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Spring Book Festivals 2000
Andrew Engelson -- 3/6/00
Consumer book fairs continue to attract big names, large crowds and promote literacy

This spring's lineup of consumer book festivals offer some- thing for ever taste, whether you're into children's literature or anarchist manifestos, cowboy p try or Southern crime fiction. Some of these book festivals are only a few years old, while in Manhattan, the august Antiquarian Book Fair celebrates its 40th anniversary. Each of this season's festivals has its own regional focus, although many have extended their reach to authors of national and international prominence. Readers have range of choice in sizes, too -- from the small but ever-growing Border Book Festival in Las Cruces, N.Mex., to the behemoth Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, which entertains more than 100,000 readers every year. But no matter the size, these festivals have at their heart the goal of promoting reading and literacy in towns and cities across America. "We've been able to attract an incredibly high caliber of writers," said Border Book Festival director Denise Chavez. "And that's because of a great outpouring of support from the community."

Oklahoma Cowboy P try Gathering
Oklahoma City, March 18
(405) 478-2250
Baxter Black, one of the country's best-known cowboy p ts, headlines this year's Oklahoma Cowboy P try Gathering, presented by the National Cowboy Hall of Fame. A western-themed book fair, a roundup of nationally recognized storytellers, workshops in cowboy and cowgirl p tics, and a herd of book signings are all part of an annual event that draws more than 1,500 fans of cowpoke literature.

Border Book Festival
Las Cruces, N.Mex.
March 19-26
(505) 524-1499
What began as a small-town book festival in southern New Mexico has burgeoned into an annual multicultural gathering of more than 100 writers. "It's like a plant that began from a small seed and is now flourishing," said festival director and p t Denise Chavez. The theme of this year's celebration is "The Dreams of Children (Ages 1 to 101)." In readings, performances, and panel discussions, authors of both children's and adult books will talk about how childhood influenced their work. "Whether it's fiction or nonfiction, adult or children's books," said Chavez, "we always return to that place of dreams -- as children." Visiting authors this year include Rudolfo A. Anaya, Kathleen Alcala, Gary Paul Nabhan and Victor Martinez, and artist Barbara Earl Thomas. The festival will also present its annual Premio Fronterizo award for Southwest literature to p t and children's author Gary Soto. Plans are already in the works for next year's festival, which will be themed "Ancestral Voices: A Living Legacy."

Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival
New Orleans, March 22-26
(504) 581-1144
There's more to the 14th annual Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival than the now infamous Stanley and Stella Shouting Contest (where contestants belt out the famous scene from A Streetcar Named Desire.). This year's festival, which takes place in several sites throughout New Orleans, will feature a staged reading of Night of the Iguana by Alec Baldwin, Elizabeth Ashley and Stephanie Zimbalist. Other events include a production of Andre Previn's operatic version of A Streetcar Named Desire, panels on women in New Orleans history and a celebration to honor the 20th anniversary of John Kennedy Toole's classic novel A Confederacy of Dunces (Grove). Cooking demonstrations have proved popular at the festival, and this year they'll be supplemented with a panel discussion on food traditions versus experimentation ("Don't Mess with My Maque Choux") featuring food writer Mimi Sheraton. Authors appearing this year include David Halberstam, Sue Grafton, Andrei Codrescu, Toi Derricotte, Kaye Gibbons and Lewis Nordan.

Virginia Festival of the Book
Charlottesville, Va., March 22-26
(804) 924-6890
Reynolds Price, Cokie Roberts, David Baldacci, Lawrence Weschler, Nikki Giovanni, Charles Wright, Sonia Sanchez, Kay Redfield Jamison, and David Wisniewski are just of few of the more than 300 participants in the sixth annual Virginia Festival of the Book. This year, 15,000 readers are expected to visit various venues throughout downtown Charlottesville. An extensive schedule of children's programming is lined up, including a storytelling to promote national Motheread and Fatheread Day. The Small Publisher's Association of North America will sponsor a full day of publishing seminars and discussions, including representatives from Amazon. com, agents, media coaches and editors. This year also features a particularly strong selection of events on Middle Eastern and Arab-American writing.

Small Press Book Fair
New York City, March 25-26
(212) 764-702
www.smallpress.org/events/ bkfair.htm
The centerpiece of Small Press Month, this year's fair brings nearly 150 small and independent presses to the landmark General Society of Mechanics & Tradesman building in midtown Manhattan. Events include readings, bookmaking and printing demonstrations, and a variety of publishing workshops on such topics as the nuts-and-bolts of Web sites and the realities of children's book publishing. This year's Poor Richard's Award for outstanding contributions to publishing will be presented to New Press founder André Schiffrin. In addition, the fair celebrates the life and work of Edgar Allan P , who self-published a book when he was 18 years old. The fair will showcase P 's work and sponsor a short dramatic piece on what the fair's executive director Karin Taylor described as, "P 's whole sad, disappointing life."

Arizona Book Festival
Ph nix, April 8
(602) 712-1256
Bring on the chiptole peppers -- the third annual Arizona Book Festival spices up its programming with the addition of Southwestern-style cooking demonstrations. Also new this year is "Many Cultures/Many Books," a cooperative effort with the Ph nix Public Library to promote vendors and non-English-language books. Produced by the Arizona Humanities Council, this year the festival features more than 150 exhibitors and expects to host 18,000 visitors in Margret T. Hance Deck Park. "There's a real diversity in the events," event coordinator Mike Tabaka said. "You choose a topic and it's there -- from kids' books to exploring alien worlds." This year's author list includes Pam Houston, John Nichols, Diana Gabaldon, J.A. Jance, Simon Ortiz and Rick Bass.

Bookfest 2000
Palm Beach, Fla.
April 8-9
(561) 471-2901
www.pbccc.org/html/ body_bookfest.htm
Palm Beach's 11th annual Bookfest, a two-day festival focusing on Florida authors and themes, will be headlined by Peter Matthiessen. Expecting attendance of between 8,000 and 10,000 readers, the festival has chosen particular themes for each day. The first day, "Florida: Fact or Fiction?" will include a discussion of Matthiesen's novel Bone by Bone (Random House) as well as appearances by Florida crime writers. Sunday events are devoted to the theme "Word into Image," and will include panels on documentary photography, Florida art, screenwriting and children's books.

New York Antiquarian Book Fair
New York City, April 13-16
(212) 777-5218
The reigning king of antiquarian book fairs celebrates its 40th year with an exhibition at the Park Avenue Armory in Manhattan. More than 180 rare and antique book dealers from around the globe will peddle books, manuscripts, maps, autographs and ephemera. In the tradition of the popular Antiques Road Show, a Sunday "Discovery Day" allows paid visitors free appraisals of their most treasured tomes.

Bay Area Anarchist Book Fair
San Francisco, April 15
(415) 552-6355
If you're interested in fighting the establishment, this one-day book festival is for you. The fifth annual Bay Area Anarchist Book Fair, held in the San Francisco County Fair Building at Golden Gate Park, offers displays by 60 alternative organizations, magazines and publishers. Counterculture readers will find a melange of spoken-word presentations, a Video Café showcasing alternative media and eclectic art displays. This year's speakers include folk singer/storyteller Utah Phillips and Christian Parenti, author of Lockdown America (Verso).

Los Angeles Times Festival of Books
Los Angeles, April 29-30
(213) 237-5779
More than 100,000 readers are expected to wander the campus of UCLA during this fifth annual event. The festival again features an impressive list of 400 authors, including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Sherman Alexie, Michael Crichton, Kirk Douglas, Tony Hillerman, Joyce Carol Oates, Laura Schlessinger and Susan Sontag. Admission is free, but advance tickets are now being offered through Ticketmaster for panel discussions and author events to help manage crowds.

Harvard Square Book Festival
Cambridge, Mass., May 15-21
(781) 444-6767
Jane Smiley, Robert Pinsky, Anita Desai, James Alan McPherson, David Dent and Jayne Anne Phillips will all give lectures as part of the sixth annual Harvard Square Book Festival. This week-long lecture series showcases new and well-known authors in various venues throughout Harvard Square. A portion of the proceeds from ticket sales benefits the Cambridge Family Literacy Collaborative.

Printer's Row Book Fair
Chicago, June 3-4
(312) 987-9896
Because BEA is returning to Chicago this spring, scheduling authors will undoubtedly been much easier for the 16th annual Printer's Row Book Fair, which is scheduled to coincide with BEA. Attending authors have yet to be confirmed, but organizers expect more than 75,000 readers to browse over 170 bookstore and publisher booths, attend readings, and participate in family events and children's storytelling. This year, the fair will present its Harold Washington Literary Award to historian John Hope Franklin, author of From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African-Americans (McGraw-Hill). Cooking demonstrations, a collection of celebrity storytellers and a nonstop p try reading tent are all part of the Midwest's largest literary celebration.
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