In February, Boston Book Festival founder and chair Deborah Z. Porter announced that the festival’s new director would be Gina Gagliano. A Connecticut native now living in Somerville, Gagliano comes from the world of publishing, having helped found Random House Graphic, a graphic novel imprint focusing on children’s books, and First Second Books, an imprint of Macmillan.
Q. How have the job and plans for the festival been going?
A. It’s been amazing. Debora Porter, the festival founder, and Norah Piehl, the former executive director, have built up such a great literary community and literary network around the Boston Book Festival. That just makes my job such a pleasure every day. It’s about connecting people at literary nonprofits with each other, and connecting people who make books with each other, it’s connecting all of those people with readers, and building a community around a love of books. I think books are fantastic — they’re windows into other places and reflections of our own lives — that people can come together around them feels amazing.
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Q. What are the particulars of this year’s festival?
A. The date this year is Oct. 29. It’s going to be awesome. We’ll be back in Copley Square, at all our typical venues, and we’re starting to put together the program for that now. We will have around 200 authors.
Q. How do you decide which authors to invite?
A. We have a kids committee, a YA committee, an adult fiction committee, an adult nonfiction committee, and a poetry committee. And they’re all working away reviewing the publisher submissions that we’ve gotten to see who is best for the Boston literary community. We’ll announce the festival lineup in August.
Q. In recent years, you’ve also put on a festival in Roxbury. What’s the status of that project?
A. For the two years before the pandemic we had a great program in the Roxbury community. Unfortunately, for the past two years we were virtual with our festival, and we weren’t able to do these programs in other neighborhoods because everything was online. So now that we’re back in person we’ve been talking to all the different Roxbury arts and literary organizations about the best way to do a Roxbury program that connects to all of them and the Roxbury community. We should have more to share when those discussions are a little more final.
Q. You put on other programs throughout the year. Can you tell us about them?
A. One is Lit Crawl, which is happening this year on June 9 in Central Square. Lit Crawl is all about discovering books and reading in different ways. It’s for readers who love books and everything about books, and also readers who wouldn’t typically come into a bookstore or a library, who might have a different relationship with books. The program is all about raising up community partners and Boston-area authors and literary organizations and giving their unique spin on books to the community. We have everything from a banned books program to a number of storytelling programs, to Mad Libs or book trivia programs, as well as science fiction, fantasy, and D&D programs. It’s just celebrating all of the interesting and cool ways into storytelling.
Q. You have a lot of publishing experience, both in children’s literature and graphic novels. What are you bringing from those roles to the Boston Book Festival?
A. I love kids’ books and YA books, I love comics, I love a lot of genre books. Science fiction and fantasy are two of my favorite genres. I’m really looking to bring that into the festival more strongly. The Boston Book Festival has always had kids programing, adult programming, programming for every reader. But I want to have the festival lean more into sharing books with kids and teens, and making sure that the literary reader and the genre reader are equally valued in the programming that happens. I think one of the best ways to open doors to every reader is to represent commercial books, literary books, educational books, entertaining books — because reading is all of those things.
Interview was edited and condensed.