Annual Southwest Florida Reading Festival going virtual
After more than 20 years celebrating the power of reading in the community, the Southwest Florida Reading Festival will carry on its traditions in a new way in March by adopting a fully virtual format.
Nearly 30 acclaimed and bestselling authors are scheduled to give virtual presentations and participate in live, interactive Meet & Greets on the event website from March 1-13. All of the presentations will be recorded for on-demand viewing throughout the month of March. The event Website will be available the week of Feb. 22 to familiarize attendees with the new, online Event Hub platform.
In addition to engaging with the bestselling authors, this year’s attendees can enjoy activities for all ages, including an online reading challenge, grab-and-go crafts, and online S.T.E.A.M. contests challenging participants to create masterpieces with LEGO and art materials. As in previous years, the festival will provide each participating child and teen with a free book. This year, the free books will be distributed in age-appropriate grab-and-go craft bags, which can be requested from any of the 13 Lee County Library System branches starting Feb. 22, while supplies last.
“We are pleased to be able to continue Reading Festival traditions in a new and engaging online format this year,” event coordinator Melissa Baker said. “The expanded timeline will allow all of our attendees to enjoy the content from wherever they are and at their own pace.”
The lineup of award-winning authors scheduled to attend the festival includes adult authors Jennifer Chiaverini, Gregg Hurwitz, Jayne Ann Krentz and Kyle Mills, as well as youth and teen authors J.C. Cervantes, Greg Pizzoli, Julie Berry and Ryan LaSala. The complete list of authors can be found at www.ReadFest.org.
Another feature adapting to the online format is the return of the Local Author Marketplace, which for years was a hallmark of the festival. A select number of approved authors will be granted virtual vendor booths on the event Website to promote and sell their work and engage with attendees using video and text chat functionality. Applications are now being accepted with a deadline of Jan. 15. Local authors will have the opportunity to participate in the interactive “Author Hour” Meet & Greets offered from 1-3 p.m. the first two Saturdays in March. Interested authors should apply online to book an event space at https://eventhub.net/events/Southwest-Florida-Reading-Festival-_2158.
The Southwest Florida Reading Festival is free and community-supported through donations, sponsorships and grants. For information, visit www.ReadFest.org or call 239-533-4832.