On Jan. 2, 2023, Waterville resident Maddie Smith launched the Banned Bookstore, an online bookstore that sells traditionally banned books, among other titles, at reasonable prices. She announced its arrival using social media. In July, Smith had the idea of organizing a festival to celebrate literature and encourage literacy in Maine. Now, the festival she envisioned is approaching and set to take place on Oct. 1.
Stevens Commons in Hallowell will host the Maine Book Fest. The event is scheduled to start at 10 a.m. with a live recording of Foreword, a podcast that focuses on young adult literature reflecting the experiences of LGBTQ+ individuals.
“The live podcast recording was something that I really wanted to happen. I think that’s pretty unique,” Smith said.
The Maine Book Fest will also feature a market and book fair with multiple vendors. The Banned Bookstore will be there, as will Twice Sold Tales, Quiet City Books, and a literary-themed food truck called Plot Twist Pretzels, as well as many others.
The Banned Bookstore, which Smith owns and operates, was inspired at its core by Smith’s love for reading. It’s also intended to bring awareness to banned books and censorship today, with a portion of its inventory dedicated to banned and challenged literature. According to Smith, the store carries books—especially classics—that customers might not expect to be banned.
Smith discussed the goal of the Banned Bookstore as it relates to book bans. “I mostly just want people to be aware that it’s still an issue and ultimately how silly it is. Because you’re not banning the book from existence. You’re banning someone from getting the book, which is going to make them want to read it more.”
Smith also spoke about the culture of independent bookstores in Maine, especially those involved in the Maine Book Fest. “I really love it,” she said. “It’s really nice. I love meeting everyone else who sells books like me.” For more information about the vendors who will be present at the festival, visit themainebookfest.com.
Other activities and events taking place at the Maine Book Fest on Oct. 1 include a talk with the Lone Pine Book Club on starting a book club, readings from local authors, raffle drawings, a close reading workshop, guest speeches, and live music by the Midnight Ramblers at 4 p.m. “I think everything is pretty exciting,” Smith said.
The goal of the Maine Book Fest is to promote education and literacy in the state. Smith also hopes that the festival will bring together readers and writers from all over Maine and give them an opportunity to meet and share ideas. “I really just want people to be more passionate about reading,” she said.
This is the first time the Maine Book Fest will take place. Smith has plans to expand it in future years as the event gains traction. “I’d like for it to be a two-day weekend event instead of just the one day,” Smith said. She also hopes to bring together more authors and vendors in years to come.
The Maine Book Fest was inspired by a book festival in Cleveland, Ohio that one of Smith’s friends attended. She wanted to bring a similar kind of literary event to central Maine.
Smith started organizing the event by sending messages to those in the Maine literary community, and interest grew from there. “It’s a lot,” she said, describing the process of putting together the Maine Book Fest. But she remains enthusiastic about it. “I think I’m just excited for it to finally happen,” she said.
~ Elias Kemp `27