West Virginia Book Festival

Quoth the Realtor, “Nevermore”?

This appears in the Sunday Gazette-Mail’s weekly listing of property transfers in Kanawha County:

Edgar A. Poe Jr. to Tommy D. and Nancy A. Garnes. Lot, Charleston South Annex District, $280,000.

I don’t know if Mr. Poe waited until Halloween weekend on purpose to complete this transaction, but we certainly appreciate it.

First, I should say that this is not my most well-read area. Noir, sports, classics? I’m your man. Horror? Not so much. But Halloween is just a couple of days away, and the scary book season is just beginning. As the days grow colder and the nights grow longer, what better time than late fall or early winter to dive into a book that makes you shiver? (If anyone’s got any more recommendations, let’s hear them in the comments.)

Bram Stoker, “Dracula”: I love the old stuff: “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” the ghost stories of M.R. James. But the Count remains the king.

If there’s anything about “Dracula” that hasn’t been said, I don’t know what it is. But the vampire has become such an archetype, and the film versions of Dracula (including that Bela Lugosi guy up at the top) are so firmly set in people’s minds, that the power of the original story may get lost. And it is a powerful story. Stoker’s not the greatest writer, and there were plenty of other vampire tales floating around. But for whatever reason — almost certainly, those classic film adaptations played a role — “Dracula” struck a nerve (a vein? an artery?) with readers.

My favorite part of the book might be the first four chapters, which consist of Jonathan Harker’s journal as he arrives at Castle Dracula. We know what he’s getting into, but Harker only gradually realizes that his host is an undead fiend:

What I saw was the Count’s head coming out from the window. … [My] very feelings changed to repulsion and terror when I saw the whole man slowly emerge from the window and begin to crawl down the castle wall over the dreadful abyss, face down with his cloak spreading out around him like great wings. At first I could not believe my eyes. I thought it was some trick of the moonlight, some weird effect of shadow, but I kept looking, and it could be no delusion. I saw the fingers and toes grasp the corners of the stones, worn clear of the mortar by the stress of years, and by thus using every projection and inequality move downwards with considerable speed, just as a lizard moves along a wall.

What manner of man is this, or what manner of creature, is it in the semblance of man? I feel the dread of this horrible place overpowering me. I am in fear, in awful fear, and there is no escape for me. I am encompassed about with terrors that I dare not think of.

Stephen King, “It”: No scary book list in 21st-century America is complete without Stephen King. I’ve had a love-hate relationship with the man ever since I was 13 years old or so, found a beat-up copy of “Cujo” in my dad’s vacation house at the beach and scared the crap out of myself.

As is the case with many authors, I think most of his best stuff was his early stuff, including “Salem’s Lot” and “The Shining.” But the one that I put at the top of the scary list is “It,” about a sewer-dwelling clown monster that terrorizes generations of children.

I read it the summer after my freshman year in college, when I was walking home after dark most nights. It wasn’t a long walk, but it seemed like there were about 5,000 sewer openings on it, and I had to look in every one.

The scene in the book where a girl sticks a piece of string down her kitchen sink drain, half-knowing what will happen, and something down in the pipe takes it and starts running with it … man, that gives me chills even now.

Richard Matheson, “I Am Legend”: This was a novel long before it was a Will Smith movie (and before Smith’s version, it was a Charlton Heston movie called “The Omega Man” and a Vincent Price movie called “The Last Man on Earth”). None of them is as good as the book.

A lone man fights against a takeover of the world, and realizes not only that the good guys don’t always win, but sometimes, they’re not even the good guys. Although the monsters are called vampires, they act more like zombies, and Matheson’s 1959 novel is credited with helping to start that whole movement. George Romero, director of “Night of the Living Dead” and several sequels, has acknowledged his debt to the book.

The details of the story are a little dated, but Matheson wonderfully evokes the aloneness of Robert Neville, possibly the last remaining human on earth. The moment when he comes home to find his citadel breached is genuinely heart-pounding.

H.P. Lovecraft, “The Haunter of the Dark”: I haven’t read a lot of Lovecraft; all the multi-eyed slimy tentacle stuff always seemed a little over the top to me. But he does set a terrifying scene, and when I read “The Haunter of the Dark,” I was suitably freaked out by it. After you read it, if your power goes out at night, you’ll move for the candles or the flashlights just a little bit faster. As with many Lovecraft stories, the ending is not a particularly happy one.

Sara Gran, “Come Closer”: You probably know the other books on my list; you might not know this one. Sara Gran is a terrific writer who’s written three very different novels: a modern coming-of-age story (“Saturn’s Return to New York”), a noirish mystery (“Dope”) and “Come Closer,” a scary-as-hell novel that’s part traditional horror and part psychological thriller. As Booklist said in their review from 2006, “Strange noises that come and go; objects that inexplicably appear, then vanish. Such bump-in-the-night shenanigans are horror-story standard fare, but in Gran’s gifted hands, these stereotypes fade away like ghosts.”

Gran hasn’t published any books since 2007, but she’s supposed to have the first in a detective series out next year. I’m in.

Honorable mention: I considered adding “Rosemary’s Baby” by Ira Levin to the list, but I recently re-read it, and it’s just not as scary as it would have been once. Still a good book. “The Haunting of Hill House,” by Shirley Jackson, is one I’ve heard great things about and have been meaning to read for years. It’s not really scary, but I also enjoyed “Anno Dracula” by Kim Newman; it’s an alternate history of what might have happened if Dracula hadn’t been stopped (half of London is vampires; Van Helsing’s head is on a pike at the gates to the city, etc.). Lots of figures from other fictional tales, both vampire and non-vampire, make appearances.

More on WVU Press author Marie Manilla

On his Mountain Word poetry blog, Vic Burkhammer has put up a post about Marie Manilla, a Marshall University professor and WVU Press author who was at the just-completed West Virginia Book Festival.

The author of the recent “Still Life With Plums” has a couple of events coming up in Morgantown this weekend.

Scary stuff at Taylor Books this weekend

Michael Knost, the Bram Stoker Award-winning writer from Logan County (that’s him on the right), will headline a “Horror Book Saturday” from 1 to 3 p.m. at Taylor Books in Charleston this weekend.

Several other writers from Woodland Press will be featured, including Brian J. Hatcher, Ellen Thompson McCloud, Frank Larnerd, Jason L. Keene, Geoffrey Cameron, Karin Fuller, Eric Fritzius, Jessie Grayson and others. Readings are planned with writing discussions and a question-and-answer session. Call 304-342-1461.

Another book sale this weekend

Toni Manning of Shady Springs categorizes books for this weekend's sale. Photo by Leann Arthur, The Register-Herald

If the Kanawha County Public Library’s used book sale last weekend at the West Virginia Book Festival wasn’t enough for you — and if it wasn’t, you may need professional help — there’s another big one on the horizon this weekend.

The Register-Herald newspaper in Beckley will hold its second annual book sale to benefit the Newspapers in Education program. According to a story by Sarah Plummer in today’s Register-Herald, they have about 20,000 books for the sale at Crossroads Mall. The sale is set for this Friday and Saturday, and then for next weekend as well.

Interview with “Flags of Our Fathers” author

As mentioned on the blog last month, James Bradley, author of “Flags of Our Fathers,” about the World War II soldiers who raised the American flag at Iwo Jima, is speaking in Charleston this week.

Charleston Gazette reporter Paul Nyden has an interview with Bradley, who has written two other books, “Flyboys” and “The Imperial Cruise.” He’ll give the annual McCreight Lecture for the West Virginia Humanities Council on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at the state Culture Center.

Another Civil War author comes to Charleston

It’s Civil War author season here in Charleston. Stonewall Jackson biographer James Robertson and John Fox, author of “The Confederate Alamo,” were at last weekend’s West Virginia Book Festival, and Kenneth Noe, a history professor at Auburn University, will speak Tuesday night about “The Civil War in Appalachia.”

Charleston Gazette reporter Rick Steelhammer talked with Noe for a story published in Monday’s paper. Noe, who grew up in Blacksburg, Va., says there are many different reasons why people in this region chose to support either the Union or the Confederacy, including religion, class and where their families had lived before they moved to Appalachia.

“We’re so used to thinking about Appalachia as being one place these days, but a common denominator for the region didn’t really exist until the arrival of the coal industry,” Noe said. “Prior to that, there were distinct settlement patterns across the region, and some places had stronger relationships with their state government than others.”

Noe’s visit is part of the Civil War Scholars Lecture Series, funded in part by the West Virginia Humanities Council and the state Division of Culture and History. The lecture is free, and starts at the Culture Center at 7 p.m.

Dispatches from the West Virginia Book Festival, Day 2: (if you missed Day 1, find it here)

11:30 a.m.: Welcome back. Today’s the day you get an author with a No. 1 book on The New York Times’ best-seller list. You thought that was yesterday? No, Nicholas Sparks, that slacker, is down to No. 5 on the hardcover fiction list with “Safe Haven.”

But Diana Gabaldon, today’s featured speaker, has the No. 1 graphic book for the third week in a row: “The Exile: An Outlander Graphic Novel.” She’s on at 2 p.m., and signing books afterward.

The festival runs from noon to 6 p.m. at the Charleston Civic Center. Several more author programs today, the marketplace and Word Play are open, the book sale is $2 for a bag and $5 for a box. A reminder: One of the programs scheduled for today (and still listed on the website), “Goodbye Wifes and Daughters” author Susan Resnick, has been canceled.

Let’s go.

11:58 a.m.: A few dozen people in line waiting for the doors to open for the second day of the book sale.

12:15 p.m.: Jayne Anne Phillips and Mary Kuykendall-Weber will start their programs at 12:30 p.m. Phillips will read from her novel “Lark and Termite,” and Kuykendall-Weber will talk about writing memoirs.

12:20 p.m.: If you’re wondering (because I was), it’s pronounced Mary KIRK-en-dall-Weber.

12:45 p.m.: Just spent a few minutes with Diana Gabaldon, who seems very nice and talks very fast. A few snippets:

On her writing process: “I don’t write in a long line or a straight line.” Instead, she starts each day with a “kernel,” anything she can see clearly. All the while, “the back of my mind is kind of kicking up questions.”

On the contemporary crime novel she’s writing, in addition to her Outlander and Lord John series: When she first decided to try writing, she considered mysteries, because she reads a lot of them. But she was worried about the plotting, “so I decided to write historical fiction instead and, well, here we are.” After her first few Outlander books, though, she got her publisher to give her a contract for two mysteries, which she still has

On whether her new status as the author of a graphic novel has changed the kind of audience she gets at events like this: Not yet. “It’ll probably take some time before it seeps in. … By this time next year, we ought to know if we have something.”

On what she’s reading now: “Little Bee,” by Chris Cleave, a novel about a Nigerian refugee in Great Britain.

1 p.m.: Lynn McCallister, a librarian in the Kanawha County Public Library’s mobile library, withstands an invasion from the Union Army:

At least, that’s how it looks from here.

1:05 p.m.: There is already a significant line forming for Diana Gabaldon’s program at 2 p.m., and unlike the Sparks program yesterday, it has not been moved to a larger room.

1:15 p.m.: Buckhannon native Jayne Anne Phillips notes that Winfield, where part of her National Book Award-finalist novel “Lark and Termite” is set, is the hometown of her college roommate.

She also notes that her publisher rejected her original title for the novel, “Termite,” even though they recently published a book called “Rat.”

1:18 p.m.: The Gabaldon line continues to grow. To paraphrase Chief Brodie from “Jaws”: We’re gonna need a bigger room. That’s how it looks to me, anyway.

1:20 p.m.: From earlier today, a roundtable of West Virginia literary stars.

From left to right: Jayne Anne Phillips, Denise Giardina, Irene McKinney. The woman with her back to the camera is Patty Tompkins, development coordinator for the Kanawha library’s new building campaign.

1:30 p.m.: As of a few minutes ago, this was the back of the Diana Gabaldon line:

1:40 p.m.: They’ve opened up the adjoining room for the Gabaldon program, and are filling it with as many chairs as they can find.

1:42 p.m.: The mystery of the Union Army advance on the mobile library has been solved. From Dawn Miller:

Sean McCallister, 10, of Midland Trail Elementary School, dressed as one of his ancestors, a Union cavalry second lieutenant of the Civil War. (That’s his mother in the mobile library.)

Sean, who plans to study archaeology, has six Union ancestors and one Confederate, but the Confederate was a blacksmith, he said. “He is always trying to explain that one Confederate,” said his aunt, Joetta McCallister Kuhn, regent of the Anne Bailey Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution. She’s running the booth for the Boone County Genealogical Society.

Sean earned the rank on his uniform at the Logan re-enactment two years ago, she said. He carried powder.

Kuhn has her entire family history on display at the booth, along with books by St. Albans historian and author Helen Margaret Bassitt.

One of Sean’s ancestors, Andrew Jackson Turley, was among the soldiers released from service at Wheeling after the war. They had little or no provision for getting home. Turley walked from Wheeling to Alum Creek with a comrade who had no family to return to. They ate what they could find, Kuhn said. At home, Turley’s friend died and was buried at the Turley Cemetery in Alum Creek.

Here’s Helen Bassitt and Joanna Kuhn talking in the Boone County Genealogical Society booth, with one of Bassitt’s books in the foreground.

1:51 p.m.: The Gabaldon line is gone. It looks like they all got it; whether they’re sitting or standing, I don’t know.

1:55 p.m.: Looks like, by opening the extra room, they got everyone a seat. Program starts in 5 minutes.

1:56 p.m.: As does the program by Jim Benton, creator of Happy Bunny, Franny K. Stein, and various other series.

2:30 p.m.: Diana Gabaldon gives a very good speech — funny, informative, a little off-color in a couple of places — and her fans were loving it.

2:35 p.m.: I’m told there are lots of good books left at the used book sale. A bag for $2, a box for $5.

2:36 p.m.: Advice from the Jim Benton program, via Dawn Miller: He spent 10 years illustrating, and thus reading Writer’s Digest, so he can save us a lot of time and render it down to (1) the secret of writing is rewriting, and (2) you are not your work.

3:20 p.m.: Diana Gabaldon and Jim Benton are now signing books. The Gabaldon line stretches all the way through the marketplace. Fans are waiting in line with all kinds of her books, from the first “Outlander” novel to the just-released graphic novel “The Exile.”

3:25 p.m.: Irene McKinney, state poet laureate, starts her program in 5 minutes.

3:30 p.m.: Clare Higgins, a Piedmont Elementary student here in Charleston, says her favorite part of the Jim Benton program was “the flame-throwing dogs.” I’m not sure what that means, but it sounds like fun.

3:35 p.m.: Mary Calhoun Brown, author of “There Are No Words,” came over from the Lucky Press booth to get an autograph from Griffin Benton, 10-year-old son of Jim Benton. It’s his first autograph, so she may have a real collector’s item there someday.

3:40 p.m.: Susan Maguire advises that Diana Gabaldon just signed someone’s Kindle. Hope it doesn’t rub off.

3:45 p.m.: Among the Gabaldon fans getting books signed was Samantha Shleser of Beckley, who said that she started reading the Outlander series after her girlfriends did. “Once one picks it up, everyone wants to read it so they can talk about it,” she said.

Shleser also confirms something Gabaldon said in her program about men in kilts. You’ll have to check the story in tomorrow’s Charleston Gazette to find out what that was.

3:50 p.m.: A view of the Gabaldon signing line from the front:

And from the back:

3:55 p.m.: A bunch of people getting Jim Benton to sign their stuff as well:

4:10 p.m.: Civil War author John Fox found a copy of William Woods Hassler’s biography of Col. John Pelham at one of the vendors, Bookworm & Silverfish of Wytheville, Va. They also have a full set of Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin series, which if I had $750 burning a hole in my pocket, I would absolutely get.

4:20 p.m.: More from Jim Benton’s presentation: Clay Tantlinger, 9, takes photos of Benton’s sketches after the program. A group, including Clay, outlined the story of a puppy with a flamethrower that fires cheese. The puppy is a villain, but a troubled one who has lived his whole life on a planet of mean cats.

Clay, a student at Alban Elementary in St. Albans, has written his own story called “20,000 Leagues Under the Bed.” Snappy title.

4:30 p.m.: As always, people come out of the Irene McKinney program talking about how remarkable she is. She’s headed back to sign some books now.

4:50 p.m.: Diana Gabaldon also has a bionic right hand, apparently. She’s still signing, and the line is still not insignificant. She’s been great, though, smiling and chatting and letting people take pictures the whole time.

4:55 p.m.: Parts of the book sale have been picked over like a carcass in the desert. All that’s missing is the cow skull:

4:57 p.m.: Many of the vendors start to pack up as the last hour of the festival approaches, but the Word Play area remains a haven for children (and for parents with children). Whoever thought of the block table way back when is a genius:

5 p.m.: Abby Freeland of WVU Press says they had a good festival, including a bunch of people who bought John Antonik’s WVU basketball history after his program on Saturday.

5 p.m.: The back of the Diana Gabaldon line:

The end is in sight.

5:03 p.m.: More from Word Play: Lori Ellis of Pioneer Federal Credit Union helps children (from left) Katie and Kallie, both 4, and brother Cael, 7, with an activity involving money.

The kids’ dad, David McCutcheon, says they come down from Spencer every year and make a day of the Book Festival. He likes the Word Play area, where children are free to move around and touch the toys and books. Their mom, Sheryl McCutcheon, is author of “Riley Goes to the Races” from McClain Printing.

5:20 p.m.: Diana Gabaldon has outlasted the Book Festival hordes. She has signed the book of the last person in line.

5:22 p.m.: Gabaldon says her secret to signing so many books in a row is her Sensa pen, which is ergonomic with a wide, the cushioned barrel and is weighted toward the tip. Plus, she said, a slow-moving line like the one here gives her a chance to rest her hand between fans. She says that her personal record is 1,800 signatures in two hours. Holy schneikes.

5:25 p.m.: There’s a vicious cycle at the end of the Book Festival this year (and every year). The vendors start packing up, because they say there aren’t enough people walking around. But if there aren’t any vendors open, then festival-goers don’t have a reason to stay.

5:28 p.m.: Diana Gabaldon with Book Festival chairwoman Pam May. I don’t know who that crazy woman in the back is.

5:30 p.m.: Word Play will not close until the last kid is satisfied. Kanawha County Master Gardeners help them make bookmarks:

5:35 p.m.: Gazette Editor James Haught with one of his finds from the book sale:

5:45 p.m.: BTW, I got to meet Carmen Deedy last evening, and I’m very sorry I missed her program. If you have a chance to see her perform, you should do so. She is a force of nature.

5:50 p.m.: It’s 10 minutes early, but people need help cleaning up. So …

The End

Nicholas Sparks speaks at the Book Festival

This is also in the live blog, but Nicholas Sparks just finished an informal news conference. A few snippets:

On the thriller aspect of his newest book, “Safe Haven”: Sparks noted that one of his previous novels, “The Guardian,” also had thriller elements, “but for me it had just been a long time since I’d written a novel with an element of danger.” Once you get past that, though, “it’s very similar to what I’ve written before,” he said.

On his next novel, and whether he’s seen or heard anything on his current tour to shape it: “Yes, just withing the last couple of days, I’m closing in on the structure of the novel. … I’m still deciding on the voice (first-person or third-person) … they each have something to recommend them.”

On the amount of research he does for his books: “Most of my novels have very little research, and by very little, I mean five hours tops.” The novel that involved the most research was “The Lucky One,” he said, because of its connection with the Iraq War.

On whether he actually enjoys big fan events like this one: He reminded me that he used to be a salesman and said, “I tend to be more outgoing than a bunch of authors,” and he noted that his debut, “The Notebook,” “was very much a word-of-mouth book and that [way of promoting books] has sort of carried on.” Different genres have different types of fans, he said, and “my particular genre — family drama, love story, whatever you want to call it — tends to draw a very nice group of people.”

“Do I enjoy it? Sometimes I do, and sometimes I’m tired. … I will say this: [these events] are much easier than writing. Writing is tiring, grueling, aging me ungracefully.”

Dispatches from the West Virginia Book Festival, Day 1 (for Day 2, click here):

8:15 a.m.: A few hundred people are in line for the used book sale, which opens with the rest of the festival at 9 a.m. Only one person is ahead of Jay Tolotti of Wadsworth, Ohio (that’s him on the left). He and his companion are heading toward the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia for a week, and spent the night here. They were in line at the Civic Center at 4:45 a.m.

“Our house is full of books,” said Tolotti, who’s looking for books on radios, birds, Ohio history and woodworking — “even though I can’t make half the things in the books I have.”

In addition to the used book sale, he planned to get some presents for his granddaughter from the vendors in the festival’s marketplace — hopefully something signed by one of the authors here.

A little farther back in the line, Tina and Earl Coakley waited in line with their 2-year-old daughter, Katie, who happily waved her stuffed orangutan around. Last year, they brought her to the book sale in a backpack.

“She already has a little library. She loves to read,” said Tina Coakley. “Well, we read to her, and she pretends to read.”

9:10 a.m.: The initial rush when the book sale doors open is something to see. It’s not quite a stampede; the people are too orderly for that. But I wouldn’t want to stand in front of them. (And the line had pretty much doubled between the time I left the lobby at 8:30 and when the doors opened at 9.)

A few of the first ones in:

This woman was the first one in. She was moving so fast, she was just a blur:

9:55 a.m.: Carmen Deedy and Meredith Sue Willis are about to begin their presentations. There’s a standing-room-only crowd at the Willis program.

11:15 a.m.: Nearly 100 people came to hear Meredith Sue Willis talk about “Ten Strategies to Write Your Novel” (the title of her recent book, and she’ll be signing books at 2 p.m. at the Ohio University Press booth). She covered many subjects and threw in a couple of workshop-type exercises in a short time.

When Willis was a beginning writer, she said she kept waiting for inspiration, “waiting for the beautiful words to just come out of me.” She said she knows now that sometimes that happens, but sometimes inspiration comes and the resulting words are no good — and sometimes, inspiration doesn’t come at all, and you have to work to find something to write about.

11:25: a.m.: Programs with Civil War author John J. Fox III and the West Virginia Storytelling Guild starting in a few minutes.

11:30 a.m.: As promised, Charleston Gazette Editor James Haught is in attendance:

But the real news is that the Saturday Gazette-Mail’s extremely popular columnist, Alyce Faye Bragg, is signing copies of her book “Laughter from the Hills” at the West Virginia Book Company booth (that’s her on the right, below).

12:20 p.m.: Find of the day at the book sale: a 1720 Martin Luther Bible, in German, going for $250. Someone bought it, but who that is, ich weiss nicht.

12: 30 p.m., from Dawn Miller: Carmen Agra Deedy put on a one-woman show about the first time she discovered her neighborhood ┬álibrary. Eight year old Carmen didn’t like books. From the time you were born, the librarian told her, there has been a book just waiting you. And when you walk by in a place like this, their spines stiffen, and they would jump off the shelf if they could. And then one did.
12:35 p.m.: John Fox, author of “The Confederate Alamo,” is just finishing up his talk. He’s signing books all day, so if you’re interested in Civil War history with West Virginia ties, go find him in the marketplace.

12:45 p.m.: Civil War historian James Robertson and novelist Heidi Durrow will start their programs at 1 p.m.

12:50 p.m.: There is a book sale-size line — at least a couple of hundred people, and getting bigger every moment — formed outside the Civic Center coliseum doors to get good seats for the Nicholas Sparks reading. Doors open at 1 p.m., and Sparks reads at 2:30 p.m. I think it’s safe to say it’s going to be the biggest author event in the 10 years of the Book Festival.

12:55 p.m.: I would put the ratio of women to men in the Sparks line at about 10 to 1.

1:15 p.m.: Just finished an informal sit-down with Nicholas Sparks and a few others. A few snippets:

On the thriller aspect of his newest book, “Safe Haven”: Sparks noted that one of his previous novels, “The Guardian,” also had thriller elements, “but for me it had just been a long time since I’d written a novel with an element of danger.” Once you get past that, though, “it’s very similar to what I’ve written before,” he said.

On his next novel, and whether he’s seen or heard anything on his current tour to shape it: “Yes, just withing the last couple of days, I’m closing in on the structure of the novel. … I’m still deciding on the voice (first-person or third-person) … they each have something to recommend them.”

On the amount of research he does for his books: “Most of my novels have very little research, and by very little, I mean five hours tops.” The novel that involved the most research was “The Lucky One,” he said, because of its connection with the Iraq War.

On whether he actually enjoys big fan events like this one: He reminded me that he used to be a salesman and said, “I tend to be more outgoing than a bunch of authors,” and he noted that his debut, “The Notebook,” “was very much a word-of-mouth book and that [way of promoting books] has sort of carried on.” Different genres have different types of fans, he said, and “my particular genre — family drama, love story, whatever you want to call it — tends to draw a very nice group of people.”

“Do I enjoy it? Sometimes I do, and sometimes I’m tired. … I will say this: [these events] are much easier than writing. Writing is tiring, grueling, aging me ungracefully.”

1:35 p.m.: A few more photos from earlier: Authors signing at the West Virginia Book Company booth, including Gazette-Mail columnist Karin Fuller in the foreground:

The Borders booth appears well stocked this year:

Authors signing their books included Meredith Sue Willis, Carmen Deedy and Ken Hechler:

1:45 p.m.: For the apparently small handful of people in this town who aren’t going to the Nicholas Sparks event, local children’s author Sarah Sullivan also has a program at 2:30 p.m.

1:46 p.m.: I just realized that I forgot to mention that Sparks was heavily promoting the campaign to build a new building for the Kanawha County Public Library in Charleston, and certain people will kneecap me if I leave it out. So there you go. (Seriously, he talked a lot about the new library.)

2:15 p.m.: If you have any time at all to kill at the Book Festival, you should go to the marketplace and find William Hanson, who is selling his self-published novel “Will’s Fabulous Fortunes.” It’s about a soldier who becomes a reluctant hero during the Korean War era. Mr. Hanson says the book is based on experiences he and his friends had, but says “it’s about 1 percent true.”

He was born and raised in Charleston, carried the Daily Mail for four years as a boy, worked for Piedmont Airlines at Kanawha Airport for 15 years, and then got transferred to North Carolina, where he retired in 1984.

A short time ago, his daughter found a diary with a bunch of her old poetry, and he told her she should get it published. “It’s easy to write a book,” he said. “Well, if writing a book isn’t hard,” she replied, “why don’t you do it?” So he did. His daughter edited the book, and he dedicated the book to her — noting her wish to remain anonymous and disregarding it at the same time.

Listening to William Hanson is like sitting on a porch on a breezy warm summer day with your favorite beverage in your hand. If you have the chance, go see him.

2:20 p.m.: I’m not good at crowd estimation, but I would say there are a couple of thousand people waiting for Sparks in the coliseum — and as I walked in, there was a big line of people waiting to buy his book so they could get it signed afterward.

Earlier today, Meredith Sue Willis said no one should write a novel expecting to get rich. You wouldn’t turn it down, though.

2:25 p.m.: While we wait, a picture of the Cat in the Hat doing the zumba in the children’s Word Play area, for your entertainment:

2:32 p.m.: Sparks takes the stage, right on time, after an introduction from Larry Rowe. He notes that although it’s his first event in West Virginia, it’s not his first visit. He and his family often vacation at Snowshoe, where he tore his rotator cuff in a wipeout. “So, thanks,” he said.

2:35 p.m.: Sparks encourages questions: “After 16 years of doing this, I have been asked every conceivable question … for example, it’s boxers.”

2:50 p.m.: After recounting his schoolboy track career, cut short by injury, and a litany of failed career attempts (including a half-hearted attempt at writing), Sparks worked as a pharmaceutical salesman for two years. He realized in May 1994 that he was “just leading my life” without any dreams to chase. He knew his wife wouldn’t let him quit his job, so he decided to give writing another shot. He said he could deal with failure, but he didn’t want to know he hadn’t tried his hardest.

The audience here is pretty much rapt. I’m going to duck out and see how the rest of the festival is doing.

3 p.m.: The Word Play area is in full swing, including the block table at the center:

3:02 p.m.: You do know people are tweeting the Book Festival with the hashtag #wvbookfest, right?

3:30 p.m.: Despite the huge Sparks crowd, traffic looks pretty good in the marketplace still.

3:45 p.m.: Jennifer Minigh, executive director of Shade Tree Publishing of Beckley, says their first trip to the Book Festival has been a success, and they’ve done pretty good business. “We’ll be back next year,” she said.

3:50 p.m.: John Fox said his program went well, and he’s sold a few books, and on top of everything else, he got to spent the day with his parents (his father is originally from Bluefield and his mother is from Huntington).

3:55 p.m.: Nicholas Sparks just finished, to a standing ovation. Larry Rowe asked everyone who wants his or her book signed to sit down, and seemed a little stunned at the number of people. They’re emphasizing one book per person, and only “Safe Haven,” and telling people if they want a picture, to take it as Sparks is signing the book. It will be a challenge, to say the least, to get everyone’s book signed.

Rowe also thanked sponsor Mattress Warehouse a couple of times. “If you need a mattress, you know where to go,” he said.

4:05 p.m.: People are filing by the stage, getting their books signed and then shaking their books and waving to others in the audience as they leave. It’s like they just graduated.

4:10 p.m.: Lisa Brown of Hurricane just got her copy of “Safe Haven” signed. She arrived a few hours early, because she was afraid not everyone would get her or his book signed. She understands why Sparks was only signing one book per person, but was disappointed she couldn’t get him to her copy of “Message In A Bottle,” her favorite.

BTW, the female-to-male ratio evened out a little bit for the Sparks event as the latecomers made their way in. If it was 10 to 1 before, I’d put it at about 7 or 8 to 1 for the final crowd.

4:20 p.m.: John Antonik, author of “Roll Out The Carpet,” a history of the first century of Mountaineer basketball, has some good stuff about integrating the team in the 1960s at his WVU Press-sponsored event.

4:25 p.m.: Some of the people buying “Safe Haven” in hopes of getting it signed:

Those are people buying the book outside the coliseum, then making their way down to the stage on the coliseum floor to get their books signed.

4:26 p.m.: Antonik brings up Dyke Raese, WVU athletic pioneer and father of U.S. Senate candidate John Raese. Wonder if Gov. Joe Manchin will demand equal time for a family member?

4:28 p.m.: If you didn’t know who the charter presenters of the West Virginia Book Festival are, you do now:

4:33 p.m.: Ken Hechler is amazing. The man is 95 years old, and he’s lecturing to and taking questions from a full house of more than 100 people. It is really something to see.

4:36 p.m.: Mmmmmmm … pretzel. (But I successfully resisted the pork barbecue, which smells fantastic.)

4:45 p.m.: Several kids have come to the festival in costume, to trick-or-treat among the vendors in the marketplace. Benjamin Knighton, 9, a student at Mary Ingles Elementary School, shows that he reads the classics:

5:05 p.m.: Lucky Press of Athens, Ohio, also says they’ve had a good day at their first Book Festival, according to Publisher Janice Phelps Williams. They’ve been around for 10 years, but Williams says she started expanding the company’s reach a couple of years ago.

5:15 p.m.: Nicholas Sparks and his bionic right hand are still signing books. There are a few hundred people still here, but they seem pretty good-natured about the wait. Rachelle Beckner from the Kanawha County Public Library is roaming the crowd with a microphone, talking to fans and getting their Nicholas Sparks stories. She’s talking now to a family who drove in from Columbus, Ohio. Pam May says there was a guy a few minutes ago who drove 24 hours to get here. Wow.

5:20 p.m.: As soon as I say that about the people being good-natured, there’s a switch in the way people are brought out of the stands and into the line, causing a few howls of protest. There might be a Nicholas Sparks riot. Stay tuned.

5:21 p.m.: No, it’s OK. People seem to sense the end is in sight.

5:33 p.m.: Rachelle tells me the guy who drove 24 hours is from Colorado, and there are also two girls who drove 16 hours from Quebec, with stops in New York and Washington. Sacre bleu!

5:40 p.m.: Lee Klocke, Evan Richman and Chris Klocke wait to get their WVU basketball book signed by author John Antonik. Lee and Evan are sophomores at Nitro High School, and they came to the festival for their honors English class.

They weren’t the only ones Antonik was signing books for:

5:45 p.m.: The empty West Virginia table at the used book sale (I told you people to get there early):

5:53 p.m.: The last few Nicholas Sparks fans are on the floor. I think everyone’s going to get his or her book signed. It was close there for a while.

6 p.m.: The final three people in the Nicholas Sparks line are Nicole Delmont and her kids, Savannah Marshall, 10, and Montgomery Shinault, 5. They’re Book Festival regulars; Nicole said they come every year. They’ve been here today since 12:30 p.m.

Nicole’s favorite Sparks novel is “Bend In The Road”; Savannah likes “Dear John.” They might have been out of here earlier, but Savannah kept stalling to be the last in line. She was hoping to be able to ask Sparks a question if there was no one in line behind her. I hope she gets her chance.

6:10 p.m.: Annnnnd … scene.

That’s a wrap from the first day of the West Virginia Book Festival. The festival continues from noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday, with programs from New York Times best-selling author Diana Gabaldon, West Virginia poet laureate Irene McKinney, award-winning novelist Jayne Anne Phillips, Happy Bunny creator Jim Benton and fiction and nonfiction writer Mary Kuykendall-Weber. Plus the marketplace will be open, plus the really cheap part of the book sale, plus the children’s Word Play area, and I’m sure there’s more that I haven’t mentioned.

Thanks to all of you who came to the festival, and all of you who read this blog or saw something on Twitter and plan to come Sunday. The biggest thanks, though, go to the army of workers and volunteers, led by Pam May, who work all year to put this Book Festival together. They do an amazing job, and they’ve created something terrific over the past 10 years.

We leave you with a shot from the booth at Headline Books, one of the longtime vendors at the West Virginia Book Festival. See you tomorrow.