DAYTONA BEACH — The 11th annual F.R.E.S.H Book Festival turned the page on Saturday, as it closed another chapter offering the opportunity for authors near and far to promote the importance of literacy.
The three day F.R.E.S.H Festival, which stands for Fiction, Romance, Erotica, Spiritual and Health, was held at the Midtown Cultural & Education Center in Daytona Beach and included informative sessions, interviews, and opportunities for attendees to engage with authors.
Palm Coast resident Donna M. Gray-Banks founded the festival in 2011 after noticing a need for more representation of minorities and self-published independent writers in the publishing industry. At this year's event, there were 30 authors in attendance, including local authors Stephanie Pasley-Henry, Hubert Grimes and Felicia Benzo.
Last year's event was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
'Authors coming together on one platform'
Mellisa Lambert, author of “Open Your Mouth and Speak: 365 Affirmations to Affirm Yourself Daily,” was one of the many authors in attendance at the festival.
“This is my first time in Daytona Beach and my first time being a guest at the festival,” said the 40-year-old Lambert. “To see other authors come together and be on one platform, to share their message that to me was so powerful.”
Lambert, who traveled to Daytona Beach from Lake Mary, said seeing everyone come together and embrace the power of literacy was truly inspiring.
“I was introduced to the festival by my friend Rene Gordon,” said Lambert. “She’s an author and publisher. Knowledge is power. The (Bible) says people perish because of the lack of knowledge. As a community it’s important to build up our minds and when you can be a part of an opportunity like this it’s empowering.”
'We all have a book in us'
Lambert has a message for young people interested in writing.
“First, breathe, it’s okay,” she said. “Know that greatness is in you. We all have a book in us. It's OK to not be perfect because guess what? All you have to do is put the pen to paper and write. Don't worry about the other things because it is a process. So hang in there, breathe through it, but get through it as well.”
'It's important to get kids excited'
Stephanie Pasley-Henry, creator of The Math Party, a program that teaches kids math and builds up their confidence through song and dance, also presented at the festival on Saturday.
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“The most exciting part was being able to not only present my programs but to present along with my husband and kids,” said Henry. “It was very exciting. It's very important to have events such as this to keep people informed and to get kids excited about math and literacy.”
Stephanie Pasley-Henry is the wife of Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry.
'Festival a great way to network'
Rene Gordon, author of “Animals In Our World A to Z'' and “Life, Love, Lost: Words from the Heart,” said the festival provides a great space to connect with other authors.
“There are so many authors, especially those who are self-published,” said Gordon, 53. “We don't get enough exposure. We don't get the connections except on social media and that only gets you so far. You have to be following a certain someone, you have to have a public profile, you have to post often enough to get on their feed. There's so many depths to the algorithm that we don't always fit into.”
Gordon said having events like this gives authors, writers and spoken word artists a platform to share their talents.
“And if the public comes out it gives the community the opportunity to connect with us,” she said. “I'm a writing coach and I've met some people who I was then able to turn around and help them to publish their first book and realize their dream of becoming an author. So it's just kind of a trifecta.”
This article originally appeared on The Daytona Beach News-Journal: F.R.E.S.H Book Festival wraps up in Daytona Beach