An Inaugural Oklahoma Festival Celebrates Books, Authors, and Readers
Authors, poets, illustrators, and readers of all ages will convene at Oklahoma City’s Boathouse District on Saturday, October 20 for the inaugural Oklahoma Book Festival. More than 50 writers, including national bestselling authors, will be in attendance at the event, which organizers hope will become the largest literary festival in the state.
Patterned after the annual National Book Festival in Washington, D.C., Oklahoma’s literary gathering will be filled with presentations, author panels, story times, craft activities, poetry readings, entertainment, book sales, and book signings.
Headliners for the festival include David Grann, author of the New York Times bestseller, Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI; Edgar Award-winning mystery and suspense novelists Meg Gardiner (Into the Black Nowhere and Unsub) and Lou Berney (November Road and The Long and Faraway Gone); and illustrator Jerry Bennett, whose clients include Stan Lee, Marvel, Lucasfilm, Mattel and Dreamworks.
Bennett’s participation has attracted the attention of two Oklahoma Star Wars clubs. Members of the JediOKC fan and collectors club and the local 501st Legion costuming organization will participate in children’s storytimes and other activities.
As an event for the whole family, the festival will feature children’s authors and plenty of books for young readers. Award-winning children’s authors include Tammi Sauer (Knock Knock and Chicken Dance), Gwendolyn Hooks (Go Fish and Tiny Stitches), Cynthea Liu (Gus Loves Cinderella and Bike On, Bear), former Governor Frank Keating (Abraham, Theodore, and George), and author/illustrator Hannah Harrison (My Friend Maggie and Bernice Gets Carried Away).
Popular Young Adult authors will also join the festivities. The lineup includes Joelle Charbonneau, New York Times bestselling author of The Testing and Dividing Eden series, Oklahoma Choctaw Tim Tingle (How I Became a Ghost and When a Ghost Talks, Listen), and Alton Carter of The Boy Who Carried Bricks and Aging Out fame.
Authors of hot titles in the news will also be appearing, New York Times bestselling author Linda Castillo (A Gathering of Secrets and the Kate Burkholder mystery series), and award-winning non-fiction writer Devon A. Mihesuah (Ned Christie: The Creation of an Outlaw and Cherokee Hero).
Lead sponsors of the festival are the Oklahoma Department of Libraries (ODL) and the Oklahoma Center for the Book in the libraries department.
Vicki Mohr with ODL said the agency had been approached in the past to organize a statewide book festival.
“This is something that we have wanted to do for awhile, and the time seemed right and the Boathouse District is a unique place for this kind of event,” Mohr said. “We’ve visited other book festivals and we’re working to bring the best ideas to Oklahoma’s event.”
Connie Armstrong, director of the Oklahoma Center for the Book, has had a front row seat at the annual National Book Festival in DC for more than a decade since she staffs the Oklahoma booth at that event.
“We’ve long received high marks from the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress for our successful Oklahoma Book Awards,” Armstrong said. “We’re working to make an Oklahoma Book Festival a premiere literary event in our state and in the region.”
ODL and the Center utilized funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services which helped attract other sponsors for the festival.
Other sponsors are 110 Events, Friends of the Oklahoma Center for the Book, the Chickasaw Nation, Inasmuch, attorney Laurie Williams, author and historian Bob Burke. Love’s, and the Pioneer Library System. Media sponsors are The Oklahoman, Oklahoma Gazette, and News 9. Bookseller for the festival is Best of Books.
The Ida Sutton Williams Tent for book festival headliners will celebrate the many library friends groups and civic leaders who work across the state to promote books and reading. The late Sutton Williams was an advocate for libraries and reading, and a philanthropist in Ardmore. She attended the Texas Book Festival on several occasions and dreamed that Oklahoma would have its own festival one day. Sutton Williams served on the Oklahoma Department of Libraries Board of Directors from 1979 to 1986, and was chair in 1983 and 1984.