Ruffled pages: Brooklyn Book Festival finds storybook settings, ends on a high note despite gloomy weather

author at brooklyn book festival
Author Eric Orner signs a fan’s book during Brooklyn Book Festival at the Center for Brooklyn History on Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022. Bad weather forced organizers to quickly find indoor venues for the festival’s planned activities.
Paul Frangipane

Nonstop rainy weather threw a wrench in the plans of many fall festivals planned for the first weekend in October — but the gray days were perfect for people who love to stay in with a good book, and the Brooklyn Book Festival managed to draw a huge crowd of attendees indoors to attend panel discussions, meet with authors, and question the role of literature in today’s most pressing issues. 

“We were lucky for 16 years to have wonderful weather,” said Liz Koch, co-producer and vice president of the BBF. “But Sunday, we just had to pivot.”

brooklyn book festival talk in church
People listen to the panel “Sacred Memories” during Brooklyn Book Festival at St. Ann & The Holy Trinity Church on Oct. 2 after wind and rain forced festival organizers to find indoor spaces for the festivities. Paul Frangipane

High winds, a gloomy sky and cold rain tried to get in the way of everything that was planned for the weekend. Fortunately for reading enthusiasts, quick adjustments brought the festival’s events to the Center for Brooklyn History, the Brooklyn Law School, the courtroom at Brooklyn Borough Hall, and more out-of-a-story like venues — and many agreed it enhanced the experience.

Most of the program was planned to take place around seven stages at parks, plazas and venues surrounding Brooklyn Borough Hall on Oct. 2, with more than 50 events throughout the day. Adapting to the circumstances meant the Marketplace, a book sale with multiple local publishers including Abrahams, the first company in the United States to specialize in publishing art and illustrated books in 1949, had to be cancelled.

Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso, who facilitated the Borough Hall space for the impromptu change of settings, spoke to attendees on growing book-banning efforts in the U.S.

Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso greets an audience at Brooklyn Book Festival at Brooklyn Borough Hall on Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022. Paul Frangipane

“As we witness bans on our beloved books around the country, know that in Brooklyn you’ll always be able to access the books you crave or simply have curiosity about,” he wrote in a letter ahead of the festival.

Author meet-and-greets and book signings had both writers and fans starstruck, according to their posts on social media. “When your kid meets one of his literary heroes, The George O’Connor, and he’s the coolest cat!” wrote author Courtney Zoffness on Instagram, captioning a photo of the author of “Dionysos: The New God,” posing with her son.

people at brooklyn book festival at borough hall
People listen to the panel “Shattered Families” during Brooklyn Book Festival at Brooklyn Borough Hall. Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso quickly facilitated the festival’s move into the building as wind and rain battered the city. Paul Frangipane

“Access to books changes people,” Koch said. “Not every neighborhood in Brooklyn has book stores, but thankfully, libraries allow individuals to approach ideas, experience different realities and schools of thought.”

Of course, the rain also couldn’t bring down the festival’s digital offerings — Brooklynites and book lovers from all over the world still had access to free talks and panels online all day long, and the Brooklyn Book Festival will publish the recordings of panels and talk that took place on Sunday. The content will be available on the BBF website in November.

indoor brooklyn book festival event
People listen to the panel “Rethinking Work, Who Is ‘Essential,’ and the Labor Movement” during Brooklyn Book Festival at Brooklyn Law School on Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022. Paul Frangipane

“Thank you to our wonderful authors and dedicated supporters for braving the elements this weekend for Children’s Day and Festival Day!” organizers wrote on Twitter on Monday. “We also want to thank our incredible volunteers for all their hard work! The literary spirit of celebration was strong this weekend!”