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Shannon Palmo is a transfer student to the University at Albany, majoring in English with a double minor in Journalism and Creative Writing. She enjoys many different genres of books and poetry. One of her favorite poems is Robert Frost's "Fire and Ice."  

"As an avid reader, I have read many different books of different genres. I do not have a favorite book or author. However I have recently been enjoying Rupi Kaur and enjoyed how her poetry in "Milk and Honey" resonated with me and things I have been through in life. “The Five People You Meet In Heaven” by Mitch Albom is another book that when I read it was thought provoking."


The importance of books on society

By Shannon M. Palmo

The New York State Writers Institute held its inaugural book fest with the event hosting many local authors and big-name authors as well. There was no lack in things to do and attend. It was a great way to celebrate books and reading. As you walked in each author who was in attendance had a story of their own to tell and books readily available for signing and purchasing. Throughout the Campus Center and outside by the fountain many local authors had tables set up.

In the main tent that was outside housed some of the key speakers for the event. One such speaker was University at Albany alumnus Gregory Maguire, one of my favorite authors. He has written such books as Mirror, Mirror, Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister and one of my personal favorites the Wicked series. Wicked is a huge success for the author and inspired a Broadway musical. When it comes to engaging the reader and listener, Maguire exceeds and makes it fun again. His books have shown those of us who know fairy tales and has taken the “bad guy” or “villain” and shed a different light on their stories.

I bought Wicked when I was starting out in college back in 2007, and in reading the book it inspired me to buy more of his books. The way he uses the stories to represent his own life and what he went through but only in fairy tale form is astonishing.


Creating something new and showing us that just because someone is depicted as evil doesn’t always mean they are, and it showed in his speech. I hold Wicked close to my heart because my grandmother loved The Wizard of Oz and I know if she were alive today, she would love Wicked

Gregory Maguire inspires us to look outside the box and to think differently about how we see a character or person. I was in awe and listening to him talk about his writing career and the books he’s written and how they were inspired just made me love him as an author even more.

In a day and age where technology triumphs its books like his that make us want to read, want to understand. Before Wicked, the Wicked Witch of the West was just another villain, now she has a name and a backstory. It’s books like these that inspire people to pick up more books by an author or books similar in nature.

I was also able to talk to a local author and learn about her own struggles and what inspired her to write the books she’s written. Janine De Tillio Cammarata writes for middle grade and young adult and her books are based on her own kids. Cammarata suffered the loss of her son to cancer and within that loss, she created a whole world where he can live on. She also started a foundation in the name of her son, in which some of the proceeds of her books go towards.

For myself, I may not know what its like to lose a child but losing my grandmother at a young age was hard. She was my best friend and taught me so much. Having an author talk about the harsh reality of life in her books in a way a child can understand is astonishing. I may not find the books interesting to read as they appeal to a much younger audience, but knowing a book like that exists can help a child get through hard times. Books can help anyone of any age get through hard times.

I think having events like the Albany Book Festival allows us to engage in life, and books and learn about how these books came to life. The event was overwhelming in the best possible way.

There was so much to do for everyone of all ages. The authors were engaged with the audiences and it was a great way to expand one’s horizons.

Every author there had a story about why they became an author or what inspired their books. In talking to some of them, it made me want to go out and purchase some of their books to see what they were so passionate about. I think having a huge event and even the smaller events allow us to understand people and allows us to engage as readers. There was so much to do and I personally feel maybe an event like this needs more than just one day. There was an abundance of activities, speakers and allowed some of our locals to showcase their own talents.

This event was amazing to say the least. It was busy and the community presence was incredible. There were people of all ages and ethnicities. As I walked through all these people all I could hear was how excited and grateful for the event. One woman said she loved that events like this occur and "for free.” She said “It was a treat.”

I couldn’t agree more. Not only did I meet many different authors I was also able to make new contacts to follow up on and ask more questions to help me in my journey. It was definitely a great way to get people to pick up a new book and learn about something different.

As Gregory Maguire put it in his speech, it’s a “light within the dark.”

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