State book festivals, like statewide author awards, are an increasingly popular activity among state centers affiliated with the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, state humanities and arts councils and other state organizations. Such events focus public attention on state and regional writers, literary traditions and book culture.
The Center for the Book first noted the growth and effectiveness of book festivals as a cultural phenomenon in 1991 when it published "Fanfare for Words: Book Festivals in North America" by consultant Bernadine Clark, which was based on a survey commissioned by the center the previous year. "A Fanfare for Words" described 60 book and storytelling festivals and related events in 28 states and the District of Columbia. Today the Center for the Book's Web site (www.loc.gov/cfbook) provides links to 187 festivals in 48 states and the District of Columbia.
Four of the statewide festivals, each sponsored primarily by a state center for the book, are described below. In addition, several other state centers participate in larger book festivals taking place in their states, including the Southern Festival of Books (Tennessee), the Los Angeles Times Book Festival (California), the Miami International Book Festival (Florida), the Texas Book Festival (Texas), and New York is Book Country (New York). All 50 of the state centers participate in the Pavilion of the States at the National Book Festival on the National Mall in Washington, either by sending representatives to staff the state table or by providing materials for distribution.
Montana. The fourth Montana Festival of the Book was held on Sept. 18-20 in Missoula. More than 5,000 visitors from across the state attended the celebration of northern Rockies book culture, which is now the state's largest-ever literary celebration. Presented by the Montana Center for the Book and the Montana Committee for the Humanities in association with many other national, state, and local organizations and businesses, the festival's featured authors included Tim Cahill, James Crumley, Debra Magpie Earling, Larry Watson, Leif Enger, David Quammen, Annick Smith, Bharti Kirchner, Diane Smith, Guy Vanderhaeghe, Ripley Hugo and Stephanie Andrews Tubbs.
In addition to author readings and panel discussions, events included a banquet honoring the first Montana Book Award winners; a special showing of the acclaimed documentary "Stone Reader: A Movie for Anyone Who's Ever Loved a Book"; a panel discussion on the works of Mildred Walker; a celebration of "Winter Wheat," Montana's first "One Book" community discussion book; an appreciation of historian Stephen Ambrose; and panel discussions on "The Death of the Sense of the Place," Yellowstone as a subject for literature and art, and the "new" Montana short story. Special programming for young adults included writing and performance workshops and presentations on `zines and graphic bookmaking, book collecting and appraisal, book groups and other hands-on events.
Louisiana. "Celebrating Readers, Writers & Their Books" is the theme of the second annual Louisiana Book Festival, which is scheduled for Nov. 8 in Baton Rouge and will take place in the State Library and the Louisiana State Capitol. Events include author readings, panel discussions and lectures with authors Barry Jean Ancelet, Douglas Brinkley, Betsy C. Byars, Frank de Caro, Haynes Johnson, Richard Peck, Julie Smith, Juan Williams and Cheryl Wolverton.
The festival is sponsored by the Louisiana Center for the Book in the State Library of Louisiana and the Louisiana Library Foundation. The 2003 Louisiana Writer Award will be presented to historian Carl A. Brasseaux, director of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette's Center for Cultural and Eco-Tourism, who is being honored by the Louisiana Center for the Book for his outstanding contributions toward preserving and understanding Louisiana's history. The award, created in 2000, honors living Louisiana writers "whose published body of work represents a distinguished and enduring contribution to the literary heritage of Louisiana." Previous winners have been novelists Ernest J. Gaines and James Lee Burke and poet William Jay Smith.
Nebraska. The 2003 Nebraska Book Festival, co-sponsored by Creighton University, the Nebraska Center for the Book and the Nebraska Humanities Council, is slated for Oct. 24-25 on the Creighton University campus in downtown Omaha. The theme is "Books Alive," and events include author readings, panel discussions and a book fair. Novelist Ron Hansen is the featured speaker, and poet Ambar Past will conduct papermaking and book-making workshops.
On the festival's Schools Day, Nebraska state poet William Kloefkorn will make a presentation to high school and junior high school students. Also planned is a screening of the documentary "Stone Reader" and a panel discussion with film director and author Mark Moskowitz.
South Dakota. The first South Dakota Festival of Books was held from Oct. 3 to Oct. 5 in Deadwood. The theme is "Bringing Readers and Writers Together." The sponsors include the South Dakota Center for the Book, the South Dakota Humanities Council, the Adams Museum & House in Deadwood, the City of Deadwood and the Deadwood Historic Preservation Committee. Participants include writers E. Annie Proulx, Leif Enger, former U.S. Senator George McGovern, Vine Deloria Jr., Dan O'Brien, Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve, poet Kathryn Akipa and book appraiser Ken Gloss.