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Fox Cities Book Festival has events for all ages, interests

Jericho Brown

Jericho Brown

From photography to a Mini Comic-Con, the 2015 Fox Cities Book Festival is hosting events and authors across all genres. The Fox Cities Book Festival runs now until April 26, and events are hosted at many local libraries, schools, museums and coffee shops. The full schedule for the festival is available online at foxcitiesbookfestival.org.

This year’s festival will again focus on connecting writers and readers, with many opportunities to meet and hear readings from the authors themselves. The authors come from many different genres and subject matter, and this too is an attempt to communicate with a wide scope of readers. “We really tried to cover all the reading genres … there’s something for everyone,” says Vicki Lenz, director of the Elisha D. Smith Public Library in Menasha, as well as the chair for the festival’s Authors Committee. Colette Lunday Brautigam, also on the board for the Fox Cities Book Festival, says that they choose the authors with the Fox Cities community in mind. “If people are asking for something we try and find an author that would work, and that goes back to our mission of connecting writers to readers and readers to writers,” she says.

A quick glimpse through the biographies of the authors for this year’s festival shows the breadth of the subject matter. There are books about poetry, sports, photography, history, science fiction, haunted Wisconsin and more. John Jackson Miller, for example, is the author of several award-winning and bestselling Star Wars novels, and he will be featured at the Mini Comic-Con at the Appleton Public Library Saturday.

Lenz also emphasizes that this year’s festival has a special connection with poetry. The Fox Cities Book Festival itself was the creation of the first Wisconsin Poet Laureate Ellen Kort who began the festival in 2008. Several of the events this year focus on poetry. The festival features the award-winning poet Jericho Brown, who explores masculinity, sexuality, religion and race in his poetry, as well as an appearance from Wisconsin Poet Laureate Kimberly Blaeser. Both will be part of the Writers’ and Poetry Day at the ATLAS  WaterFront Cafe & Gathering Room on Saturday. Later in the day, the Poetry Slam at Copper Rock Coffee will feature the work of many local poets as well as invite audience participation.

The festival also will participate in Earth Day, which falls on Wednesday, with a variety of activities and environmentally conscious authors at the Fox River Environmental Alliance, Appleton, as well as other locations.

Each year, the festival also chooses one book for their Fox Cities Reads, and this year’s selection is “Orphan Train” by Christina Baker Kline. The book chronicles the lives of orphans who were moved from over-crowded cities to be dropped off at different organizations who sometimes attempted to find homes for the children, but often hired the orphans out into poor working conditions. Between 1853 and 1929, 250,000 children were transported on these trains. Lunday Brautigam notes that this book has “an interesting connection to Wisconsin” as the orphan trains went through Wisconsin.

Nickolas Butler Photo credit: Olive Juice Studio

Nickolas Butler
Photo credit: Olive Juice Studio

These few authors do not begin to cover the amount of talented individuals being brought to the Fox Cities for the book festival. Lunday Brautigam says that she is especially excited for the author Crystal Chan, who wrote “Bird,” a book about growing up mixed-race in the Midwest. She also looks forward to the photography panel on Friday at 5 p.m., which features Kevin Miyazaki and Travis Dewitz. Miyazaki was recently on Wisconsin Public Radio speaking about his book “Perimeter,” and Dewitz is the photographer behind the book “Blaze Orange: Whitetail Deer Hunting in Wisconsin.” “It’s an example of the diversity we have,” says Lunday Brautigam. Lenz says that she is particularly excited for Nickolas Butler, whose book “Shotgun Lovesongs” is about a small Wisconsin town. Lenz remarks that Butler is “one of the best of the best.”

The Fox Cities Book Festival is an impressively diverse undertaking, and the festival itself is run completely on a volunteer basis. Lenz describes it as a “complete community effort.” If you’re interested in being part of this incredible organization, visit their website for more information about getting involved. In the meantime, check out the full schedule online — there is sure to be something for everyone.

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