Maddie Smith, organizer of the Maine Book Fest, sits on a bench at Stevens Commons on Beech Street in Hallowell, where the new event is scheduled for Oct. 1. Smith lives in Waterville and runs The Banned Bookstore. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

HALLOWELL — A new book festival is coming to Hallowell.

Scheduled for Oct. 1, the Maine Book Fest is expected to feature workshops on a variety of topics, including forming and managing a book club, and readings by local authors, a live podcast recording session and a market with independent booksellers and literacy organizations.

Held outside at Stevens Commons on Beech Street, the event is free.

Maddie Smith, a 22-year-old Waterville resident, is the woman behind the effort. Smith has been running The Banned Bookstore, an online bookstore that sells books that have been banned from schools or faced censorship in parts of the world and other popular titles.

Smith said her primary motivation was not only to sell banned books when she started the business at the beginning of the year.

“I like to bring awareness to the issue of banned books, but I also want to encourage more people towards reading,” Smith said, admitting that she was not always an avid reader. “My mom tried to get me into reading, but I had phases where I would pick up a book but wouldn’t finish it.”


Then, during college, Smith said, she found a book — “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” by Stieg Larsson — that reignited her passion for reading.

The idea for a book festival, though, came to her in Ohio, while speaking to someone she met through her bookstore and realizing central Maine could use a book festival.

Smith began preparing for the festival in July, drafting an itinerary and reaching out to local authors and groups, including the Maine Women Writers Collection and Literacy Volunteers of Kennebec.

Book festivals and fairs like the Maine Book Fest have been on the rise recently, adding to the literary health of the state and reflecting a growing interest in reading, said Gibson Fay-LeBlanc, executive director of the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance.

The organization runs Maine Lit Fest, one of the largest literary festivals in the state, which launched in 2022 in Waterville and Portland.

Bangor has added a book fair in the past year, cosponsored by the local library, Fay-LeBlanc said, and poetry festivals have popped up in Portland and Belfast.


Shannon Bowring Courtesy of Melissa J Albert

“There are a lot of readers and writers in Maine, and this is a result of that,” Fay-LeBlanc said. “Also, it comes at a time when there has been a rise in book bans around the country, and festivals like this are a nice counterforce where people come together and celebrate literature.”

The Hallowell event is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. on Oct. 1, and is to include a raffle drawing and a performance by The Midnight Ramblers at 4 p.m.

Literary-themed pretzel makers Plot Twist Pretzels are expected to be on hand, selling snacks and drinks. Smith said she recommends bringing a foldable chair or blanket for the workshops, readings and concert at the outdoor festival.

“I think it will be a great event, and I am excited that I get to be a part of the first go-around,” said Shannon Bowring, 33, an author from Bath who is expected to discuss her first book, “The Road to Dalton,” at the festival.

Victoria Hood Contributed photo

“I think it will help connect readers to authors, and it will give people more opportunity to talk to local authors about what they’re writing and why they’re writing it.”

Victoria Hood, another local author, also said she is looking forward to the event.

Hood, 26, who released her book, “My Haunted Home,” last year, is set to read excerpts at the festival.

“It is a great chance to meet the other authors in the area,” she said, “and talk to them and see what they are working on.”

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