Every few years, it seems, someone comes out with a study finding that Americans are reading less. But not in Charlottesville. In Charlottesville the driver looking down in the next lane over may be texting, or he may be rereading War and Peace. We love our books in Central Virginia, and we love our book festival, the five-day literary blowout the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities throws every March with hundreds of authors in bookstores, libraries, schools, and other C-ville venues where reading is safe and legal. Twenty-thousand bibliophiles attended last year’s festival, many of them from outside the region; 96 percent of them rated it “great” or “excellent.”
The 18th annual festival, five days of mostly free talks and panels designed “to bring together writers and readers and to promote and celebrate books, reading, literacy, and literary culture,” takes place Wednesday, March 21 through Sunday, March 25. Two hundred and twenty-two events are scheduled, fifty-two of them geared towards children. Three hundred and ninety-eight authors, illustrators and publishers will take part.
The celebration begins at 7:30 Wednesday morning at the Omni Hotel with a Leadership Breakfast featuring basketball legend Jerry West, former star of the L.A. Lakers. West will speak about overcoming obstacles, being a team player, and achieving success, and will sign copies of his autobiography West by West: My Charmed, Tormented Life. Individual tickets are $40 and may be purchased on the festival’s website.
Politics and history buffs of all stripes will invade City Hall at 10:00 a.m. for Reinventing the Constitution with Christopher Phillips, author of Constitution Cafe: Jefferson’s Brew for a True Revolution. Phillips will speak about his efforts to engender interest in a new Constitutional Convention.
The festival officially kicks off at noon at the JMRL Central Library in a ceremony with Poet Laureate of Virginia Kelly Cherr, author of 20 books of poetry, including Hazard and Prospect: New and Selected Poems. The ceremony will feature readings from the winners of the state of Virginia’s Letters About Literature contest, in which kids grades 4 through 12 tell their favorite authors what they’ve learned from their books.
Also at noon, at the UVA bookstore, China scholar and Charlottesville resident Wright Doyle, co-author of China: Ancient Culture, Modern Society, discusses the history, culture and politics of that rising nation.
At 6:00 p.m. at The Happy Cook, Sandra Gutierrez will demonstrate recipes from her book The New Southern-Latino Table: Recipes that Bring Together the Bold and Beloved Flavors of Latin America and the American South.
At 7:00 p.m. at the Haven, Music From the True Vine: A Tribute to Mike Seeger will celebrate the late Lexington, VA resident, a multi-instrumentalist whose life was dedicated to the celebration and preservation of old-time American folk music. Seeger biographer Bill C. Malone will speak and musicians Alexia Smith, James Leva, Danny Knicely, Aimee Curl, and Elizabeth LaPrelle will pick and sing in an “old-time” jam hosted by the Charlottesville Friends of Old Time Music.
Thursday morning at 10:00 a.m. at the UVA Bookstore, Andrew Laties and Tanya Denckla Cobb will discuss Food and Books: The Power of Local. Laties is author of Rebel Bookseller: Why Indie Businesses Represent Everything You Want to Fight For—from Free Speech to Buying Local to Building Communities. Cobb teaches food system planning at UVA and has written Reclaiming Our Food: How the Grassroots Food Movement is Changing the Way We Eat.
Thursday at 11:45 a.m. the Festival Luncheon at the Omni features Dr. Edward Ayers, president of the University of Richmond and one of the “History Guys” on the public radio show BackStory. Ayers is on the advisory committee of the Encyclopedia Virginia and is editor of America on the Eve of the Civil War and America’s War: Talking About the Civil War and Emancipation on Their 150th Anniversaries. Tickets are $60.
Thursday noon at the Central Library, the Memoirs: Women on the Edge program will feature Judith Dickerman-Nelson and B. Morrison. Dickerson-Nelson, a poet and educator from Townshend, Vermont, is the author of Believe in Me: A Teen Mom’s Story, about her experience as a cheerleader and honor student at a Catholic girl school in Massachusetts. Morrison’s Innocent: Confessions of a Welfare Mother, tells the story of a woman who was raised to look down on the poor, but joins their ranks in the wake of divorce.
At 1:00 p.m. at the UVA Rotunda, Nobel Prize-winning chemist Roald Hoffmann will read from Soliton: Poems, The Same and Not the Same. Hoffmann is the Frank H.T. Rhodes Professor of Humane Letters Emeritus at Cornell University, and the author of numerous books on science, poetry, and philosophy.
At 8:00 p.m. in the City Council Chambers, Susan Haltom and Jane Brown will discuss the connections between writing and gardening in a program entitled Growing Thoughts: Of Gardens and Writers. Haltom and Brown are co-authors of One Writer’s Garden: Eudora Welty’s Home Place. Moderator Sallie Brown, a former garden guide at Monticello and Montpelier, is a lecturer in American Garden and Landscape History.
Friday will feature Real Estate Weekly’s very own editorial coordinator, Joanne DiMaggio, author of Soul Writing: Conversing with your Higher Self. She and Frank DeMarco, author of The Cosmic Internet, will be at CitySpace at 10:00 a.m.
“Frank and I both have written books that focus on how to access guidance from a higher source,” said DiMaggio. “It’s the same process of tapping into the well of inspiration that writers, composers, and artists have used for centuries. Frank and I have had different experiences using this process, so we’ll be giving the audience a different slant on the same subject based on how we’ve applied the process to our lives and our work.”
Danielle Valore Evans’ debut collection of short stories about young African-American women, Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self, was the co-winner of the 2011 PEN American Robert W. Bingham Prize for first-time authors. Evans will read from her work for the African-American Authors Book Club program at noon at the Central Library.
Charlottesville poet and motivational speaker Rose Williams has written a memoir called Tiny Steps about her struggles and accomplishments as a student with cerebral palsy at Clark Elementary School. Williams will discuss her experience at 1:00 p.m.at the Herman Key Recreation Center.
Kathleen Curtis Wilson is author of Irish People, Irish Linen and founder of Old Abingdon Weavers. She will examine Irish linen through the prisms of art, architecture, technology, economic and social history, and cultural traditions at 2:00 p.m. in the City Council Chambers, The Literary Icons program at 4:00 p.m. at the UVA Bookstore will focus on the life and work of Kurt Vonnegut, Leo Tolstoy, and E.B. White. Panelists will include Charles Shields, author of And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut, Andrew Kaufman, author of Understanding Tolstoy, and Michael Sims, author of The Story of Charlotte’s Web: E.B. White’s Eccentric Life in Nature and the Birth of an American Classic.
The People’s Pharmacy Comes to Charlottesville in City Hall Chambers at 4:00 p.m. as National Public Radio’s cheeriest voices, Joe and Terry Graedon of the popular NPR program, host a live show, taking audience questions about health issues and discussing the latest research and remedies.
Everyone loves a whodunit, and year after year the mystery and crime programs are some of the festival’s most popular offerings. Two bestselling writers, Steve Berry (The Jefferson Key) and Lisa Gardner (Catch Me) will speak about their craft In Crime Wave: The Art of the Thrill at the Albemarle County Office Building at 8:00 p.m.
Poetry lovers can hear three contemporary African-American poets at UVA’s Small Special Collections Library at 8:00 p.m. in An Evening with Nikki Giovanni, Nikky Finney, and Kwame Alexander. Giovanni has written numerous volumes of poetry and received many more awards for it. She teaches at Virginia Tech. Finney won the 2011 National Book Award for Poetry for her fourth collection, Head Off & Split. Alexander has written 14 books of poetry and fiction including the children’s picture book Acoustic Rooster and His Barnyard Band, featuring “Mules Davis” and “Ella Finchgerald.”
Story Fest on Saturday is a full day of activities on and around the Downtown Mall. WVPT will lead a parade at 9:30 a.m. from the Omni Hotel to the Paramount Theater for a screening of a Curious George movie.
Several kids programs will run concurrently Saturday at 10:00 a.m. In Making a Picture Book with Anna Alter at CitySpace, the Charlottesville-born author will display art from her picture books, read from her latest, What Can You Do with an Old Red Shoe?, and lead young future authors in an art project. Valerie Tripp and Fred Bowen will talk shop at the Omni for Writing for Girls. Writing for Boys. What’s the Difference? Tripp has authored many books in the popular American Girl series, and Bowen is a Washington Post/KidsPost sports columnist and author of many sports fiction books for boys.
The winners of the 2012 Book Festival Poster Contest will be announced at the JMRL Central Library at noon, where posters will be on display all week. Oakley’s Gently Used Books will hold a Book Swap exclusively for kids at from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Fifty-five events for kids take place at schools throughout the city and county. “We love engaging young readers,” says the festival’s Susan Coleman, Director of Center for the Book at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. “The kids are wiggly and giggly and excited. We trick them into thinking this is all fun, and it is all fun, but we’re also supplementing the standards of learning with literacy skills reading writing and listening.”
Publishing Day is an annual cluster of events at the Omni for aspiring authors and illustrators.
Robert Goolrick’s debut novel, A Reliable Wife, has been reviewed in the Boston Globe and the Washington Post. In Making the Breakout Book at 10:00 a.m., Goolrick, agent Lyn Nesbit, editor Chuck Adams, and publicist Kelly Bowen talk about their mutual success and plans to capitalize on it for Goolrick’s next book. At 4:00 p.m., literary agents Erin Cox, Deborah Grosvenor, and Byrd Leavell will talk about what agents do and how to find a good one. Vendors will fill the atrium at the Omni for the Annual Book Fair on Saturday beginning at 9:00 a.m.
Are romance novels a source of understanding or just a guilty pleasure? Authors Cathy Maxwell (The Seduction of Scandal), Katharine Ashe (When a Scot Loves A Lady), Kerrelyn Sparks (Sexiest Vampire Alive), and Pamela Palmer (Ecstasy Untamed) will discuss the value of romance novels at Barnes and Noble at 2:00 p.m. in Fiction: Everything I Need to Know in Life I Learned from Romance Novels.
Southern Refrains: An Evening with Lee Smith, Jill McCorkle, Marshall Chapman, and Matraca Berg brings together two award-winning authors with two Nashville veterans to celebrate the South a benefit for the festival. Winner of the Southern Book Critics Award in Fiction, Smith’s most recent novel is Mrs. Darcy and the Blue-Eyed Stranger. Jill McCorkle is the author of five novels and has had two stories selected for publication in The Best American Short Stories. Singer-songwriter and author Marshall Chapman has had songs covered by songs Emmylou Harris, Joe Cocker, Irma Thomas and Jimmy Buffett. Matraca Berg’s new record, The Dreaming Fields, has garnered raves from the New York Times, Rolling Stone, and NPR. They’ll sing and reminisce at 8:00 p.m. at the Paramount Theater. Tickets are $48 and $32.
The Virginia Book Festival is a highlight of the year for literature lovers—and for hotels, restaurants and bookstores throughout Charlottesville as well. Local bookstores provide books for sale at every event. In the first ten years of its existence alone, the festival pumped $2 million dollars into the local economy. The festival is a community effort, presented by the VFH with the help of area foundations, corporations, schools, libraries, businesses, civic organizations, and numerous enthusiastic individuals. It says a lot about Central Virginia.