StoryFest 2023 at The Westport Library Celebrates the Power of Writers, Readers, and Community

Thu, Oct 26, 2023
EJ Crawford

Stephen Graham Jones and Neil Gaiman during the Friday evening StoryFest keynote conversation/Fall 2023 Malloy Lecture in the Arts.

Three days, 20 programs, 50 authors. StoryFest 2023, The Westport Library’s sixth annual literary festival, was its biggest and most diverse yet, drawing authors from a wide variety of genres to provide something for any reader and every fan.

Hosted throughout the Library — most events were held in the Trefz Forum, while also utilizing Brooks Place, the Hub, and the Komansky Room — StoryFest featured a keynote conversation with acclaimed author Neil Gaiman; a series of panel conversations on Saturday ranging from inclusivity in children’s literature to women writing crime fiction to exploring humor in horror; intimate author talks; a live recording of Clay McLeod Chapman’s Fearmongers podcast; a staged reading of Eric LaRocca’s new psychological thriller; a Pink or Treat book reading and Halloween Parade with Pinkalicious author Victoria Kann; a TeachRock workshop; and a live score of the Spanish language Dracula by guitar virtuoso Gary Lucas.

“We had high hopes for this year’s StoryFest, and the actual event managed to exceed them,” said StoryFest co-founder and event organizer Alex Giannini. “It’s always pure magic to get this many amazing authors together in one place, and everyone who came out could not have been friendlier and more enthusiastic. We’re definitely going to take some time to enjoy this one, but I’m already excited for 2024.”

The running theme throughout the weekend was an appreciation for writers, readers, libraries, and community. As moderator Stephen Graham Jones said to the 350-plus patrons at the start of Friday evening’s keynote conversation with Gaiman, “Thank y’all for showing up tonight and supporting libraries. It’s so important.”

“Libraries are so special to me,” said Angie Kim, author of The New York Times best-seller Happiness Falls. “I’m an immigrant. I came from Korea to the U.S. as an 11-year-old, and public libraries were my haven. It’s where I hid out from the bullies in middle school and where I got help learning English. So, to have this sponsored by The Westport Library, which is so beautiful and so accessible, has been amazing.”

Kim was one of the many authors who stayed for the full StoryFest experience, visiting the Mercy Learning Center in Bridgeport during the day on Friday, attending Gaiman’s talk Friday night — one of nearly 30 authors who ringed the mezzanine for the keynote conversation — and appearing on two panels and signing books afterward on Saturday.

“This is my favorite event that I’ve done, and it’s even better this year,” said Black Sheep author and StoryFest veteran Rachel Harrison. “It’s just such a great crowd, a great environment. The programming is so thoughtful. There’s just something for everybody.”

Added A Likeable Woman author May Cobb: “This is absolutely one of my favorite festivals for books and storytelling. It’s just such an engaging, intimate experience, where you get to interact with readers and other writers. It feels like we’ve built a community … and I feel like I’m part of a family. It’s very special.”

Joining Kim at the Mercy Learning Center was Mitzy Sky. In addition, Tommy Greenwold, Dan Poblocki, Lorien Lawrence, and Janae Marks all gave talks on Friday at local Westport schools; and Patricia Dunn, John Palisano, and Wendy Walker traveled to Norwalk High School and P-Tech Norwalk.

“This has been an awesome experience,” said Sky, who first came to StoryFest as a fan and was making her first appearance as a panelist. “I’ve been here since 2017. It’s my favorite thing to do.”

In addition to the events and programs, StoryFest included a fully stocked bookstore with autographed titles from the participating authors, including 600 signed volumes from Gaiman, as well as posters and other memorabilia.

“The festival has been great,” said Sidik Fofana, author of Stories from the Tenants Downstairs. “It’s the perfect motivation to start writing, because I want to be invited again. What a great way to spend three days.”

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