The Big Books Issue: Writing in the margins

Last year, the Baltimore Book Festival moved out of its longtime home of Mount Vernon and down to the more tourist-y, less genial Inner Harbor. It seemed like a sudden move and the festival occupied a temporary footprint already established for the Star-Spangled Sailabration, giving the smaller Book Festival a weird, isolated ambience. It felt more like a Book Refugee Camp than a Book Festival.

This year, the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts, which runs the event, has had more time to prepare and we're really hoping that the Inner Harbor setting starts to seem a bit less apocalyptic, because there are some spectacular literary offerings. Though we tout this as the Big Books Issue, it's never big enough for us to cover all the great authors we'd like to see and talk about and read, including Amanda Petrusich, Karsonya Wise Whitehead, Isaac Oliver, local fave Laura Lippman, and CP contributor D. Watkins, and dozens of others on stages ranging from the Radical Bookfair Pavilion, hosted by Red Emma's, to the CityLit Stage. (We also wanted to keep talking with CP contributor D. Watkins, despite our recent cover story, so on the second episode of BCPPC—the Baltimore City Paper Podcast—available on our website, Brandon Soderberg and I sat down with him and Lawrence Burney to talk about Watkins' book "The Beast Side" and Young Moose's new record "Moose Leroy, The Last Draggin.'")

But as the festival moves to tourist central, we hoped to focus a bit more on the literary margins, with a story on the Maryland Romance Writers Association by Kate Drabinski and a piece by Karen Peltier on comics—which is one of the great things about the Inner Harbor setting of this year's fest: It collides with Baltimore Comic-Con.

We also talk with UMBC math-professor-cum-novelist Manil Suri and Johanna Fernández, who edited a collection of prison writings by Mumia Abu-Jamal. We may miss the more intimate feel of Mount Vernon, where, walking through the parks, it felt easy to stumble onto great events by mistake, but we hope the Inner Harbor's expanse may force us all to seek out our own margins and create new and unforeseen genre crossings, collaborations, and cosplay bodice rippings. (Baynard Woods)

Cover photo illustration by J.M. Giordano and Athena Towery; featuring Chey Mayer and Tawni Darling; hair by Flaunt

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