Authors from throughout the country got a glimpse of how much the community values books when they came here for the Waupaca Book Fest.
“I got into town last night and saw a big library in the center of town and then one, two, three bookstores,” Jacqueline West said.
She made the comment Friday, Oct. 12, during the authors’ reception at the Waupaca Area Public Library.
West, the author of an award-winning fantasy series for young readers, was one of 16 authors who were part of this year’s book festival.
One by one, over the course of several days, the authors were introduced to readers at the schools, at the recreation center, at the library, at the history center and in local businesses.
Many echoed West’s comment.
“This is amazing. It’s so lovely to come to a community where people are coming together to create beautiful things,” author Erica Bauermeister said Saturday in the library’s exhibit room.
As she spoke about writing, she was surrounded by the arful bra exhibit which was reated by many for “Breast Cancer Awareness Month.”
She read from one of her books, Joy for Beginners, and said that other than having children, writing is the only thing she ever wanted to do.
“I love the act of putting sentences together,” Bauermeister said.
Among those listening to Bauermeister read that morning was Lana Prickette, of Shawano.
Two weeks earlier, she learned about Waupaca’s book festival while at Shawano’s public library.
“I went and get all of the books immediately that I could find at the library,” she said, regarding the works of the visiting authors. “I’ve been flipping through all of them.”
Prickette took off of work last Friday to attend the writer’s workshop.
After hearing Bauermeister speak, Prickette imagined hearing the author’s voice whenever she reads one of her books.
“It’s so poetic, almost musical. It flows,” Prickette said.
Inspiring local young readers
Those who visited the schools talked about how impressed they were to see students so interested in reading and writing.
Children’s and young adult authors spent time in the schools on Friday.
Author and illustrator Matt Tavares was one of them.
“When I was your age, I loved to draw. That was one of my favorite things,” he told third-grade students at Waupcaca Learning Center.
Tavares talked about his writing and drawing process.
“I think people who become artists keep doing it and keep getting better at it,” he told the students. “The more you read, the more you write. That’s how you learn the things you need to know to become an author.”
Students cheered when he told those who had written letters to him that he had received them.
The students of Mary Jo Tomaras and Missy Durrant wrote the letters.
Caleb Mullet, who signed his letter “your book fan,” asked Tavares, “Do you like being an author or an illustrator more?”
On Saturday, during a teen panel discussion, authors shared how they come up with ideas for their work.
“My son went through puberty and grew about six inches in six months. I wanted to set a story where a kid had gone through that incredible change and doesn’t know where that came from,” said Geoff Herbach, author of Stupid Fast.
Pat Schmatz has written four novels for teens, including Bluefish.
“When I was in elementary and middle school, I couldn’t figure out the rules of what was going on,” she said. “I read voraciously. That is how I got into peoples’ heads.”
Food for thought
Author Darien Gee lives in Hawaii with her husband and family.
“I’m just tickled by this town,” she said. “It’s so nice and endearing.”
The author of Friendship Bread enjoys seeing how her characters develop over the course of her writing.
“I am a very organic writer, and I don’t always know where I’m going,” she said.
This year’s book festival also included an edible book contest, a friendship break contest and even a cooking demonstration.
It concluded Monday, Oct. 15 with children’s author Eric Litwin performing for Waupaca’s kindergarten through second-grade students.
“It was an amazing program,” Peg Burington, director of the Waupaca Area Public Library, said of the festival.
She said, “I’m sure that Darien Gee, or Michael Perry or Erica Bauermeister or any of our 16 wonderful authors could say that more eloquently, but it is the one word that comes to mind when I think of this year’s festival.”
Sixty people attended last Friday’s Writers Workshop, “proving to me that we are a community of writers as well as readers,” she said.
Of Saturday’s events, Burington said, “Despite the rain, we had strong participation and our community provided its usual Waupaca welcome. The Book Festival took a year to plan, and there is no one person that can take credit for making it happen. This community of givers provided us with not only the needed funds but the extra hands to pull off a truly amazing event.”
She described Friday evening’s authors’ reception as “magical” and thanked the “many volunteers and library staff that transformed the library into a comfortable place for intimate conversation with so many of our authors. We’ve never hosted an event like this before, but I can certainly see us doing something similar in the future.”
Burington said the community should be impressed by the library staff and the Book Festival Committee’s ability to make this “phenomenal event happen. It is my wish to have each of our authors feel honored and respected by the whole city. I think we did that.”
Sue Abrahamson, children’s librarian at the Waupaca Area Public Library, said, “Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a community to raise a reader.
“Connecting readers with writers has been our overall goal in hosting both the last Book Festival and the most recent one.”
She said the buzz of enthusiasm from Monday’s Litwin presentation told the whole story.
“Teachers and students are excited to be learning, to be exploring language and to be setting the stage for life long learning. In the famous words of Pete the Cat: ‘It’s all good,'” Abrahamson said.