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Five Questions for the Boston Book Festival's Gina Gagliano

A big "Welcome!" to the Boston Book Festival's new executive director, Gina Gagliano (and a huge congratulations and thank you to outgoing executive director and longtime Horn Book contributor Norah C. Piehl; and to former director of operations and outreach Sarah Howard Parker, who is in this play!).

1. In Horn Book parlance: “What Makes a Good...Book Festival?”

Gina Gagliano: Great authors having amazing conversations, involvement from all the people in the local literary community, and many, many excited readers of all ages and interests. Beyond that — it depends! Different book festivals have different themes (on different genres or formats, on more literary or more commercial work, on different age groups of readers, focusing on exhibitors or on panel discussions), and it's all good as long as everyone involved comes away more excited about books than when they started out. For the Boston Book Festival, we're particularly interested in reaching readers from every community in the Greater Boston area, supporting and building everyone's love of reading.

2. What drew you to the BBF?

GG: I started my career in publishing, doing marketing and publicity for the amazing graphic novel publisher First Second Books. So in that role, I'd been working with Boston Book Festival's wonderful former executive director, Norah Piehl, for years and years. When I moved to Boston during the pandemic, I contacted Norah about volunteering for the festival — which then turned into a conversation about this position after she left at the end of 2021.

I love publishing — getting to work with authors to make their books happen is one of the coolest jobs around. But I realized that I was interested in a role where I got to work directly with readers — especially after the isolation of the pandemic. The Boston Book Festival, which has such great partnerships and relationships with all the amazing people in Boston's literary community, is a great place to get to do that.

3. How do see your publishing work informing your festival work?

GG: There's a lot of common ground between book festivals and publishing — starting with a love of books and care for authors that underlies everything everyone does! And the goal — getting more people excited about books, authors, and reading — is clearly a shared mission. I'm looking forward to thinking about the communities in publishing that I worked to build up around authors and publishers in a different way now that I'm in the festival space — geographically, building and adding to those communities through an entire city.

4. Can you share any “sneak peeks” about this year’s festival?

GG: Our plan is for the festival to be back in-person in 2022 — after two years of virtual events! We have some other exciting announcements coming in the next month (dates! locations!), but in the meantime what I can share is that in addition to our traditional literary fiction and nonfiction focuses, our plan this year is to strengthen our children's and YA program — and increase our inclusion of genre fiction.

5. What’s the most “Boston” thing about you?

GG: I have a lot of family roots in Boston! My grandfather and grandmother grew up in the area, and they both went to Tufts — just a few blocks away from where I now live. I've been getting a lot of stories from my grandma about her college days since I moved here.

As a queer person, I'm also delighted to be living in the city that gave the Boston marriage its name.

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