January 12, 2021
By KEITH RYAN CARTWRIGHT
Rutherford County Schools
This year’s Southeastern Young Adult Book Festival will be a virtual event held March 11–13.
It is the fifth festival in the past six years.
“We are going to use an online platform called Crowdcast and it has registration embedded in the platform,” explained cofounder Barb Collie. “We will ask teachers to register … and then teachers will receive a password protected link to log in and attended the festival.
Collie added, “We are making accommodations for distance-learners. Teachers will be able to share a link with distance-learners so that they can also attend from home.”
Crowdcast is a live video platform for creators to have a simple way to connect with one another.
Not only is the registration process easier than other platforms, but it also does not require any downloads. From a technology standpoint, if an attendee has web access, they will be able to access Crowdcast online without an app.
Though it is a virtual experience, fellow SEYA cofounder Elizabeth Miller said their intent is to create as close to an in-person experience as possible.
“There is no replacement for in-person interaction,” said Collie, who explained the difficult decision was made out of an abundance of caution. “However, safety has to be paramount — safety of the authors, safety of the students — and once we made the decision to go fully virtual, the authors absolutely poured in. We had no issues getting a great lineup because I think the authors are hungry to connect with their readers. Just like the readers are going to be hungry to connect with authors.”
“Another benefit to having a virtual festival,” added Miller, who like Collie is also a cofounder of SEYA, “we've always had authors come from all over the country, but now authors from outside of the country will be attending. ... Before that could have never been a possibility because it's too expensive, but that's exciting that we're getting authors from outside.”
G.Z. Schmidt will be joining from Switzerland, while Eden Royce is in the U.K.
Collie and Miller, who are librarians at Stewarts Creek High School, have both consulted organizers of other book festivals and took part in a local Nashville festival.
“Being a part of the Southern Festival of Books really helped us from the back office side of things. They gave us that perspective,” said Collie.
Miller added, “I attended a virtual meeting with festival directors from around the country, so we're doing things like that to network and see where everyone is at and how things are going. And get some insight from a lot of different (events).”
In past years, students could only attend sessions from one of the two days — Thursday, March 11 or Friday, March 12 — dedicated to middle and high school students, but a benefit of the virtual festival is students could conceivably attend sessions spread out over two days.
In fact, they already know of one teacher who is planning to host an opportunity for her students — traditional and distance learners — to attend on Saturday, March 13, according Collie.
“What will make for a richer experience for students is if they have read some of the books prior to the event,” Collie said. “We're really hopeful that people will utilize the link and make those book purchases and read books in advance of the festival.”
A portion of the proceeds from advanced purchases will benefit SEYA.
PHOTO / KEITH RYAN CARTWRIGHT
Courtney Stevens signs copies of her books — Dress Codes for Small Towns, The Lies About Truth and other titles — at the 2019 festival.