Falling for 18 years of books



What began as a two-day festival in 1999 has since become a massive effort to bring hundreds of authors to Mason’s campus and community over a short period of six days. After a year of planning, organizing and fundraising, the Fall for the Book festival returns for the 18th time. With nearly 200 participating authors of all genres.


“Our mission is to enhance the role of reading and writing in our community and to connect readers with writers—both big-name authors they might already be familiar with and new writers who we think readers will love,” festival manager Kara Oakleaf said.


The Fall for the Book Festival also gives students the chance to reflect on what kind of opportunities reading can provide, including the exploration of new cultures and genres.


“Through this process, we reflect the cultural value and importance of reading. And we also give writers a chance to connect with a wider audience of readers,” William Miller, the executive director of the festival, said.


The amount of work that goes into such an event is as extensive as one might imagine. Planning begins 12 months in advance as members and volunteers begin selecting authors and raising funds for the next year.


“Because we’re a nonprofit, we begin fundraising for the next festival almost immediately after the current year’s festival ends,” Oakleaf said. “We are working now with the university, our board and our program committee on setting dates and identifying possible headliners for 2017.”


The writers are chosen by a programming committee that meets once a month during the planning process. The committee brainstorms ideas for authors, taking suggestions and submissions for people who may not be well known or may not have been previously considered.


“We do a lot of current events—this year, we have a panel on the presidential election and we have two historians talking about the importance of the Civil War and Reconstruction,” Miller said.  “We do academic topics and non-academic topics, current-event topics such as resource management and the environment.”


One of the organizers’ goals is to give both sides of the reading experience the opportunity to connect within a community of fellow writers and readers.


“As a student, educator and writer, I hope that members of the Mason community take advantage of this opportunity to not only discover new writers, but to connect with some of the leaders in a number of fields including journalism, history, business and more,” Suzy Rigdon, marketing director of the festival, said.


“I hope that the chance to meet writers helps students think about the ways reading impacts their own lives, both personally and in their academic life here at Mason,” Oakleaf said.


Often, professors will encourage participation in and attendance to the festival with extra credit opportunities, assignments based off of festival events and spotlighting authors that may be related to their class’s topic.
The festival kicks off September 25. All events are free and are located in the Northern Virginia area as well as on Mason’s campus. The full schedule of events can be found at www.fallforthebook.org or on the Fall for the Book app. Anyone interested in volunteering during the festival can reach out to Kyle Freelander at volunteers@fallforthebook.org.