West Virginia Book Festival

Sure, you know that the 12th annual West Virginia Book Festival will bring in bestselling author Charlaine Harris, “Longmire” author Craig Johnson, plus more than a dozen others who will present readings, workshops and book signings at this free event. But here are a few items you just might not know about yet:

It’s free. That’s right – it’s free. No admission fee, no tickets required. Just show up!

Lee Child signs books at the 2011 West Virginia Book Festival

Book signings. All authors (except for Charlaine Harris) will sign books in the “featured authors” area of the festival marketplace immediately after their programs. Additional individual authors have rented booths in our marketplace where they will sell and sign their books.

Due to her travel schedule, Charlaine Harris has limited the number of books she will sign to one per person, with no personalization. She will sign books in the Coliseum from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, just before her program, and then again immediately after her program until 4:30 p.m., when she must leave to catch her return flight. We will distribute numbered tickets to audience members as they enter the Coliseum, and will call groups of ticket numbers to the signing table in an orderly fashion.

Mobile-friendly schedule. The festival’s website, www.wvbookfestival.org, has been optimized for your smart phone. Access it to keep track of everything you want to do.

Storytelling concert. Four members of the West Virginia Storytelling Guild will present a free storytelling concert, “Time-Traveled Tales,” on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. Featured storytellers include Ilene Evans, W. I. “Bill” Hairston, Susanna “Granny Sue” Holstein and Judi Tarowsky.

Kanawha County Public Library’s annual used book sale. Here’s where you’ll find thousands of bargains on books and other library materials, all arranged by category. Prices range from 50¢ to $4. Items in the Collector’s Corner – an area with rare and collectible books – will be individually priced. Bring cash, personal checks or your Visa, MasterCard or American Express card. The book sale is located in the South Hall, and hours of operation are: Oct. 13, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Oct. 14, noon to 4 p.m.

Future engineers love the block table.

Activities for children. Word Play is what we call the area in West Hall 2 that’s devoted to free hands-on activity stations for children. Here’s where children can play some learning games, meet some colorful mascots and create crafts, among other fun activities. Participating community organizations include Kanawha County Public Library, South Charleston Public Library, West Virginia Public Broadcasting, Kanawha County Master Gardeners, Pioneer West Virginia Federal Credit Union, and Charleston Newspapers’ Newspaper in Education program.

Local history workshop. Don Teter, author of “Goin’ Up Gandy,” a history of the Dry Fork region of Randolph and Tucker counties, will present a workshop on local histories on Saturday at 4 p.m. The workshop is a nuts-and-bolts guide to researching, writing and publishing a local history, without needing extraordinary skills. Get step-by-step instructions on defining the subject, gathering information and creating a manuscript.

Charlaine Harris, best-selling urban fantasy novelist; Craig Johnson, author of the “Longmire” series of mystery novels; Dan Chaon, former National Book Award finalist; and Tamora Pierce, author of 28 fantasy novels for teens, will headline the festival, which will be held Oct. 13 and 14 at the Charleston Civic Center. The annual, 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 lectures. Activities for children include special programs and a section of the Marketplace filled with children’s activities.

The event is presented by The Library Foundation of Kanawha County, Inc., Kanawha County Public Library, West Virginia Humanities Council, The Charleston Gazette and the Charleston Daily Mail and is sponsored by The Martha Gaines and Russell Wehrle Memorial Foundation; Pamela D. Tarr and Gary Hart; the Friends of The Library Foundation of Kanawha County; West Virginia Library Commission and West Virginia Center for the Book; BB&T West Virginia Foundation; Books-A-Million; and William Maxwell Davis. For more information, visit www.wvbookfestival.org.

For years, one of the mainstays of the Book Festival has been the West Virginia University Press, under former director Pat Conner and his successor, Carrie Mullen. Next month, the WVU Press will again have a ton of stuff going on at the festival, as marketing manager Abby Freeland told me this week.

First, they’re sponsoring one of the opening sessions of the festival, Betty Rivard talking about “New Deal Photography: West Virginia’s Gift to National Books and Museums” at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 13. Her new book — “New Deal Photography in West Virginia, 1934-1943” — isn’t even available yet, but Abby says it will be at the festival, and Rivard will sign copies of the book at the WVU Press booth (in the marketplace) from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Oct. 13 and 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. Oct. 14.

Also, Abby says: “All of our latest publications will be available for purchase at our booth, including Lee Maynard’s Crum Trilogy (‘Crum,’ ‘Screaming with the Cannibals’ and ‘The Scummers’), John Antonik’s ‘The Backyard Brawl: Stories from One of the Weirdest, Wildest, Longest Running and Most Intense Rivalries in College Football History’ and Karen Osborn’s ‘Centerville,’ a fictionalized account of a bombing witnessed by the author in Ohio during the 1960s. “

Lots of previous WVU Press offerings will be available as well, including John Allen’s “Uncommon Vernacular: The Early Houses of Jefferson County, West Virginia, 1735-1835,” Marie Manilla’s “Still Life with Plums,” Bonnie E. Stewart’s “No. 9: The 1968 Farmington Mine Disaster,” and the new series of West Virginia Classics published with the West Virginia Humanities Council.

And then there’s this: All WVU Press books will be available for purchase at a 25 percent discount at the festival. So as they say on the late-night commercials, there’s never been a better time to buy.

Where Are They Now?: 2011 Book Festival edition

National Book Award winner Jaimy Gordon speaks at last year’s West Virginia Book Festival. Photo by Chris Dorst.

We’re less than three weeks away from the 2012 West Virginia Book Festival, so we’re running out of time to take a look back at the authors and others who made the 2011 festival such a success. This list isn’t inclusive — far from it — but here’s what some of them have been up to over the past year.

Lee Child’s latest Jack Reacher novel, “A Wanted Man,” came out last month. That’s become pretty usual for Child. What’s not usual is the first Jack Reacher movie, which comes out in December. It’s based on the novel “One Shot,” but it’s called, simply enough, “Jack Reacher.” Tom Cruise stars as Reacher, and a less-likely Reacher I can’t imagine this side of Paul Giamatti, but Child doesn’t sound worried. (In that interview with Time magazine, he also mentions that he has a cameo in the movie.)

Jerry West remains a consultant for the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, and has made several other appearances over the past year promoting his biography, “West by West.”

Gerald Blaine, former Secret Service agent during the John F. Kennedy administration, is also seeing his book turned into a film. “The Kennedy Detail” is tentatively scheduled to be released next November, the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination. Fellow Secret Service agent Clint Hill, who was at last year’s festival with Blaine, came out with his own book this year, “Mrs. Kennedy and Me.” His co-author was Lisa McCubbin, who also worked with Blaine on his book.

Jaimy Gordon is speaking late next month on the WVU campus; she’s reading at the downtown library on Oct. 29 at 7:30 p.m. I don’t see a lot of recent news regarding her, but after you win the National Book Award, you’re allowed a little down time, right?

Alex Flinn came out with her latest young-adult twist on the supernatural/fairy tale world, “Bewitching,” earlier this year.

Bonnie Stewart, author of a book about the Farmington mine disaster, has continued to report on environmental matters for Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Choices galore at the National Book Festival

Children’s author Rebecca Stead talks to a full tent at the 2010 National Book Festival in Washington, D.C. AP Photo.

How do you choose among Esme Raji Codell, R.L. Stine, T.C. Boyle and Anna Dewdney?  (I’ve already eliminated Lisa Scottoline, Lein-Hang Nyugen, Donna Britt).

All these authors are on the schedule for Saturday at 4:25 pm, at the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C.  If you are one of the 200,000 people expected to make an appearance at the Library of Congress’s grand party, you know that this is only one of the many choices that you’ll be making for the event.

For me, it takes a spread sheet.  It takes the cooperation of Internet Explorer and Microsoft Excel to create my chart so I can compare the various authors in the seven big tents on Saturday, and nine tents on Sunday to make my choices.  Along the way, I’ve learned that there are times when the choice is made for different reasons — like in 2008 — I really wanted to see Neil Gaiman, so I went to see Joseph Bruchac in the same tent, right before Gaiman.  Choices like this make sure I have a chair, and that I’m not standing in the rows of standing-room-only fans to see my favorite authors (a lesson I learned my first year – 2007 – when I was part of the SRO group for Sir Terry Prachett and Jack Prelutsky).

It also means that I’m going to see something that I hadn’t expected — like the person who asked a question of Joseph Bruchac and introduced herself by saying something like “Hi, I’m Lynne Cherry, and I have a question.”  My head, and the head of every other children’s librarian and children’s book lover in the room whipped around to confirm that it was indeed, Lynne Cherry, the author/illustrator of “A River Ran Wild” and “The Great Kapok Tree,” and others, asking a question of Bruchac.

And frankly, I wouldn’t have been able to watch the delight in Bruchac’s face as he stood next to the stage to see Neil Gaiman introduce “The Graveyard Book,” which wasn’t to be released for four days and later won the Newbery Medal.

There are lots of little moments like that — moments of delight that satisfy my people-watching soul as people of the book meet each other and meet the authors they admire.  I recently tried to explain to a friend of mine why I want to spend two days on the National Mall, listening to people talk about their books.  I go for the stories.  And not necessarily the ones that are written.

In the five years that I’ve been going to the National Book Festival, I’ve seen numerous authors and have uncounted memories of the moments that I spent observing them.  They are all little stories – like the audience reaction last year when Judith Viorst introduced her son, Alexander.  While seeing Alexander delighted the adults, the kids in the crowd could not grasp that this man was the young hero of their favorite story, “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.”

So how will I decide who I’ll see at 4:25 pm on Saturday? How do you choose between three children’s authors:  Esme Raji Codell, who writes children’s books and reviews of children’s literature at her blog, PlanetEsme; R.L. Stine, the author of the Goosebumps series; Anna Dewdney, the author of “Llama, Llama, Red Pajamas”; or T.C. Boyle who has written “The Women,” “The Road to Wellness,” “The Tortilla Curtain,” and others.

 I don’t know.  It changes by the minute.  But right now, T.C. Boyle is winning.  That’s one choice made, there are at least 16 other choices to make – and a visit to the tent for the Library of Congress, the tent with all the state Library Commissions in it, and the tents of children’s games.  It will be a full day (or two) for all of us.

Marketplace: The Braxton County Monster

Photo from roadsideamerica.com

Sixty years ago this week, West Virginia monster lore acquired one of its most legendary characters. On Sept. 12, 1952, a group of boys was playing football near Flatwoods when, according to them, a fireball streaked across the sky and landed behind a hill. Joined by a local woman, they went to investigate.

Then, as the West Virginia Encyclopedia has it:

Beyond the hill, they reported seeing a pulsating light. Then suddenly, to their left, two powerful light beams pierced the darkness. Turning their own flashlight in that direction, they saw a large man-like creature nearly 12 feet tall and about four feet wide. Making no sound, it floated toward them. The creature had a red face and bright green clothing, which hung in folds below the waist. Its head was shaped like the ace of spades and there was an almost sickening metallic odor emanating from its body. The witnesses quickly fled the scene. A later investigation found only a lingering odor, two large skid marks, and trampled grass.

The Braxton County Monster (or Flatwoods Monster) was never seen again. Cue the creepy organ music.

Sure, it’s not the most famous Mountain State creature: That’s probably the winged fellow with his own statue in Point Pleasant and a pretty bad Richard Gere movie to his credit. Also, there have been dozens of Bigfoot sightings in West Virginia, if you believe the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization (and why wouldn’t you?). But the Braxton County Monster has carved out its own place as a part of modern West Virginia folklore.

If you want to learn more about the monster and the various legends and claims surrounding it, you could come to the West Virginia Book Festival marketplace next month, where a new edition of “The Braxton County Monster” will be on sale. The subtitle of Frank C. Feschino Jr.’s book is “The Cover-Up of the Flatwoods Monster Revealed,” so you know where he’s coming from. Here’s a recent press release about the book:

……………………………………………………………………………

The “Braxton County Monster” Returns to West Virginia for the 60th Anniversary of the incident!

Brothers Bailey Promotions of Charleston, WV. proudly presents the official “West Virginia” release of Frank Feschino’s new 2012 “Revised Edition” book at the Charleston Civic Center.

Author/Illustrator Frank C. Feschino, Jr., who led a 20-year investigation into the terrifying “Braxton County Monster” close encounter UFO incident of 1952, will be at the 2012 West Virginia Book Festival on October 13 and 14.

Joining Feschino at booth 603 in the North Hall will be Veteran Master Aviator Alfred Lehmberg, US Army (Retired).  Mr. Lehmberg, a feature writer and columnist for UFO Magazine who contributed the book’s cover review and has written extensively on the case, will be signing this groundbreaking book with Mr. Feschino during the 2-day event.

For this special West Virginia book release event, Feschino will display some of the rare research material that he discovered during his 20-year investigation into the case and will also show his UFO documentary about the “Braxton County Monster,” titled “Shoot Them Down.”

Come see the 12-foot-tall “Braxton County Monster” and replica “flying saucer” at booth 603 and discover why Feschino’s new 2012 “Revised Edition” book is the true (and only) authorative book written about the 1952 “Braxton County Monster” incident.

Inspiring children to read is topic of talk

Sarah Dooley
photo by John McCoy

Young adult author Sarah Dooley will present a session for adults about helping children find books they’ll love. Her talk, “Captive or Captivate: Inspiring Kids to Reach for Books,” is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 13, 11:30 a.m. at the West Virginia Book Festival.

Getting kids to read and getting kids to want to read are two separate animals. In this workshop, participants will explore a variety of strategies for connecting young readers with the books they will love.

Dooley is the author of two novels for young readers, “Livvie Owen Lived Here” and “Body of Water,” both from Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan. She holds a degree in education from Marshall University and has taught special education at the elementary, middle and high school levels. In August, Dooley won a PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship for Free Verse, which is forthcoming from G.P. Putnam’s Sons. She is a member of West Virginia Writers.

Charlaine Harris, best-selling urban fantasy novelist; Craig Johnson, author of the “Longmire” series of mystery novels; Dan Chaon, former National Book Award finalist; and Tamora Pierce, author of 28 fantasy novels for teens, have already been announced as part of the line-up for the festival, which will be held Oct. 13 and 14 at the Charleston Civic Center. The annual, 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 lectures. 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, West Virginia Humanities Council, The Charleston Gazette and the Charleston Daily Mail and is sponsored by The Martha Gaines and Russell Wehrle Memorial Foundation; Pamela D. Tarr and Gary Hart; the Friends of The Library Foundation of Kanawha County; West Virginia Library Commission and West Virginia Center for the Book; BB&T West Virginia Foundation; Books-A-Million; and William Maxwell Davis. For more information, visit www.wvbookfestival.org.

One month to go

One month to go until this year’s West Virginia Book Festival.

Mark your calendars.

One West Virginia author will be making her second straight appearance at the West Virginia Book Festival next month, with a new novel in tow.

“Shrapnel,” by Marie Manilla, is a multi-generational story featuring Bing Bitler, a World War II veteran from Texas who moves back in with his anti-war daughter in West Virginia. His grandson wants to enlist in the military, and Bing “finds he must now muster a kind of emotional bravery he never knew he was capable of in order to keep the family together,” according to the book’s description at River City Publishing.

The novel won the Fred Bonnie Memorial Award, given by River City Publishing for the best debut novel. The award was judged by “Big Fish” author Daniel Wallace, who said of “Shrapnel”:

We must slow down, listen to each other, particularly when someone’s viewpoint differs from our own — that’s the only time we can truly learn from each other. Marie Manilla does a fantastic job in ‘Shrapnel’ of reminding us of exactly that incredibly human activity.

That’s nice and all, but the blurb that caught my eye was from one of my favorite professors at WVU, Gail Galloway Adams. She said:

Bing Butler is a man attempting to reconcile living between two worlds, and his is a life that illustrates beautifully the contradictions of living. Manilla gives us rich characters who populate the physical landscapes of Bing Butler: Texas and West Virginia. His worlds are infused with memories, and the author is masterful in her exploration of his inner landscapes of grief, guilt, and love.

Manilla, who has lived in Houston and Huntington, will hold a launch party for her book on Friday night at Empire Books in Pullman Square in Huntington, and sign copies of “Shrapnel” at Taylor Books in Charleston next weekend at Taylor Books in downtown Charleston, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sept. 22. She’s going several other places as well, in state and out of state, so check out her schedule.

And did I mention she’ll also be at next month’s West Virginia Book Festival? Well, she will be, signing at the West Virginia Writers booth from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 13. It’s her second year in a row at the festival; last year, she was talking about her short story collection, “Still Life With Plums.”

Review time! “Wonderland Creek” by Lynn Austin

There’s a lot to love about this book, but I may be prejudiced: it features a heroine who is a librarian and who loves reading so much that she eschews everything else in real life.  Not that I can relate.  Ahem.

Anyway, Wonderland Creek by Lynn Austin is a sweet, funny story set during the height of the Depression.  It opens with Alice Ripley, a young librarian in small-town Illinois, getting dumped by her funeral director fiancé when he catches her reading during a particularly boring funeral.  (In her defense, the deceased was a great library patron, and she felt it was a fitting tribute.)  Then, due to budget cuts, the library has to let go of the most junior member of the staff – who is, of course, Alice.  While she would prefer to view this as an opportunity for more reading time, her preacher father tells her she needs to do something.  She decides to make good on her promise to Leslie MacDougal, a librarian in a poor Kentucky town.  But instead of shipping the books she has collected, she hitches a ride with her boozy aunt and uncle (on their way to White Sulphur Springs for the water cure) to deliver the books in person.

Can you guess if things go as planned?  Of course you can, and of course they don’t.  She arrives in Appalachia to a few startling discoveries:  there are no hotels in town, there are no toilets either, and Leslie MacDougal is not a woman at all, but a gruff mountain man.  He receives her donations with pleasure – he loves books, after all – but receives her presence a little less favorably.

Yes.  Mack is a Guybrarian.

You see, Leslie “Mack” MacDougal is something of a rabble rouser.  He is from the tiny town of Acorn, Kentucky (although Alice wouldn’t deign to call it a town), and when he went away to college he got some funny ideas about how the coal mine operators were treating its workers.  So he started writing.  Then, the day after Alice arrives, somebody shoots him.

Alice reluctantly (very reluctantly) stays on to take care of Mack and Lillie, the ex-slave who raised Mack when his parents died.  Lillie has incredible knowledge of natural healing, although her own health seems to decline dangerously whenever Alice threatens to leave.

On the surface, this book is terrible!  These people are horrible!  Alice is spoiled and whiny; Lillie and Mack are manipulative and selfish.  But then…they’re all sort of not.  They all have traits that redeem them, and Austin manages this so subtly that you hardly know you are forgiving their flaws.  Sure, Mack tricks Alice into staying, but then he gets shot and he really does need her help.  And he loves books.  (I might be the target audience for this book…just a little.)  Lillie is probably the trickiest of all, but she’s so smart (without falling into stereotype – which I very much appreciated), and besides, she’s 100 years old and lived through a hundred lifetimes of heartache.

Yes, Alice is a brat, but she loves books (like all good people!), and soon she learns to love sharing books with the very appreciative (and largely illiterate) people of Acorn.  And as she grows from abject horror (they don’t even have electricity) to an appreciation of a people who do for themselves, she doesn’t lose her sassy, opinionated tone.  At the end of the book, she is still the same Alice, even though she has grown and changed from her experience.

This will be Alice, once she quits being afraid of the horse.I don’t know much about Lynn Austin (although I will get a chance to learn at the West Virginia Book Festival in October), and I don’t think she has a connection to Appalachia.  Still, she writes with a real appreciation for the culture and history.  She manages to include rural packhorse librarians, moonshine, music, storytelling, and the Mine Wars in a way that feels completely natural to the story.  She has the same subtle touch with the religious elements of the story – Alice gains a greater appreciation for the mysterious works of God, but there’s no over-the-top-Pollyanna conversion scene.

In short (yeah right), this book is a lot of fun.  If you’ve never read an inspirational book before, but you like lighter women’s fiction with a strong heroine’s point of view, this book is for you.  And if you are a reader of inspirational fiction, the woman on the cover staring off into the distance will clue you in to what’s inside:  a sweet story about a woman whose life changes as she finds herself.

Iconic New Deal photos collected in new book

Betty Rivard

After a 25-year career as a social worker and planner for the state, Betty Rivard became an award-winning professional fine art landscape photographer. When she discovered more than 1,600 photographs that were taken in West Virginia by 10 government photographers on the Library of Congress website, she was inspired to share these photographs and their story. The resulting book is “New Deal Photographs of West Virginia, 1934-1943,” published by West Virginia University Press.

Rivard will speak about the process of creating her book and present some of the most iconic images in the collection during her talk at the West Virginia Book Festival on Saturday, Oct. 13, at 10 a.m. Her program is sponsored by West Virginia University Press.

Rivard has a  photography business, West Virginia Homeplace, and two part-time jobs: secretary for the WV House of Delegates and producer of the FestivALL Charleston art fairs. She lives in Braxton County.

Charlaine Harris, best-selling urban fantasy novelist; Craig Johnson, author of the “Longmire” series of mystery novels; Dan Chaon, former National Book Award finalist; and Tamora Pierce, author of 28 fantasy novels for teens, have already been announced as part of the line-up for the festival, which will be held Oct. 13 and 14 at the Charleston Civic Center. The annual, 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 lectures. 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, West Virginia Humanities Council, The Charleston Gazette and the Charleston Daily Mail and is sponsored by The Martha Gaines and Russell Wehrle Memorial Foundation; Pamela D. Tarr and Gary Hart; the Friends of The Library Foundation of Kanawha County; West Virginia Library Commission and West Virginia Center for the Book; BB&T West Virginia Foundation; Books-A-Million; and William Maxwell Davis. For more information, visit www.wvbookfestival.org.