Bookmarks Festival (copy)

The audience applauds after listening to Andy Parker, author of “For Alison: The Murder of a Young Journalist and a Father’s Fight for Gun Safety” and Dave Cullen, author of “Parkland: Birth of a Movement” and “Columbine” speak on the “Gun Violence in America” forum during the 15th annual Festival of Books & Authors last year.

The Bookmarks Festival of Books and Authors, planned for Sept. 26, has been canceled, Bookmarks staff and board of directors announced Monday. Instead, Bookmarks’ Sweet 16 celebration will be Sept. 25, 2021.

“While we are disappointed, the safety of our visitors and staff is our utmost priority,” said Jamie Rogers Southern, Bookmarks operations director. “There are too many questions to plan an event that brings 15,000 people together on one day to celebrate books and authors.”

Many Bookmarks volunteers and festival-goers are older people who are among the higher-risk populations for COVID-19, Southern said.

“We won’t do an online festival, but we will do online events with the confirmed authors,” she said.

Southern couldn’t say which authors were confirmed yet; publication dates are a moving target.

“So much is up in the air, and publishers are still deciding what books will be published and which will be held,” she said.”We’re hoping we can do some virtual events with the authors who we had lined up.

“A lot of the authors who we had scheduled for April, May and June have had their books postponed. John Hart’s book has been pushed to February.” Hart has had multiple books on the New York Times bestseller list. His latest book, “The Unwilling,” came out in December.

“Bookstore business has been steady,” Southern said. “We finally got our feet under us, and we have a good plan for the next couple of weeks.

“We’ve expanded curbside our hours this week and have a bookseller at the store to take phone orders — that’s new. We are hoping that in June, we can do shopping by appointment and some in-store events.”

Bookmarks has extended curbside pick-up and phone-order service to five days a week beginning this week, with plans to open the bookstore for social-distanced appointments and programming in the future.

Bookmarks will continue its outreach with online events featuring authors and experts talking about books and ideas to facilitate community conversations. They will host events in the coming six months with award-winning and bestselling authors, debut authors, panel and book discussions, and lectures about a variety of subjects. Information about events will be shared as it becomes finalized.

Bookmarks Authors in the Schools program has also been put on hold as organizers wait to see what authors will be available this fall.

“One of our priorities for 2020 will also be to finish our three-year initiative titled Book Build: Fostering Connections by Building Collections,” said Ginger Hendricks, executive director. “While we have placed over 17,000 books in the Winston-Salem Forsyth County School public libraries, we still have another 8,000 to meet our goal. We are making plans to finish distributing these books this fall.”

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