There’s good news for book lovers. The Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading, consigned to virtual-land since 2020 because of Covid-19, will return – live and in person – this year.
The newspaper’s books editor, Colette Bancroft, says the 30th annual event will take place Nov. 12 at the Palladium Theater – a shorter run than in previous years, at a new venue, and with between six and 10 authors giving talks and selling their wares (instead of the usual 30-plus).
“It means that instead of having to write 45 book reviews, I have to write eight,” laughs Bancroft, who’s been the Times’ books-keeper since 2007. Another reason: Fewer people and smaller crowds are just practical in these not-quite-post pandemic times.
Friday at 6:30 p.m., Bancroft will be honored at the Sunlit Literary Festival with the inaugural Roy Peter Clark Literary Award, named for the author and Poynter Institute writing instructor (and Bancroft’s one-time colleague at the Times).
Bancroft, who serves on the board of the National Book Critics Circle, believes Clark chose to honor her because she is a longstanding – and effective – cheerleader for local authors.
“I’ve become, not through any effort on my own part, a kind of ‘face’ for the local literary community, that connects to the different parts of it. And because of my job I have a kind of public presence that brings attention not to me, so much, as to the local writers and what they’re doing.”
It’s gratifying, she says, when authors tell her they’ve received more attention, and/or sold more books, because of her review.
“I also hear that from author’s publicists,” Bancroft elaborates, “who are pitching me books. And I hear it from local book stores – ‘you wrote this review and we sold a lot of copies of the book.’ On a local level, I think it does have that kind of a direct impact.
“We have a lot of writers here, and a lot of good writers. That’s one of the fun things about my job, one of the satisfying things, is that I can help bring people’s attention to good stuff.”
A fiction writer herself, Bancroft received the Mystery Writers of America’s Robert L. Fish Memorial Award in 2020 (awarded to a previously-unpublished author) for her short story “The Bite.”
Will there be a followup? “I’m still thinking about it,” she laughs. “In my spare time.”
The Roy Peter Clark Award is co-presented by St. Petersburg Press. The ceremony opens Friday’s SunLit festival kickoff party at The Factory St. Pete, along with a “Meet the Authors” event from St. Petersburg Press.
All event details and tickets are here.