West Virginia Book Festival

Share This Article
[wp_social_sharing social_options='facebook,twitter,googleplus,linkedin,pinterest' facebook_text='Share on Facebook' twitter_text='Share on Twitter' googleplus_text='Share on Google+' linkedin_text='Share on Linkedin' pinterest_text='Share on Pinterest' icon_order='f,t,g,l,p' show_icons='1' before_button_text='' social_image='']

 

Tamora Pierce

Tamora Pierce began writing in sixth grade to escape from her parents’ disintegrating marriage. A fan of heroic fantasy, she began writing stories that featured fearless, bold, female protagonists because those characters were lacking in the books she loved to read.

Fast forward to 1983, when her first book, “Alanna: The First Adventure,” was published in hardcover by Atheneum. Since then, she has written 28 fantasy novels for teens, the most recent of which is “Mastiff.”

The New York Times bestselling author will speak at the West Virginia Book Festival at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 13, at the Charleston Civic Center. She  joins a slate of speakers featuring Charlaine Harris, author of the “Sookie Stackhouse” series; Christopher Wilkinson, author of “Big Band Jazz in Black West Virginia”; and Marilyn Sue Shank, author of “Child of the Mountains.”

Pierce was born in South Connellsville, Pa., into a long, proud line of hillbillies. While her family didn’t have much money, they did have plenty of books, and books continue to be the main yardstick by which she measures true wealth.

Crediting her fans with her success, Tammy loves the chance to go on tour and thank them in person.  “Struggling along as a kid and even through my 20s, it’s the kind of life I dreamed of but never believed I would get. And I never take it for granted.”  She hopes her books inspire her readers with the feeling that they too can do anything if they want it badly enough. She now lives in Syracuse, N.Y., with her husband Tim Liebe.

The 12th annual West Virginia Book Festival will be held Oct. 13 and 14. The two-day event celebrates books and reading and offers something for all age groups. A variety of authors will attend, participating in book signings, readings, workshops and panel discussions. Activities for children include special programs and a section of the Marketplace filled with children’s activities. Admission to the festival is free.

The event is presented by The Library Foundation of Kanawha County, Inc., Kanawha County Public Library, the West Virginia Humanities Council, The Charleston Gazette and the Charleston Daily Mail and is sponsored by The Martha Gaines and Russell Wehrle Memorial Foundation, Pam Tarr and Gary Hart and Books-A-Million. For more information, visit www.wvbookfestival.org.

Share This Article
[wp_social_sharing social_options='facebook,twitter,googleplus,linkedin,pinterest' facebook_text='Share on Facebook' twitter_text='Share on Twitter' googleplus_text='Share on Google+' linkedin_text='Share on Linkedin' pinterest_text='Share on Pinterest' icon_order='f,t,g,l,p' show_icons='1' before_button_text='' social_image='']
Darius Atefat-Peckham (photo via School Library Journal)

Darius Atefat-Peckham and Mark Doty both used dogs to help them get through tough times. That connection has led to some national recognition for both of them, and $10,000 for a West Virginia school library.

Darius, a fifth-grader at Meadows Elementary School in Huntington, was one of six national winners in this year’s Letters About Literature competition. The program, as we’ve written before, encourages students to write to authors, explaining what the authors’ books meant to them.

You could understand if Mark Doty didn’t really expect to have students writing to him as part of the program. His memoir, “Dog Years,” is about how two dogs pulled Doty through the horrible time when his partner was dying of AIDS. It’s not your usual fifth-grade stuff.

But Darius isn’t your usual fifth-grader. When he was 3 years old, his mother, poet Susan Atefat, and older brother, Cyrus, were killed in a car accident, according to a story by Bill Rosenberger in the Herald-Dispatch of Huntington. One of the way Darius’ father, Joel Peckham, helped his son cope was to get him a golden retriever puppy. So when Darius saw Doty’s memoir — with the dog on the cover, as WSAZ-TV reported — he asked if he could get it, and his father said yes.

As Darius wrote in his letter to Doty: “Most people wouldn’t consider this a book kids could understand, or should read. But I wish that adults understood that mushy answers don’t feel true, and they don’t comfort us.  Sometimes they make me feel even sadder.”

The whole letter, which is online at the Letters About Literature website, is absolutely worth your time. You can see Darius read the letter here.

As a national winner of the contest, Darius gets a $500 gift card from Target (the national sponsor of Letters About Literature) and $100 from the West Virginia Humanities Council. He also got to give $10,000 to the library of his choice. Now, Darius is finished at Meadows Elementary, and he’s moving on to Huntington Middle School next year, so he could have used the money where it would benefit him directly. But you can’t forget where you came from, and so Meadows Elementary and librarian Kitty Dawson (whom everyone calls Ms. Kitty, which is awesome) will get the $10,000.

As for what he’d like to see done with the money, Darius told School Library Journal:

“A lot of things in the library are little kids books. I would like them to widen the selection and keep their minds open. There are a lot of beautiful literary works that they don’t have, in that they’re too deep or sad. And I think adults should understand that kids can handle that stuff, and they deserve to have the right to read what they want to read.”

UPDATE: The other winners of West Virginia’s Letters About Literature contest were Ryan Kirby of Taylor County Middle School, who wrote to Laura Morton, co-author of the memoir “Got The Life” by ex-Korn bassist Fieldy, and Lee Mendenhall of Wheeling Park High School, who wrote New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees about his memoir, “Coming Back Stronger.”

Share This Article
[wp_social_sharing social_options='facebook,twitter,googleplus,linkedin,pinterest' facebook_text='Share on Facebook' twitter_text='Share on Twitter' googleplus_text='Share on Google+' linkedin_text='Share on Linkedin' pinterest_text='Share on Pinterest' icon_order='f,t,g,l,p' show_icons='1' before_button_text='' social_image='']

Because of his stay on Blennerhassett Island, West Virginia will always have a small part in the story of Aaron Burr — third vice president of the United States, killer of Alexander Hamilton, accused traitor to the fledgling country. That remains true in a new book that takes a decidedly different viewpoint of Burr’s life.

“The Heartbreak of Aaron Burr” by H.W. Brands is centered around the relationship between Burr and his devoted daughter, Theodora. Their letters are Brands’ primary source. The book is short (176 pages) and written in the present tense, which I found pretty disconcerting during my short foray into the book so far. So did Julia Keller, Chicago Tribune critic (and Huntington native), who savaged the book in a review last month. Keller said the book “is so anemic, with such a stolid, unimaginative presentation, that not even an intriguing thesis — or copious quotations from the arch, peppery letters exchanged between Burr and his daughter — can save it.”

Other reviews have been much kinder to Brands, a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist for biographies of Benjamin Franklin and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Kirkus Reviews, for example, called it “a short but thrilling page-turner.”

But I digress. Back to the West Virginia connection: there are a few pages about Blennerhassett Island and its inhabitants. Brands calls the island “one of the most striving, most aspirational and most unlikely of the new settlements.” Marietta, Ohio, is referenced as the nearest town; Parkersburg had only been chartered a few years before — and it wasn’t even called Parkersburg until 1810. When Burr was at Blennerhassett, the town would have been known as Newport.

Brands also notes that, on a previous trip down the Ohio River, Burr walks around Wheeling (then in Virginia, of course). In a letter to Theodora, he calls it “a pretty, neat village, well situated on the south bank, containing sixty or eighty houses, some of brick, and some of a fine free stone found in the vicinity.”

If you want to know more about “The Heartbreak of Aaron Burr,” Brands will be on C-SPAN’s BookTV this weekend, talking about the book.

Share This Article
[wp_social_sharing social_options='facebook,twitter,googleplus,linkedin,pinterest' facebook_text='Share on Facebook' twitter_text='Share on Twitter' googleplus_text='Share on Google+' linkedin_text='Share on Linkedin' pinterest_text='Share on Pinterest' icon_order='f,t,g,l,p' show_icons='1' before_button_text='' social_image='']
Christopher Wilkinson

Christopher Wilkinson mined census records, newspaper articles, personal interviews and many other sources in researching his new book, “Big Band Jazz in Black West Virginia, 1930-1942.” The book illustrates the relationship between the coal industry and the short-lived heyday of big band jazz that occurred in the Mountain State during the Great Depression and early World War II.

Wilkinson will speak at the West Virginia Book Festival at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 13, at the Charleston Civic Center. He will autograph books immediately after his talk.

Wilkinson is a professor of music history at West Virginia University. A jazz historian, he teaches courses on that subject at the university and has presented talks to the general public on jazz. He also wrote “Jazz on the Road: Don Albert’s Musical Life,” published by University of California Press in 2001. “Big Band Jazz” is published by University Press of Mississippi.

The West Virginia Music Hall of Fame’s traveling museum will be stationed in the Festival Marketplace, featuring some of the musicians mentioned in the book. The Hall of Fame is a non-profit organization dedicated to documenting and preserving the rich and lasting contributions West Virginians have made to all genres of music.

The 12th annual West Virginia Book Festival will be held Oct. 13 and 14. The two-day event celebrates books and reading and offers something for all age groups. A variety of authors will attend, participating in book signings, readings, workshops and panel discussions. Activities for children include special programs and a section of the Marketplace filled with children’s activities. Admission to the festival is free.

The event is presented by The Library Foundation of Kanawha County, Inc., Kanawha County Public Library, the West Virginia Humanities Council, The Charleston Gazette and the Charleston Daily Mail and is sponsored by The Martha Gaines and Russell Wehrle Memorial Foundation, Pam Tarr and Gary Hart and Books-A-Million. For more information, visit www.wvbookfestival.org.

The Book Festival Marketplace is filling up

Share This Article
Share This Article
[wp_social_sharing social_options='facebook,twitter,googleplus,linkedin,pinterest' facebook_text='Share on Facebook' twitter_text='Share on Twitter' googleplus_text='Share on Google+' linkedin_text='Share on Linkedin' pinterest_text='Share on Pinterest' icon_order='f,t,g,l,p' show_icons='1' before_button_text='' social_image='']

A public service announcement for those wanting to market their wares at this fall’s West Virginia Book Festival:

Better hurry.

Pam May, WVBF chairwoman, warns that space in the Festival Marketplace has filled up much more quickly than in previous years. As of Tuesday, just two spots remained — and Pam believes that a check may be in the mail to claim one of those spots.

But if you want a slot and don’t get it, don’t panic. There will be a waiting list in case of cancellations.

Free Comic Book Day is Saturday

Share This Article
Share This Article
[wp_social_sharing social_options='facebook,twitter,googleplus,linkedin,pinterest' facebook_text='Share on Facebook' twitter_text='Share on Twitter' googleplus_text='Share on Google+' linkedin_text='Share on Linkedin' pinterest_text='Share on Pinterest' icon_order='f,t,g,l,p' show_icons='1' before_button_text='' social_image='']

Saturday is Free Comic Book Day, which is exactly what it sounds like. Comic book stores all across the country (and in other countries) give away selected comic books (including those pictured here), partly to celebrate the history of an American art form and partly to encourage people to buy other comic books.

Several stores in West Virginia are taking part, according to the event’s official website. They include Lost Legion Games and Comics locations in South Charleston, Princeton, Parkersburg and Beckley; Four Horsemen Comics and Gaming and Gary’s Comics and More, both in Morgantown; Comic World of Huntington; Counter Culture Concepts in Elkins; and Comics Paradise Plus in Fairmont. There’s a participating store locator on the website, if you’re wondering about any other places close to you.

Also noteworthy: On The Awl website, Brent Cox writes about the rising prices of comic books — and notes that his first comic book purchase was probably “Brave and the Bold No. 121, a team-up of Batman and the Metal Men, purchased with a quarter given to me by my mom in a Charleston, West Virginia 7-11 in 1975.”

Share This Article
[wp_social_sharing social_options='facebook,twitter,googleplus,linkedin,pinterest' facebook_text='Share on Facebook' twitter_text='Share on Twitter' googleplus_text='Share on Google+' linkedin_text='Share on Linkedin' pinterest_text='Share on Pinterest' icon_order='f,t,g,l,p' show_icons='1' before_button_text='' social_image='']

Writing about the Edgar Awards from the Mystery Writers of America last week (full list of winners and nominees here), I dwelled mostly on the nominees for Best Novel and shamefully ignored the eventual winner of the Best Critical/Biographical book award: “On Conan Doyle: or, The Whole Art of Storytelling,” by America’s best book critic, Michael Dirda.

Dirda — who won a Pulitzer Prize for The Washington Post and continues to write for them, as well as the New York Review of Books and the Barnes and Noble Review — has a Ph.D. in comparative literature and can talk about any kind of books and writing you want (although I remember him writing recently that he’s not as up on westerns as he might be). But when he talks about books, he doesn’t sound like some stuffy academic. He sounds (to use an analogy from the Gazette’s writing coach) like he’s talking to a friend on a stool at the neighborhood bar — something he knows about, growing up in the steel town of Lorain, Ohio.

“On Conan Doyle” is simultaneously a biography of Sherlock Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a review of Doyle’s books (Sherlock and non) and a memoir of Dirda’s fascination with Sherlockiana, from his discovery of “The Hound of the Baskervilles” as a boy to his membership in the international Sherlock Holmes society, the Baker Street Irregulars. (The subtitle of Dirda’s book is a play on Holmes’ never-completed masterwork, “The Whole Art of Detection.”)

I thought I knew a fair amount about Doyle before reading this book. He was a medical doctor who based his most famous creation on one of his professors. He considered his Holmes stories far from his best work, killing off the great detective with relief and reluctantly bringing him back by popular demand. He became involved in spiritualism in his later years, after his son died toward the end of World War I.

And after all, everyone knows Sherlock Holmes. Lots of people still read the stories, as much for the description of gaslight, Victorian London as for the mysteries. The film and TV versions are legion: Basil Rathbone, Jeremy Brett, Robert Downey Jr., Benedict Cumberbatch (that last coming back to PBS this weekend).

But Dirda explains so much more. He talks about Doyle’s “crisp narrative economy” and says he may be the best storyteller of his age. He notes that some of Doyle’s other mysteries and science fiction, which many people relegate to the margins of literary history, have much to recommend them. And he relates Doyle to his time, showing the influence that others had on him — and the considerable influence that Doyle had on those around him, and those who would follow him.

For my money, though, the best parts of “On Conan Doyle” are Dirda harkening back to his early years, remembering how it felt to encounter Holmes and his compatriots for the first time.

In the lowering darkness I turned page after page, more than a little scared, gradually learning the origin of the dreaded curse of the Baskervilles. At the end of the book’s second chapter, you may recall, the tension escalates unbearably. … [Holmes and Watson’s informant] adds, hesitantly, that near the body he had spotted footprints on the damp ground. A man’s or a woman’s? eagerly inquires the great detective, to which question he receives the most thrilling answer in all of twentieth-century literature: “Mr. Holmes, they were the footprints of a gigantic hound!” I shivered with fearful pleasure, scrunched further down under my thick blanket, and took another bite of my Baby Ruth candy bar, as happy as I will ever be.

Share This Article
[wp_social_sharing social_options='facebook,twitter,googleplus,linkedin,pinterest' facebook_text='Share on Facebook' twitter_text='Share on Twitter' googleplus_text='Share on Google+' linkedin_text='Share on Linkedin' pinterest_text='Share on Pinterest' icon_order='f,t,g,l,p' show_icons='1' before_button_text='' social_image='']
Dr. Marilyn Sue Shank

Dr. Marilyn Sue Shank’s novel for young readers, “Child of the Mountains,” is set in rural West Virginia in 1953 and features the resilient and determined Lydia Hawkins. Lydia’s tight-knit family is torn asunder when her grandmother and younger brother die, and her mother is jailed unjustly. Suddenly Lydia has lost all those dearest to her.

Shank will speak at the West Virginia Book Festival at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 14, at the Charleston Civic Center. She will autograph books immediately after her talk.

Shank earned her Ph.D. in special education from the University of Kansas, where she majored in learning disabilities and behavior disorders and minored in counseling psychology and families with disabilities. She has taught general and special education at elementary, secondary and college levels. Shank’s work has been published in professional journals, and she co-authored the first four editions of “Exceptional Lives: Special Education in Today’s Schools.” “Child of the Mountains” is her first novel.

The 12th annual West Virginia Book Festival will be held Oct. 13 and 14. The two-day event celebrates books and reading and offers something for all age groups. A variety of authors will attend, participating in book signings, readings, workshops and panel discussions. Activities for children include special programs and a section of the Marketplace filled with children’s activities. Admission to the festival is free.

The event is presented by The Library Foundation of Kanawha County, Inc., Kanawha County Public Library, the West Virginia Humanities Council, The Charleston Gazette and the Charleston Daily Mail and is sponsored by The Martha Gaines and Russell Wehrle Memorial Foundation, Pam Tarr and Gary Hart and Books-A-Million. For more information, visit www.wvbookfestival.org.

Share This Article
[wp_social_sharing social_options='facebook,twitter,googleplus,linkedin,pinterest' facebook_text='Share on Facebook' twitter_text='Share on Twitter' googleplus_text='Share on Google+' linkedin_text='Share on Linkedin' pinterest_text='Share on Pinterest' icon_order='f,t,g,l,p' show_icons='1' before_button_text='' social_image='']
An illustration from "Hush-a-Bye, Baby" by Kate Greenaway, one of the originators of the modern children's book.

When I’ve written about children’s books and authors on this blog, I’ve sometimes wondered if I’m giving enough credit to the illustrators of those books. I’ll be more careful about that after visiting “Draw Me A Story: A Century of Children’s Book Illustrations,” an exhibit at the Frick Art and Historical Center in Pittsburgh.

The title actually undersells the exhibit, which covers more than 130 years in children’s book illustrations, from Randolph Caldecott (namesake of the American award given to the best children’s book illustrator of the year) to Thomas Taylor (who drew the original Harry Potter illustrations, only to be replaced by a more seasoned illustrator when the book became the biggest children’s publishing hit in decades).

The original cover for "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone," drawn by Thomas Taylor.

Several other illustrations (and the books they appeared in) will be familiar: W.W. Denslow’s illustrations for “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” by L. Frank Baum; early drawings of Raggedy Ann and Andy by Johnny Gruelle; a Maurice Sendak sketch of Max from “Where The Wild Things Are.” And although she’s not part of the illustrators in the “Draw Me A Story” exhibit, an adjacent gallery with objects from Helen Clay Frick’s childhood includes a book by Maud Humphrey, maybe the most popular children’s illustrator at the dawn of the 20th century. Humphrey isn’t very well known today, but her son — whose first name was her last name — still is. You’ve probably heard of him.

The exhibit, which originally appeared at the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco, includes an area with children’s books and seats, so there’s a place for kids to read the books with the illustrations they’re seeing on the walls.

“Draw Me A Story” is only in Pittsburgh until May 20, so if you want to see it, better hurry.