By Ann Garvin | December 24th, 2020
Funny. If you’d have asked me this time last year, I would have told you one of the things I was most looking forward to in 2020 was live book events. We were in the process of planning our first live BLOOM reader event on the East Coast, and I had already paid the deposit on our Chicago Airbnb for 2020 PoppyCon — the annual live gathering of 40+ of my favorite writers comprising the Tall Poppy Writers. I had created room in my schedule to attend some of my best friends’ book launches and other bookish events all across the country, and I was moving into 2020 with great excitement and a firm desire to unplug in order to connect. So who could have predicted that in 2020, we’d have to actually plug in to connect? In the midst of the pandemic, the social, political and racial unrest, I, like so many of you, turned to storytellers for comfort, peace, vision and explanation. The need for authors and readers to bridge divides intensified. And these top seven virtual book events — all very different and all hosted by some of my favorite writers — rose above the static and noise of this chaotic year to provide the connection we so desperately needed. I’m grateful for all of them.
Friends & Fiction is a weekly web show and podcast hosted by bestselling authors Mary Kay Andrews, Kristin Harmel, Kristy Woodson Harvey, Patti Callahan Henry and Mary Alice Monroe, whose common love of reading, writing and independent bookstores bound them together. Each week they share and celebrate stories with each other, incredible guest authors and the 26.3K + member Friends & Fiction community.
I Know How This (Book) Ends Virtual Book Club
Founded in the early weeks of the global pandemic and hosted by award-winning author, Amy Impellizzeri, whose fifth novel (with the surreal title!), I Know How This Ends, released in March 2020. This virtual book club ran weekly in the spring and summer of 2020, featuring a new book and a new author guest each week. Amy made it her mission to connect readers from all across the country, including bookstagrammers, book bloggers and neighborhood book clubs, recruiting blockbuster authors to join in the fun, including Hank Phillippi Ryan, Sarah Pekkanen and Sex and the City’s Candace Bushnell! (Rumor has it, there will be an encore performance of the book club in 2021. Subscribe to Amy’s newsletter for more details on her website.)
Founded by New York Times bestselling authors Caroline Leavitt and Jenna Blum, A Mighty Blaze is a social media community and organization helping writers and readers connect online in the age of COVID-19 and beyond — helping all literary endeavors pivot to the digital age. Caroline and Jenna first formed A Mighty Blaze in the early days of the national lockdown (with the assistance of 18 volunteers) to help quarantined writers introduce new books to readers and help readers find great reads. The weekly social media offerings have expanded to PubDay Tuesdays, Authors Love Bookstores Wednesdays, Celebrity Conversation Thursdays, and Frontliner Fridays. Visit their website.
First Chapter Fun
Initially started by author Hannah Mary McKinnon as a daily don’t-miss event, First Chapter Fun now occurs biweekly and also features USA Today bestselling author and Emmy award-winning journalist, Hank Phillippi Ryan. Want to get hooked on a new book?
Tune-in LIVE Tuesdays and Thursdays at 12.30 pm ET on Facebook and Instagram as Hannah and Hank read the first chapter of exciting new releases and thrilling favorites, and look out for the compelling trailers teasing the upcoming books each week. I can’t get enough of these first chapters! FACEBOOK
Oh! And speaking of Hank Phillippi Ryan, you can also find her hosting alongside Karen Dionne, at this clever, intimate event that was a highlight of 2020 and has already booked dates well into 2021! Boasting “an evening of relaxed conversation with bestselling authors,” The Back Room certainly delivers. Each event starts with a short introduction to a panel of four authors. The audience is then divided into four breakout rooms where they remain for the rest of the program while the authors visit each room in turn. Everyone’s video is turned on and their mics are unmuted, allowing for informal, face-to-face discussion. What’s more, breakout sessions are never recorded. That’s right: “What’s said in The Back Room stays in The Back Room!” Registration is free, but space is limited, so sign up here.
Hosted by USA Today bestselling author, Tif Marcelo, the Stories to Love podcast features lively interviews with contemporary fiction authors. Tif asks the questions we want to ask the impressive lineup of authors, but are too shy to raise our hand. Friendship, empathy, writing during a global pandemic and 4:00 am writing wake-up calls are just a few of the topics Tif tackles with her star-studded lineup. Subscribe and catch up on past episodes here.
Maybe I’m biased, but I can’t skip over BLOOM in a list of virtual book events that rose above the noise in 2020. Founded by the Tall Poppy Writers in 2017, our nearly 10,000-strong group of readers is one of the most vibrant and engaged book-discussion communities on Facebook. We’ve always operated as a 24/7 fun and charitable sleepover for book lovers, with a different Tall Poppy taking over the group each week, but during 2020, this group became important to all of us in ways we couldn’t have predicted this time last year. P.S. We have lots of exciting news for BLOOM members in 2021. Join for free here.
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