Reading the Room: The First Annual Waverly Book Festival

Reading the Room: The First Annual Waverly Book Festival

“We are all lucky to be here,” remarked Alexander once the room had filled out and the murmur had quieted down, and I felt it, too. There was joy in coming together, the pandemic and long months of isolation still dragging behind our heels. She took to the mic, ceremoniously opening the salon by unfurling a scroll with a flick of the wrist and reading an invocation, a stream-of-consciousness piece about being, creating, transforming, and becoming, in Waverly and beyond, in the world of this moment in time.

The salon readers—Nino McQuown, Fiona Chamness, and Freda Mohr—all exuded love and care for this city, this neighborhood, and this community, reflecting on it either directly in their work or in a statement that prefaced it.

Later, I had a chance to ask Alexander about the role of hyperlocal festivals in Baltimore.

“Festivals are my favorite kind of public art, and the neighborhood festivals are part of what really made me fall in love with Baltimore in the first place,” she reflected. “I think any festival of any size is about community building, both inter-community and intra-community. It’s good to connect with your direct neighbors, to get out of the house and see each other. It’s also good to showcase the neighborhood for everyone in the city.”

The first annual Waverly Book Festival was created, in part, to fill the gap left by the Baltimore Book Festival, last held in 2019, but also to draw attention to the historic city district (coincidentally named for Sir Walter Scott’s novel, Waverly).

“My initial hope was to bring people to Waverly, highlighting the fact that we have tons of authors, creatives, writers, and book vendors right here in the community,” Diana Emerson, the executive director of Waverly Main Street and one of the festival’s organizers, said. “The book festival weekend showcased all these hidden gems… shining a light on our favorite places, like the Enoch Pratt Library Waverly Branch, The Book Thing, Urban Reads, Normal’s, Red Emma’s, and Baltimore Read Aloud, and our neighborhood brewery, Peabody Heights.”