2007 Kansas Book Festival

The 2007 Kansas Book Festival was held Oct. 5 to Oct. 6 at Koch Arena on the campus of Wichita State University.

The festival was a joint presentation of the Governor’s Cultural Affairs Council, the State Library of Kansas, the Kansas Center for the Book, the Kansas Historical Society, Wichita Public Library, Kansas Arts Commission, and the Kansas Humanities Council.

The 2007 Festival benefited the State Library’s Statewide Summer Reading Program, which reaches 80,000 children through public libraries in 400 Kansas communities every year. This marked the festival’s second year.

Featured youth literature authors included: Polly Basore, All Is Bright; Alice Bertels, John Steuart Curry: The Road Home; George Brandsberg, AFOOT: A Tale of the Great Dakota Turkey Drive; Christie Breault, Logan West, Printer’s Devil; Michael Buckley, “The Sisters Grimm” series; Beverley Olson Buller, The Story of William Allen White; Ally Carter, Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy; J. B. Cheaney, The Middle of Somewhere; Shane Evans, When Gorilla Goes Walking; Randi Hacker, Life As I Knew It; L. D. Harkrader, Airball: My Life in Briefs; Cheryl Harness, The Remarkable Rough-Riding Life of Theodore Roosevelt and Just for You to Know; Kimberly Willis Holt, Piper Reed: Navy Brat; Richard W. Jennings, Ferret Island; Stephen T. Johnson, Alphabet City, My Little Yellow Taxi, and Tour America; Jane Kurtz, What Columbus Found (It Was Orange, It Was Round); Cynthia Leitich Smith, Tantalize and Santa Knows; Greg Leitich Smith, Ninjas, Piranhas, & Galileo and Santa Knows; Justin Matott, Go Ask Mom: Stories From the Upper Bunk; Brandon Mull, The Candy Shop War and the “Fablehaven” series; Susanna Pitzer, Not Afraid of Dogs; Tim Raglin, The Curse of Catunkhamun; Dian Curtis Regan, Princess Nevermore and Cam’s Quest; Lois Ruby, Shanghai Shadows; Brad Sneed, The Boy Who Was Raised by Librarians; Roderick Townley, The Red Thread; and Richard Uhlig, Last Dance at the Frosty Queen.

Greg and I arrived Friday night, and so we attended only the Saturday program. In the morning, we presented Santa Knows, illustrated by Steve Bjorkman (Dutton, 2006) in the Read Me A Story Tent. In the afternoon, we presented Rain Is Not My Indian Name (HarperCollins, 2001), which is set in northeast Kansas, Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007), and Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo (Little Brown, 2003) in the Read A Latte Lounge, and later I participated in the closing “Kansas on the Literary Map” panel with authors Don Coldsmith, Antonya Nelson, and Nancy Pickard in the arena. Our moderator was Cyndi Hughes, former director of the Texas Book Festival, and a consultant to Kansas.

Our busy schedule included signings after each presentation. Book sales were brisk, and we were wowed by the efforts–hand-selling, author relations, humor–of Town Crier Bookstore of Emporia, Kansas.

All of this excitement (and meeting escorts a half hour before each event) left little time for watching other author presentations. However, we did catch the second half of debut author Richard Uhlig‘s session. He talked about his path to writing YA fiction, landing a two-book deal with Knopf, and launching his first novel, Last Dance at the Frosty Queen (excerpt), in his home town. In the discussion that followed, he and a local librarian talked about the need for YA literature that reflects the full diversity of the small-town experience (beyond football and the popular kids) and noted that not every boy reader is a sports fan.

Although I was awaiting escort in the green room, Greg had the good fortune to hear J. B. Cheaney speak, and she was kind enough to attend and ask questions at our second presentation. Her latest release is The Middle of Somewhere (Knopf, 2007)(book talk). Read a Cynsations interview with J.B.

Other highlights included meeting Elizabeth Kennedy of the Guide to Children’s Books and a Friday night dinner with author Kimberly Willis Holt and Pulpwood Queen Kathy L. Patrick of Beauty and the Book. See Spookycyn for the behind-the-scenes story of the trip and GregLSBlog for Greg’s report.

What I remember most, though, is a comment that Don Coldsmith made about Kansas’ proud literary history. He spoke about the majesty and sometimes eeriness of the plains, how you feel so exposed, like anything can happen. He talked about the peacefulness of it, how you can stretch your eyes and see your neighbors miles away. This weekend, I stretched my eyes and saw Kansas anew. Thanks to all for your efforts!