, will perform and lead a writing workshop to teach others their style of poetic expression.
“What’s most compelling for me is the idea of using words to bring about social change,” Ashman said. “It’s a really interesting angle. Everyone has a story to tell, and this is a unique sort of modern, hip way of getting the point across.”
The festival’s Children’s Village will feature a sea of authors, illustrators, poets, singer/songwriters and entertainers. Workshops for children and teens will also be offered, including those that focus on playwriting, book arts, children’s books and college essay writing.
One great children’s presenter to look out for is Tom Angleberger, according to Ashman, because he entertains his young audience in a variety of ways. Angleberger wrote the Origami Yoda series.
“[Angleberger] is an amazing guy to see speak because he can juggle, he tells jokes and he does illustrations in front of the kids,” Ashman said.
The festival is an official event of Children’s Book Week, which runs Monday through Sunday.
For more information about the festival, visit gaithersburgbookfestival.org.