The thousands of people who enjoy attending the annual one-day Annapolis Book Festival on the Key School campus will love this year’s three-day virtual event. The festival runs from Friday to Sunday, 23-25 April. Festival hours for April 23 are from 7:00-9:00 p.m. and from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on April 24 and 25.  Attendance is free, but registration is required.


An Annapolis Book festival sign in a lampo post

Annapolis Book Festival goes virtual. Photo courtesy of Key School.


A group of Key parents began the festival 18 years ago because they believed that promoting reading and learning throughout the great Annapolis community was consistent with the school’s mission. Key School plans and runs the festival in cooperation with the Anne Arundel County Public Library and Old Fox Bookstore and Coffeehouse


White building with red trim, the Key School in Annapolis

Festival host Key School is in the Hillsmere neighborhood of Annapolis. Photo courtesy of Key School.


Going Virtual


After canceling the 2020 festival in response to the pandemic, Key’s staff and parent volunteers were committed to hosting the event in 2021. The first challenge was deciding to commit to a virtual event and making it as exciting as possible.


Volunteers have spent countless hours procuring authors, arranging compelling panel groupings, securing moderators, and promoting the event. The organizers are using Crowdcast, a seasoned professional partner, to ensure the best virtual platform for visitors and authors.


Reaching Readers


The organizers’ primary goal is to attract as many people as possible to participate in festival activities, including engaging with authors, watching panel discussions, and becoming inspired to read more books. An upside to hosting a virtual event is the ability to bring in authors who could not have traveled to Maryland for an in-person festival. Similarly, the festival can reach more attendees because they won’t need to leave the comfort of their own homes.


Panel discussion at the 2019 Book Festival

Panel discussion from the 2019 festival. Photo courtesy of Key School.


Mary MacLeod, one of the festival’s organizers, told me that she and her colleagues are casting a wide net with press releases and social media in order to attract participants from all over the country and the world. She noted that organizers also place a high priority on drawing the participation of traditional local attendees through notices in local calendars and flying banners in Annapolis.


Big Name Authors! Puppets for the Kids!


Wes Moore is a featured author at the annapolis Book festival

See Baltimore’s own Wes Moore, founder and CEO of BridgeEdU. Photo courtesy of Key School.


This year’s festival builds on the success of past festivals by attracting highly acclaimed authors participating from England, Mexico, and throughout the US. Best-selling children’s author Kate DiCamillo; Emmy Award-winning journalist Sharyl Attkisson; Pen/Faulkner Award-winning novelist Ann Patchett; writer and activist Wes Moore; best-selling mystery writer Charles Finch; Helen Keller Achievement Award recipient Haben Girma; award-winning investigative journalist Ben Westhoff; best-selling memoirist and media producer Austin Channing Brown; chair of Color of Change Heather McGhee; best-selling journalist and historian Garrett M. Graff; award-winning short story writer Sergio Troncoso; satirist and Thurber Prize finalist Annabelle Gurwitch; senior Council on Foreign Relations fellow Gayle Tzemach Lemmon; and historical fiction writer Erika Robuck are among the distinguished speakers.


In addition to being a banner year for children's and young adult book authors, the festival is partnering with Anne Arundel County Public Libraries to provide the Tree Songs Puppet Show to encourage children to enjoy reading and learning.


Penny and her Goat from Penny's Puppets

Kids will love Tree Songs puppets. Photo courtesy of AACPL.


Buying the Books


The Key School’s Parents Association raises funds through sponsors and a portion of book sales in order to make the festival free to attendees. The biggest casualty of the 2021 event is that it will not offer the normally amazing used book sale.


Rob Hiaasen's book, Float Plan

Posthumously published novel by Annapolis journalist Rob Hiaasen. Photo courtesy of Key School.


But you can still order books authored by festival presenters—at a discount—through Annapolis’ beloved Old Fox Bookstore. Use this link to make your purchase: BuytheBooks.


A drawing of fox head on a man's body standing in front of a horse

Buy locally at Old Fox. Photo courtesy of Old Fox Bookstore.


The 2021 Festival and Beyond


To see the festival schedule, reserve your virtual seats, and attend events click this link:  2021 Annapolis Book Festival. Organizers will be eager to get your feedback on the 2021 festival, which breaks new ground that could lead to virtual activities becoming a part of future festivals. Plans are already underway to host the 2022 festival with new and old friends gathered together on Key’s campus to meet authors, browse used books, and enjoy music and food. 


Attendees seek out bargain books from year's past

Festival goers seeking used book bargains. Photo courtesy of Key School.