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East of the River Book Festival Celebrates Fifth Anniversary

As a chilly, cloudy morning eventually gave way to cool sunshine, families drifted into the Thurgood Marshall Academy in southeast D.C. on Saturday to take part in the East of the River Book Festival, now in its fifth year of bringing together independent authors, publishers and bookstores.

Author Andrew Snorton came from the Atlanta area to showcase his two works — a poetry book, “Deeper Than Your Deepest Sleep: Thoughts on Love,” and “9 Stories of Faith,” a collection of interviews he conducted with people whose faith and determination saw them through adverse times.

“My first book is geared to eliminate the barriers people have to reading poetry,” Snorton said. “My second book relates to faith when faced by a physical or mental challenge. When we look at the nine stories in that line, we have to take pause. They talk about what they do to address their issues through faith.”

Snorton also made sure to add that his books are available on Amazon.

Mimi Sutton, an educator from the Baltimore area, wanted to share her experience of traveling to Ghana with a younger audience, so she wrote “Grace Goes to Ghana,” about a young girl traveling to the continent.

“Kids find the main character exciting, and parents find the book engaging and teachers like the rich content,” said Sutton who has now participated in two East of the River Book Festivals.

“I was here for the second book festival when I had just published my first book ‘Symbols,'” she said. “The stories are different and address different readability levels. That’s the idea, to get their attention and keep them interested until they get it.”

The Aubey LLC table featured Auden and Deborah Johnson, the mother-daughter team behind the sci-fi series “The Schiell.” Auden, 33, has already published 13 books, including the latest in the sci-fi series, tapping into the Afro-Futuristic trend that peaked with the cinematic release of “Black Panther.” Her mother, Deborah, has published all of Auden’s works.

Katrina Denise, a fifth-grade educator, had one of the cutest tables, displaying small pairs of toy glasses with her book, “The Message in the Mirror.”

“It tells the story of a young girl who would always see a fuzzy image of herself in the mirror until she learned to love herself,” the petite author said, showing off her own glasses. Each person who purchased a book also got a free pair of toy glasses.

“Always believe in the power of yourself,” Denise added.

In addition to the vendors, a series of panels on self-publishing and reading time for the children helped round out the experience. Southeast restaurant Art-drenaline served up curried chicken and lime-scented tuna in the event’s food corner, while Martha’s Table set up a pop-up market where participants could select six fruits and vegetables for free.

The markets, which Martha’s Table also holds in 53 elementary schools monthly throughout Wards 7 and 8, “are meant to be a joyful experience,” said Tiffany Williams, the organization’s chief program officer.

“Children and their parents can shop for fresh and shelf-stable items, and we have cooking demos using the products,” Williams said. “Healthy eating can be fun and good for your body and brain.”

The festival was founded by independent author Courtney Davis, who was inspired when she was turned away from a book festival. She aimed to create a space for other authors in the same position, as well as independent publishers and small bookstores.

“Our mission is to create direct access to independent authors and culturally diverse literature to the public,” Davis said. “When readers see themselves reflected in literature or learn about other cultures in books, it promotes literacy and strengthens the vitality of the whole community. It also encourages publishers and books stores to support indie authors, when readers demand more diverse stories.”

The festival, which featured over 30 local and national authors and local vendors, was sponsored by The Washington Informer, the American Poetry Museum, Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC-DC), Cole Chamberlain, Reading Partners – DC, and BlueJay Media.

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