Bookmarks prepares for festival full of best-sellers

Bookmarks of North Carolina held its Preface Party recently at Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA) where over 100 people were in attendance for the announcement of the 2016 Festival of Books and Authors.

The year’s festival will be extended from three to four days, held September 8-11 in Downtown Winston-Salem, and will bring some of the best-selling authors to the area for book signings, meet and greets, authors in school visits, workshops and lectures.

Bookmarks Executive Director Ginger Hendricks calls this year’s festival lineup amazing.

“I’m just excited about the diversity we’re are bringing. The diversity in race, in topics and in genres. I’m very excited that we truly are offering something for everyone this year,” she said. “We believe in giving opportunities to authors who represent all different types of backgrounds a chance to come and speak.”

The keynote opening event will feature international bestselling author Azar Nafisi, who wrote the bestseller Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books. New York Times Bestselling Author John Grisham, author of The Firm and A Time to Kill, will be the keynote closing speaker.

Operations Director Jamie Southern said that the nonprofit usually looks at authors to the festival who have new books coming out or authors who are on tour.

“We’re not New York. We’re not Los Angles. We’re not Atlanta or Miami. But really we don’t want to be,” she said. “What we want to be, what we strive to be, is the best. We’re gaining a great reputation in the publishing world for providing a great tour stop for authors. One where they’re they know they’re going to be taken care of and where they’re going to be met with a crowd of readers.”

This year’s festival is slated to bring a lot of big names for every age range, including Terry McMillian, Kate DiCamillo, John Hart, Karen Roberts, Joseph Bruchac, Jacqueline Woodson, Colson Whitehead, Annie Barrows and John Donvan. While in town, festival authors will visit 4,600 students in Triad schools on Sept. 9 leading up to the free Saturday festival downtown in a Spruce Street area filled with workshops and presentations.

Local author Bonnie J. Doerr is one of those writers. Having published award-winning eco-mystery books for young readers like Stakeout, Island Sting and Tangled lines, she’s no stranger to the Bookmarks scene but says she’s amazed at the opportunities participating has offered her. She started as a volunteer and now regularly does in school visits, complete with tailored presentations and educational guides for teachers, and moderates festival panels.

“The first time I did anything I was on a panel with John Hart, who’s coming this year, and Erica Spindler. I was so intimidated because my first book had just come out,” she said. “My job was to talk about how writing mystery books for young people was different from writing mystery books for adults. It was very nerve wracking but really fun.”

The former teacher decided to take up writing after she retired. She does it because she feels there’s a disconnect between young people and the environment.

“I have a passion for the environment and wildlife. This gives me a greater opportunity to get my books out there so why wouldn’t I want to participate in the program,” she said.

So she was shocked to find out she was a festival author.

“I was speechless for a while. I know people always use the word humbled but I can’t come up with another word,” she said. I’m just doing what is a passion for me. It was never meant to be a career and the fact that someone sees some value in it means more than I can express really.”

This year’s festival has also been marred by politics. Several authors have pledged not to visit the state and some authors have cancelled after confirming due to the highly-publicized House Bill 2, globally known as the North Carolina “bathroom law.”

“It’s upsetting to us, of course, because we’ve always had a commitment to diversity but we certainly understand. I’m so thankful to those authors that are standing by us,” Southern said.

Hendricks said that is one of the reasons best-selling author John Grisham agreed to participate.

“He wants to support the people of North Carolina, so we are thrilled that he decided to come and be a part of the festival,” she said.

Hendricks is sure that attendees will be happy with the lineup of authors who will be there, no matter the age. As the mother of two young boys, she’s most excited for them to meet Deborah Diesen, author of the Pout-Pout Fish.

“We’ve been reading these books for the past few years. For him to meet the author, read the book and talk about those experiences afterwards will be great. We hope other families have similar experiences,” she said. “John Grisham is not someone who tours very often at all and that is a big thing. I’m also excited about Azar Nafisi. I read Reading Lolita in Tehran many years ago. It’s just such a wonderful book and to have her come and talk about the importance of literature and culture is just amazing.”

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CHANEL DAVIS, a journalism graduate from N.C.A&T SU, is a freelance journalist based in High Point whose worked in the industry for the past five years.

FESTIVAL BY THE NUMBERS Bookmarks has brought more than

600 authors, illustrators and storytellers to Winston-Salem in 12 years Bookmarks authors have spent more than 40 years on The New York Times bestseller list Bookmarks authors have written more than 1,000 New York Times, national and international bestsellers Bookmarks author have won hundreds of awards from dozens of countries, including more than 100 honorary degrees, Emmy, Pulitzer, National Book Award, James Beard, Grammy,

PEN, Agatha, Edgar and NAACP Image Awards In 2015, 1384 books donated to students and school libraries, we worked with 50 organizations, and 36 schools.

803 books donated by Bookmarks to date in 2016 – that’s a value of $12,159.58.

11 schools Bookmarks has visited in 2016 that have never received an author visit before 7000 — students Bookmarks will reach in 2016 — that’s a 21% increase from 2015.

Source: BookmarksNC