Making Old Town a Literary Destination
By Carolanne Wilson
ALEXANDRIA,VA- Calling all amateur writers, seasoned novelist and literary enthusiast! The Inaugural Emerging Writers Festival is debuting this weekend in Old Town. The festivities begin on Friday, August 16th and end on Sunday, August 18th. Hosting the event is the waterfront’s very own independent bookstore, Old Town Books.
On the itinerary- readings, business of publishing panels, a book fair and writing classes. The weekend includes free events, but attendance to classes and reserved seating at panel discussions require tickets available for purchase online.
Saturday’s book fair, held from 1:00-6:00 PM at the Carlyle House, is open to the public and includes book artists, independent publishers, libraries (Alexandria Public Library, The Smithsonian Libraries) and literary arts nonprofits such as PEN America and MoonLit DC.
Ally Kirkpatrick, owner of Old Town Books (and “Lead Book Slinger” according to her Instagram page), says she hopes the festival makes Old Town a literary destination. “People who live here are creative and (the festival) is a way to have an outlet in the community,” says Kirkpatrick, “just because you have a 9 to 5 in the Government doesn’t mean you can’t finish that novel.”
The guest line-up is proof of the local creativity. Notable area authors include Tope Folarin, author of A Particular Kind of Black Man, and Kwame Onwauchi, 2019 Food & Wine Best New Chef and author of Notes from a Young Black Chef. Both DC-based novelists will be reading and signing copies of their debut novels. Northern Virginia’s Angie Kim, author of Miracle Creek, will be conducting a panel on “The Path to the Debut Novel.”
Kirkpatrick, an Alexandria-native, opened shop in November 2018 after moving back from Brooklyn. A writer herself, she says that there has been “nothing more creative” and “fun” than starting her own small business. The Zebra asked her why Alexandrians should look to independent bookstores over giants like Amazon or Barnes & Noble, she says, “It’s about supporting neighbors…and keeping King Street from being an outdoor mall.”
Old Town Books carries a variety of literature, but focuses on contemporary writers and publishing houses. Make sure to stop by, browse the current inventory and say hello to Scout, Kirkpatrick’s pup and official store mascot.