Monday, October 02, 2006

Kansas Book Celebration in Wichita KS

Is literacy really on the skids today? Evidently not in Wichita KS Friday and Saturday, September 29 and 30. When this first ever celebration of books, authors, the Arts, and Kansas heritage was scheduled, I wondered what the outcome would be. I don't have to wonder anymore because I saw the proof with my own eyes. Kansans, at least, value books, writers, the arts, and their heritage in great numbers.

Wichita author, Nancy Mehl, and I arrived at Lawrence Dumont Stadium on Friday to a crowd of several thousand people. While picking my way through the crowd, I noticed:
  • school children engaged in rapt conversations with writers;
  • adults in electric wheelchairs scooting from one tent to another;
  • people of all ages buying books from vendors;
  • TV, newspaper, and radio crews filming, photographing, or interviewing writers and vendors.

Kansas Governor Kathleen Sibelius kicked off the celebration which had been carefully planned by the Governor's Cultural Affairs Council and Kansas Center for the Book. A diverse group of authors spoke to attentive crowds in large tents. Topics included everything from the archeological history of Kansas to the cowboy life to fiction about American Indians.

Visitors to the event on Saturday demonstrated the same enthusiasm. Independent Book Store vendors seemed to be doing a brisk business selling books. Despite temps in the nineties, crowds fanned themselves while writers entertained them with stories from and about their books. An impressive array of sponsors, writers, entertainers, and vendors pulled off this two-day celebration without a noticeable hitch.

Enhancing this already exciting experience, I was privileged to socialize and break bread with a few of my favorite people. Wichita author Nancy Mehl provided transportation around the city and introduced me to a few new restaurants. We were privileged to have dinner with Tom and Lori Parker Friday night, lunch with Max and Carol Yoho on Saturday, and dinner with Todd and Cheryl Hunter Saturday night. Visiting with a few of my favorite writers was a bonus! (Max's book, The Moon Butter Route, was one winner of the Kansas Notable Book award. Tom's book, Dispatches from Kansas, and Nancy's book, Malevolence, were Notable Book nominees.) I also got to gab briefly with one of my favorite independent bookstore owners -- Stormy Kennedy of Claflin Books in Manhattan, KS -- and to meet Kansas Center for the Book Director, Roy Bird.

Today that weekend celebration is history. I returned home with fond memories of the experience and look forward to next year.

1 comment:

Don Yockey said...

Sounds like you had a great weekend. There was a time that some predicted books would become a thing of the past with the computer age...if the truth might surface, computers have made life easier for the authors ? Glad you all had safe trips. dy

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I enjoy good writing by writers and poets who are not famous. My mother said I was born a hundred years too late. The older I get, the more I realize how right she was.

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