Despite threats of war and a shaky economy, celebrating books is still important. The organizers of all of these festivals are committed to bringing book lovers and authors together—and have the track records to prove it. The nonstop activities, master classes, literary stars, publishing professionals, panels, food, live entertainment and record-breaking attendance numbers speak for themselves. This year, the Arizona Book Festival, the Border Book Festival and the San Diego stop of the Latino Book & Family Festival all have new venues and the Printers Row Book Fair and the African-American Children's Book Festival have new sponsors. And all the festivals broke their own attendance records last year and expect hearty attendance this year.
THE LATINO BOOK & FAMILY FESTIVAL
Phoenix, Ariz., February 22—23
San Diego, May 24—25
This marks the second year this free, touring festival has appeared in Phoenix, which is now the first stop on its journey to the country's 11 largest Latino markets. The festival—which began in 1997 as the Los Angeles Latino Book, Culture and Travel Festival—consists of 175 booths in six themed "village" areas: Book; Careers, Education & Technology; Children's; Culture & Travel; Health; and Mi Casita. In the "book" village, English, Spanish, children's and adult books will be featured, with author readings and book signings. This year's scheduled participants include authors Stella Pope Duarte, Tony Sierra, Eduardo Hernandez, Jo Ann Yolanda Hernandez, Mari-Luci Jaramillo and Ruben Hernandez. The Phoenix Festival will again be held at the Phoenix Civic Plaza; the San Diego event is changing venues, to the downtown San Diego Concourse.
SOUTH CAROLINA BOOK FESTIVAL
Columbia, February 22—23
Hosting booksellers, exhibitors, thousands of readers and nearly 80 nationally known authors, the SCBF is in its seventh year. Highlights include an Opening Night Reception and Silent Auction fundraiser and all-day Friday writing workshops for aspiring authors. Ancillary events include festival-related book clubs and library discussion groups around the state; free showings of films based on books by festival authors at the Columbia Museum of Art; and Late Night Readings. South Carolina native Jonathan Green was named the official book festival artist, and he will create a poster with a different print each year: this year's selection is titled "Just Me." Participating authors include Connie Briscoe, Valerie Wilson Wesley, Les Standiford, Jeffery Deaver, Sue Monk Kidd, J.L. Abramo and Walter Sorrells (aka Ruth Birmingham). Among the many panels with a Southern-interest slant are Civil War History; Cornbread Nation: The South's Best Food Writing; Southern Humor; Dixie Chicks; Southern Music; Out of Alabama; and The Art of Courting and Loving in the South.
LEE COUNTY READING FESTIVAL
Fort Myers, Fla., March 8
Last year, 16,000 people attended this free festival which celebrates The Power of Reading. Book signings and panel discussions will feature about 40 authors, including Florida natives. Among the authors appearing are Diana Gabaldon, Salome Thomas-El, Tim Dorsey, Peggy Post, Jonathon King, David Morrell, T. Davis Bunn and Chris Raschka. Children's programs include trilingual storytelling (in English, Spanish and Haitian Creole), a storybook parade, puppet shows, a writing contest, street theater, storytelling and other activities, plus a free book for every child and a free magazine for every teen.
VIRGINIA FESTIVAL OF THE BOOK
Charlottesville, March 19—23
This annual five-day celebration of literacy and literature—also known as VABook!—drew almost 17,000 visitors last year, breaking its own attendance records. Twenty-five of the festival's more than 150 public programs were produced by local organizations, with school librarians, teachers and volunteers coordinating 64 area school visits by authors. A festival favorite from last year, the Crime Wave event will return this year with novelists Stuart Kaminsky, Rita Mae Brown, S.J. Rozan, Peter Robinson and others. In this, the festival's ninth year, Nikki Giovanni and William Hoffman will host the gala authors' reception; other participating authors include Lee Smith, Jill McCorkle, George Singleton, Earl Hamner, Letty Cottin Pogrebin, Hal Crowther, Charles Bowden and Christopher Camuto. Events will take place at the home of the president of the University of Virginia, the University's Culbreth Theater and the Charlottesville Omni Hotel.
THE TENNESSEE WILLIAMS/NEW ORLEANS LITERARY FESTIVAL
New Orleans, March 26—30
This year's five-day celebration—named after the playwright who considered New Orleans his "spiritual home"—will feature master classes for writers and readers with literary stars and publishing professionals; over two dozen panel discussions; celebrity interviews; and several theater offerings including performances of Williams's plays. Noted authors include George Plimpton, Lawrence Grobel, Diane McWhorter, Jim Grimsley, Dorothy Allison, Valerie Martin, Nancy Willard, Richard Kramer, Bebe Moore Campbell and Rick Bragg. Classes and panel topics range from discussions on Southern humor, screenwriting and French Quarter fiction to the mystery and science fiction genres, and reminiscences about Tennessee Williams. Among the tastier offerings are the annual New Orleans Cooks and Books and a return of last year's sold-out wine-tasting, "Tennessee Sips," in which wines are compared to characters in Williams plays. Additional attractions include the annual Drummer & Smoke music event, walking tours, a poetry slam, the Tennessee Williams Scholars Conference and a book fair. The festival ends with the Stanley and Stella Shouting Contest, in homage to the battling mates in Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire.
SMALL PRESS BOOK FAIR
New York City, March 29—30
Literary publishing is the theme of this 15th annual book fair, in celebration of Small Press Month. It will take place at its usual venue, the Small Press Center in the landmark General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen building in midtown Manhattan. More than 200 independent book and magazine publishers are expected to participate, and organizers expect it to top last year's record attendance of 3,000. This year, guests will include George Plimpton, who will be interviewed by Christopher Lehmann-Haupt of the New York Times.
BORDER BOOK FESTIVAL
Mesilla, New Mexico, April 3—6
This festival, entering its ninth year, celebrates literature and the art of story in the southern United States/Northern Mexico border region. Because organizers want to focus on the trade show (featuring national, regional and local presses and writers), storytelling tent, evening readings and the mini Border film festival, all workshops have been eliminated and only a few panels will be offered. Some events are free; some carry an admission fee. This is the festival's first year at this new location, where invited authors include Sandra Cisneros, Rubén Martínez, Benjamin Alire Saénz, Luis Alberto Urrea, Ricardo Aguilar Melantzón, Rich Yañez, Maritza Pérez, Stella Pope Duarte and Denise Chávez.
ARIZONA BOOK FESTIVAL
Phoenix, April 5
Food and live entertainment with a Southwestern theme will be a part of the sixth annual Arizona Book Festival, a free event enjoyed by more than 15,000 people last year. This year, the festival will have a new venue: the Arizona Hall of Fame Museum/Carnegie Library, near the State Capitol. Visitors will meet nationally known and local authors, including Jack Gantos, Kent Haruf, J.A. Jance, Maxine Hong Kingston, E. Annie Proulx and Alberto Álvaro Ríos. On-site exhibitors include booksellers, publishers, libraries, bookmakers, artisans and reading groups. The festival will also host a children's area featuring activities for the younger readers, including stage presentations, hands-on arts and crafts, storytelling and costumed characters.
NORTHERN ARIZONA BOOK FESTIVAL
Flagstaff, April 11—13
Considered one of the highlights of Flagstaff's cultural calendar, this sixth annual festival will be held in Flagstaff's historic downtown and at Northern Arizona University. The recurrent theme of the event is to connect basic literacy efforts with artistic literary endeavors, and admission fees go toward programs of the Literacy Volunteers of Coconino County. Among the highlights: high school students from Indian reservations reading their own poetry; authors visiting local schools and reading at Sun Sounds radio for the blind; poetry slams; poetry cafes; and writing workshops. Authors scheduled to appear include Lee K. Abbott, Elizabeth Evans, William Kittredge, Andrei Codrescu, Francisco Goldman, Jewell Parker Rhodes and Stella Pope Duarte.
SOUTHERN KENTUCKY FESTIVAL OF BOOKS
Bowling Green, April 11—12
This year marks the fifth year of this two-day event, held annually during National Library Week. Its mission is to encourage reading and reduce illiteracy. Last year, over 8,000 attended, and 8,500 are anticipated this year. The first day is Children's Day, when the winners from the "Write the Writer" contest will be announced. Newbery Award-winning author Avi will be just one of the over 50 children's authors who will appear. The second day features adult authors and related events including workshops and lectures; this year over 200 authors will appear, with headliners including David Baldacci, Robert Morgan, Nick Clooney, Cassandra King, Haven Kimmel and Romano Mazzoli. New this year will be the Kentucky Literary Awards, the winners of which will be announced at the "Meet the Authors" reception.
AFRICAN AMERICAN CHILDREN'S BOOK FESTIVAL
New York City, April 12
Last year more than 2,000 visitors enjoyed the Festival, which is marking its fifth year at New York City's landmark Cathedral of Saint John the Divine. The Festival is sponsored by Verizon and produced by Kids Cultural Books (which has presented the Multicultural Children's Book Festival at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., for the past seven years). The theme of the event is to "make books come alive": many of the authors reading will be accompanied by dancers, singers and musicians when appropriate to the theme of the book. More than 400 titles will be available, and authors who will read and sign include Spike and Tonya Lewis Lee, E.B. Lewis, Bryan Collier, Cheryl and Wade Hudson, Patricia Hinds, Tonya Bolden, Gavin Curtis, Jerdine Nolen and Cedric Lucas.
THE LOS ANGELES TIMES FESTIVAL OF BOOKS
Los Angeles, April 26—27
800-LATIMES, ext. 7BOOK
The Los Angeles Times calls this the "big cheese" of literary events: a record 140,000 people attended last year's festival to see more than 400 authors, 95 panel sessions and almost 300 exhibitors. This eighth annual festival, held on the UCLA campus, is free, although tickets are required to attend author events. Authors already confirmed to participate include Mitch Albom, Peter Bart and Peter Guber, A. Scott Berg, Sandra Cisneros, Mary Higgins Clark, Michael Eric Dyson, Elmore Leonard, Stephen J. Cannell, Carol Channing and Scott Turow. The festival will also include the 23rd annual Los Angeles Times Book Prizes award ceremony, to be hosted by novelist and news anchor Jim Lehrer.
CENTRAL COAST BOOK & AUTHOR FESTIVAL
San Luis Obispo, Calif., June 7
Among the expected authors for this fourth annual free festival are Catherine Ryan Hyde and Earlene Fowler; readings and workshops will take place all day. Last year, the historic Mission Plaza in San Luis Obispo hosted readings by Armando Ibanez, Carol Stein Hoffman, Marilyn Meredith, Dan Bessie, Dan Phalen, J. Clifford Barnes and Joel Pullen, as well as a series of readings by local historians.
PRINTERS ROW BOOK FAIR
Chicago, Ill., June 7—8
The Chicago Tribune purchased this 19-year-old book fair in November 2002 and is now the sponsor. A record 80,000 people attended 90 literary programs in 2002. This year even more programs are planned, along with panel discussions, book signings, poetry readings, theatrical performances and storytelling. More than 150 new, used and antiquarian booksellers are expected to set up shop on the five tented blocks of the historic Printers Row district for the event. Although the fair is still in the planning stages, the Chicago Tribune is inviting Midwestern authors and Canadian Margaret Atwood.