Bookmarks Festival returns after hiatus

A Wake Forest professor is among notable writers headlining an upcoming local book festival


The Festival of Books & Authors was forced to cancel its programming last year, but it is now back, and will feature a Wake Forest professor.

Christa Dutton, Staff Writer

After being forced to cancel last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the largest annual book festival in the Carolinas is returning to the streets of downtown Winston-Salem for its 16th iteration. The Festival of Books & Authors will be held Sept. 23-26.

The weekend-long event is hosted by Bookmarks, a literary non-profit organization and independent bookstore located in downtown Winston-Salem. The festival will include a combination of both paid and free events, with all events being free to the public on Saturday, Sept. 25. Attendees can look forward to activities like book trivia, meet-and-greets with featured authors, keynote presentations, book signings and author panels.

Festival Program Director Beth Sefuer Buss described the Festival as a “celebration of reading, writing, and readers.” Like everything Bookmarks does, their goal for this event is to connect the people of Winston-Salem with books and authors in an effort to encourage learning and the widening of worldviews.

“Books let us experience so much,” Buss said. “They give us a lot of different perspectives that are not our own. We get to learn about places we’ve never been to. We get to experience things that might not be something we’ve personally experienced. [Books] give us empathy for people, broaden our perspective [and] make us better community members.”

Attendees will be able to choose events and activities that appeal to them, making this event a “choose your own adventure” experience, as Buss said.

“There’s something for everyone,” Buss said. “I love going to the panels because sometimes we pair authors together in a way that you wouldn’t have thought of.”

Bookmarks strives to include a lineup of authors at their festival that is diverse in terms of backgrounds and styles. The Festival team tries to include the favorite authors of their customers, as well as debut authors. Bookmarks wants readers to interact with authors whose work they admire, as well as to discover the works of new authors.

“You could come to see your favorite authors and leave with new favorites,” Buss commented.

The Festival will feature over 50 authors, including one of Wake Forest’s own, Associate Professor of English in Creative Writing Dr. Joanna Ruocco, who uses the pen name Joanna Lowell. Ruocco will be speaking on the “All the Love” panel alongside other romance novelists. She will be speaking about her new book “The Duke Undone”, a historical romance novel about an unexpected love that ignites between a young art student and an aristocrat. 

Two other authors of note who will be in attendance are Lauren Groff and Yusef Salaam.

Salaam, one of the Central Park Five who was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to prison at age 14, will be speaking on his memoir “Better, Not Bitter”. Salaam’s event will close out the weekend’s activities and will be free to the public, though registration is required.

Lauren Groff is the author of “Fates and Furies”, a novel named a “Most Anticipated Book of 2021” by publications like Time, Entertainment Weekly and The Guardian.

During her keynote, she will be discussing her new novel, “Matrix”, which she describes as “a defiant and timely exploration of the raw power of female creativity in a corrupted world.”

More information about Bookmarks’ Festival of Books & Authors as well as a schedule of each day’s events can be found on their website. Event organizers desire for the weekend to be fun and lively, but also safe and responsible manner. The Bookmarks Festival will also adhere to local mandates.