This post was written by Alan Engelbert, Kanawha County Public Library Director.
Last month, thousands of people gathered in the Charleston Civic Center to celebrate books, authors, reading and a sports legend. The 11th Annual West Virginia Book Festival brought in people from all over West Virginia and many other states to enjoy two days in Charleston, filling hotel rooms, restaurants and stores, while being entertained and enlightened by authors and illustrators from the Mountain State and across the nation.
The West Virginia Book Festival appeals to people of all ages. Children were spellbound by Erin Turner’s stories about ghosts and monsters in West Virginia and were inspired to create their own monsters by decorating masks after the presentation. They also saw how picture books are illustrated and learned about kindness, friendship and respect in two anti-bullying programs presented by Bright Star Touring Theatre.
There were workshops for teachers, programs for aspiring writers and presentations by storytellers and humorists. A packed audience was mesmerized by Gerald Blaine and Clint Hill, authors of The Kennedy Detail, as they told about their work as secret service agents for the Kennedy family, including detailed information about what really happened the day President Kennedy was assassinated.
Lee Child talked about the creation of Jack Reacher, the fictional hero in 17 books he has written. The audience also learned that Mr. Child’s book One Shot is currently being made into a movie starring Tom Cruise. After autographing books for hundreds of his fans, Mr. Child met briefly with Jerry West and discovered that Mr. West is an avid fan of the Jack Reacher novels.
Saturday’s program ended with a presentation by basketball legend Jerry West, who was interviewed onstage by Senator Joe Manchin. Mr. West talked about his current book, West by West, and then spent four hours meeting with fans and signing copies of his book.
On Sunday, Dave Pelzer, author of A Child Called It, encouraged his audience to overcome the disappointments of their past and take responsibility for their own happiness. He spent time with the audience before and after his program, signing books and hearing how his story has inspired them to live fuller lives.
Each morning, there was a long line of people waiting for the used book sale to open. The sale is a wonderful way for the library to raise funds while giving people the opportunity to buy books at greatly reduced prices. Every year, local teachers come to the book sale to purchase books for their classroom. The Word Play area also provided dozens of activities for children, and there were 57 vendors in the sold-out marketplace.
Pam May, WV Book Festival Chairperson and Marketing Supervisor at Kanawha County Public Library, works closely with the festival committee throughout the year to plan the event. Nearly 200 volunteers are recruited to work before, during and after the weekend.
An event of this size, that reaches thousands of people in the community, would not be possible without the help of the numerous presenters and sponsors who provide support. This year’s book festival was presented by Kanawha County Public Library, The Library Foundation of Kanawha County, Inc., West Virginia Humanities Council, The Charleston Gazette and the Charleston Daily Mail. Sponsors were the Martha Gaines and Russell Wehrle Memorial Foundation, Segal and Davis Family Foundation, Pamela D. Tarr and Gary Hart, The Friends of The Library Foundation of Kanawha County, Target, Walmart, BB&T West Virginia Foundation, West Virginia Library Commission, West Virginia Center for the Book and Borders Express.
Thank you to everyone who made the 11th Annual West Virginia Book Festival such a success. I appreciate all of the staff, volunteers, authors, presenters, sponsors and vendors who made this event possible. And thank you to everyone who attended. I look forward to seeing you at next year’s book festival on Oct. 13 and 14 and welcome you to visit Kanawha County Public Library throughout the year.