As a book lover since childhood, Cherilyn Parsons longed to be a part of the literary community. So, she risked her security, job stability and comfort for her dream of starting a world-class book festival in Berkeley, California.
Although there had been a book festival in her home region, the San Francisco Bay Area, more than a decade prior, there wasn’t one when Cherilyn decided to take a chance and begin her efforts. And even though she had no prior experience in event planning or the literary world, she did have one very important skill on her resume – fundraising.
“I had no experience in event planning,” she says. “I did not know the literary world. I had no money to start with. But I thought, hey, let’s do the book festival.”
And so, with a background in nonprofit fundraising, most recently at the Center for Investigative Reporting – Cherilyn thought she could apply her experience to help launch a large-scale book fest. And although it wasn’t easy, she made it happen. Now in its third year, the 2-day Bay Area Book Festival draws more than 50,000 attendees and 300 authors for events and panels spanning 9 city blocks in Berkeley.
In episode 37 of I Want Her Job: The Podcast, Host Polina Selyutin discusses with Cheryl how she took her idea to launch, the ups and downs along her path and the personal sacrifices she made to make her dream come true. Read (and listen) on to learn why book festivals are such powerful forums for connecting authors and book lovers, as well as what it takes to create, fund and manage large-scale public events.