West Virginia Book Festival

Christian fiction is popular with a variety of readers in the United States. According to Library Journal, “a faith-based perspective remains at the core of evangelical fiction, but today’s fans are reading these books not just because of the Christian focus. They also love this genre because it quenches their inner thirst for knowledge, spiritual guidance, and, yes, entertainment.”

Three well-known authors of inspirational fiction will present a panel discussion at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 14, at the West Virginia Book Festival.

The three panelists are:

Tamera Alexander

Tamera Alexander, a bestselling novelist whose deeply drawn characters, thought-provoking plots and poignant prose have earned her devoted readers and multiple industry awards, among them, the Christy Award, the RITA Award, the Carol Award, the HOLT Medallion, the National Reader’s Choice Award, the Bookseller’s Best Award and the acclaimed Library Journal’s Top Pick for Christian Fiction.

Alexander’s first seven novels are set against the rugged backdrop of the Colorado Territory (1860-70s), but she recently began writing about her own Southern heritage by setting two new series in Nashville, her hometown.

“A Lasting Impression,” the first of three Belmont Mansion novels, showcases the larger-than-life history of Adelicia Acklen, the richest woman in America at the time, and the Belmont Mansion in the years following the Civil War. Alexander’s ninth novel, “To Whisper Her Name,” the first of three Belle Meade Plantation novels, will be released in fall 2012, and tells the story behind the most influential thoroughbred stud farm in our nation’s history.

These two Southern series will intertwine, detailing the “real life” history of two of Nashville’s most famous homes and their intriguing families. “A Lasting Impression” was recently named a 2012 Christy Award finalist (an award honoring excellence in Christian Fiction) for Best Historical Romance.


Lynn Austin

Lynn Austin, a former teacher who now writes and speaks full time. Her unique voice and ability to portray compelling relationships have garnered her wide acclaim, including seven Christy Awards for excellence in Christian fiction. Her novel “Hidden Places” has been made into a Hallmark Channel movie. Research for her historical novels has provided Lynne with many interesting experiences, such as volunteering on an archaeological dig in Israel and exploring the mountains of Eastern Kentucky. She and her husband have three adult children and make their home near Chicago.


Julie Klassen

Julie Klassen, who worked in publishing for 16 years, first in advertising, then as a fiction editor, and now writes full time. Two of her books, “The Girl in the Gatehouse” and “The Silent Governess” won the Christy Award for Historical Romance. “The Girl in the Gatehouse” also won a Midwest Book Award and “The Silent Governess” was a finalist in Romance Writers of America’s RITA awards.

Klassen graduated from the University of Illinois and enjoys travel, research, BBC period dramas, long hikes, short naps, and coffee with friends. She and her husband have two sons and live near St. Paul, Minn.

Charlaine Harris, best-selling urban fantasy novelist; Craig Johnson, author of the “Longmire” series of mystery novels; 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; Books-A-Million; and William Maxwell Davis. For more information, visit www.wvbookfestival.org.

The Secret Stars

By Joseph Slate; illustrations by Felipe Davalo

“The Secret Stars,” by noted West Virginia author Joseph Slate, is a refreshingly simple picture book for children. Illustrated by Felipe Davalos, it tells the story of an American Hispanic family’s celebration of Three Kings Day, or the Epiphany.

According to tradition, Jan. 6 is the date the Magi, or Three Kings, completed their journey to find the baby Jesus. Their gifts to the babe established the tradition of giving gifts to commemorate the occasion of his birth.

In this story two children, Pepe and his sister Sila, live with their grandmother on a ranch in the state of New Mexico.  On the Night of the Three Kings the children are snuggled in bed, one of each side of their grandmother. Suddenly they awaken to the sound of icy rain pounding their tin roof; it is raining so hard the stars are hidden. The children begin to worry, without stars how will the Three Kings find their farm and the gifts the family left for them: hay for their horses and figs? If the Three Kings get lost there will be no gifts for Pepe and Sila?

Grandmother swaddles them tighter in their large quilt and quietly tells them stories about the secret stars, stars the Three Kings can use as guides. As she tells the stories the quilt takes flight and they find themselves on a magical journey around their farm to see secret stars.

The next morning they rush to the barn to see if the secret stars did guide the Three Kings. Sure enough, in the barn the hay is gone and so are the figs. In their places the Three Kings left the children candy, and a doll for Sila, and a belt for Pepe. As the children return to the house they notice three sparkling pine trees on a nearby hill. The branches shine like stars and remind the children to thank the Three Kings for their gifts.

The story of the Three Kings is one way to acquaint young children with the varied cultures of the United States and to perhaps minimize the commercialization of the season.

A book we all know turns 400 years old

A King James Bible from 1872 can be found at Kanawha United Presbyterian Church in Charleston. Photo by Kenny Kemp.

In case you missed it this weekend, the Gazette’s Davin White talked to some local authorities about the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible this year. King James I of England commissioned the book because he wanted to unify English Christians of all stripes under one set of Scripture — and because, according to history and religion professor Tyler Sergent:

The Geneva Bible, an immensely popular text that preceded the King James, featured political commentary (by way of marginal comments) that was both anti-Catholic and anti-monarchy.

It’s always about politics.

If you want to learn more, one of my favorite places on earth, the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., just opened an exhibit called “Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible.” From the Folger’s description of the exhibit:

Beginning with tenth-century Anglo-Saxon biblical poems, the exhibition moves swiftly to the dramatic story of the early English Bibles, for which translators sometimes risked and even lost their lives. Rare books, manuscripts, and portraits then tell the stories of the tense conference at which James I agreed to a new Bible, and the four dozen or more top English scholars who created it over several years … A look at the centuries-long “afterlife” of their famous text in public life, literature, entertainment, and the arts takes up the second half of the display

Mingo man authors user’s guide to Catholic prayer

Barry Hudock, author of "The Eucharistic Prayer: A User's Guide," stands outside the John XXIII Pastoral Center in Charleston earlier this month. Photo by Chip Ellis.

Barry Hudock started out writing an academic thesis on worship in the Catholic Church. Ten years later, he’s got a book put out by a respected international publisher.

Hudock has authored “The Eucharistic Prayer: A User’s Guide.” For those who don’t know, the Eucharistic Prayer is the prayer at the center of the Catholic mass (Eucharist is another name for the sacrament of communion, where the priest blesses bread and wine and, Catholics believe, it is changed through transubstantiation into the body and blood of Jesus Christ).

As Veronica Nett reported in the Saturday Gazette-Mail, Hudock said:

“The more I worked on [the thesis], the more I realized the things I learned, they were the things that an ordinary Catholic in the pew could benefit from. … I just kept thinking if all us Catholics [truly understood the meaning behind the prayer] it would make a big difference in our own personal lives, and also in the way we live it out.”

Hudock moved to Mingo County a couple of years ago. He’s the director of two nonprofit groups there: ABLE Families and Christian Help.

The Book Sale Bible

Photo by Chris Dorst

Some of you may remember that during the live blog from last month’s West Virginia Book Festival, we mentioned a 1720 German-language Martin Luther Bible in the collector’s corner at the Kanawha County Public Library’s annual book sale. The Bible was bought shortly afterward, and we didn’t know who got it.

Now we know: Marilyn and Kim Walbe bought the Bible and presented it to First Presbyterian Church in Charleston for their archives. I talked to Marilyn Walbe (as well as Betty Damewood, who’s putting together the First Presby archives) for a story in Saturday’s Gazette-Mail.

This is a version of the “Martin Luther Bible,” so named because it was translated by Luther, the German theologian whose questioning of the Church led to the Protestant Reformation. (You can see the words “Doct. Martin Luther” in red on the title page in the photo up there, about a third of the way down the page.) Luther’s Bible was the first translated into the everyday language of Germans; he also provided assistance to William Tyndale, the printer whose original English translation of the Bible came out a few years before Luther’s German version.

But this particular Luther Bible isn’t German after all; it’s Swiss, printed in Basel nearly 200 years after Luther’s translation. That appealed to Marilyn Walbe, who has citizenship in Switzerland.

Photo by Chris Dorst. Marilyn Walbe examines the Basel Bible.

I did some research on the 1720 Basel Bible — OK, I took a few minutes to Google it — and found references to a couple of other copies, one in a museum in Cincinnati and one at the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society in Pennsylvania (it’s the Lein family Bible in that link).

So next year, when you’re piling up your $2 hardback mysteries and $1 paperback romances at the book sale, remember to take a quick trip through the collector’s corner. Who knows what you might find?