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Book Camp – Creating Community Around Books

I had some wonderful conversations around reading, books, and publishing this weekend, and I want to give you an inside peek at something called Book^2 Camp.

The event is held once a year (my recap of the last two Book Camps: 2012 and 2010), and is an unconference, meaning the entire agenda is created by the individuals attending.

The conversations I was most interested in were those that concerned encouraging the value of reading, books, and literature in local communities. We discussed the very real challenges faced by bookstores and libraries, and brainstormed ways to bring a community together around books, information, stories, and education. These are some of the same topics I discussed in my blog post last week: Writers, Readers, and Expanding Our Capacity to Create.

Below is a photo tour of Book Camp…

The event took place in scenic, sludgy, New York City. The place where snow is magical the first five minutes after it falls, and a disgusting mess for days afterwards:
Book Camp

You know you are in New York when nearly every coat is black or a shade of dark gray:
Book Camp

The event was graciously hosted by Workman Publishing in their offices:
Book Camp

The day is incredibly social, and it quickly builds from the small group seen here to about 120 book folks who decided to spend their Sunday chatting about book culture:
Book Camp

Yes, there were Book Camp temporary tattoos:
Book Camp

Book Camp has the feel of a really good party where you find yourself being pulled from conversation to conversation:
Book Camp

It officially kicks off with people standing on tables, explaining how the day will work. Here we see Book Camp organizers Ami Greko, Kat Meyer, and Chris Kubica:
Book Camp

Everyone in the crowd can suggest a discussion topic. Ami will then read them out, and Chris will paste it to the schedule on the wall:
Book Camp

Here is Ami pitching someone’s session:
Book Camp

The agenda quickly fills up. There are four time slots, and four different conversations per time slot. The biggest problem is choosing which of the many great conversations to engage in. And as Kat said in her opening, you are encouraged to gravitate towards topics that you are unfamiliar with in order to broaden your horizons:
Book Camp

The basic schedule for the day:
Book Camp

And the initial batch of sessions. This gets completely filled up about an hour into the event as people suggest more ideas:
Book Camp

Book Camp signage was key to quickly navigating between sessions:
Book Camp

Book Campers making their selection, and scurrying to their meeting places:
Book Camp

The first session was about Zines and the value of created by NOT creating content that need a ‘like’ or a ‘retweet.’ This is a big trend I am seeing and will be writing more and more about: the opposite of going ‘viral.’ Can you create a deeper experience by not sharing it broadly to the world.
Book Camp

Between sessions, Book Camp turns into the hallway in high school between classes. You quickly catch up with old friends, and make connections with new ones as you grab a soda and run to your next ‘class.’
Book Camp

The next session was lead by Kristen McLean, and we discussed ways to rethink libraries and bookstores. A really smart conversation because those in the audience have been deeply involved in so many aspects of the publishing world:
Book Camp

The next session again focused on the in-person experience of books, with a particular focus on events and bookstores. Jenn Northington took copious notes on ideas for her store, Word bookstore, in Brooklyn.
Book Camp

I popped in and out of sessions throughout the rest of the afternoon:
Book Camp

And another:
Book Camp

Our fuel throughout the day:
Book Camp

Between sessions, everyone races back to the big schedule, where more sessions keep popping up:
Book Camp

Another discussion:
Book Camp

A lot of folks really make Book Camp happen, including very generous sponsors and lots of volunteers:
Book Camp

The day ends with copious amounts of wine:
Book Camp

The day has unwritten rules that we are looking beyond buzzwords to find solutions for the publishing world that best serves everyone in the process between the writer and the reader. I loved how expansive many of the discussions were, where we looked outside of the obvious places and ideas.

Events like this fuel my passion for the publishing world because you see how invested these people are in supporting writers, readers, and communities.

Thank you to EVERYONE who made Book Camp possible!

Thanks.
-Dan

  • Dan, thanks for the great recap. This is the first Book2camp I’ve missed, and I truly appreciate the recap.

    I am especially interested in your statement, “The conversations I was most interested in were those that concerned encouraging the value of reading, books, and literature in local communities.”

    Inspired by Ami, Kat, Chris and Book2Camp, some of us are planning an event to discuss this specifically. Called BookCamp Boston (for now), the goal is to brainstorm the future of the literary community in the Boston area. The idea is just 24 hours old at this point, so we don’t have details, but anyone interested can reach out to me on twitter (@annkingman) and I’ll add them to the mailing list for announcements once we have some details worked out.

    • Ann – sounds great! Please keep me informed of this. When I went to Grub Street’s The Muse last year, I was blown away by the wonderful literary community within Boston. Thanks!
      -Dan