In Which I Attend Some of the Wisconsin Book Festival

by Kim on October 16, 2010 · 16 comments

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Today I’m in Minnesota for the Twin Cities Book Festival. In order to not get too far behind with my book festival wrap-up posts, here’s the bookish news from the Wisconsin Book Festival, which I went to a few weeks ago.

Unlike years past, I actually got out and attended some events. I’m usually the kind of person that prefers to spend free time in sweat pants on my couch, so this was a big deal. I didn’t take many any pictures, so it’ll just be a wordy wrap-up.

Sandra Brannan, In the Belly of Jonah

When I got back from traveling on Thursday night, I headed over to a local indie, Booked for Murder, to see Sandra Brannan speak about her first book, Into the Belly of Jonah. I was the first person to get there, so got to have some fun geeking out time with Sandra, talking about books and blogging and explaining to the bookstore owner how we met at a blogging convention.

The reading was small — five of us total — which actually made it fun and informal. Sandra told some stories about how she got started writing, what her inspiration for this book (and the upcoming books in the series), and what she’s learned about the book publishing industry. She even shared a story about an almost-tragedy that happened during her editing process, but I’ll wait to share that until Sandra sends me a picture to go with it.

For now, here’s a picture of some of the people at the reading (I’m on the right, and Sandra is second in from the right).

Friday Night Festival of Fiction

The Festival of Fiction brought together four authors for an evening of humorous readings. While the final reader, Gary Shteyngart, was probably the big star of the night, I felt like all of the authors got a warm reception.

Danielle Evans read from her book Before Your Suffocate Your Own Fool Self. She read really, really fast, but I loved the observant humor she used in the short story she read. I got the sense she has an eye for telling details, which I love in an author. I’ll be looking for her book at the library soon.

The second author was Susanna Daniel, who read from her novel Stiltsville. The book is a love and friendship story that is set in an actual place. Stiltsville is a place off the coast of Miami where a group of houses built on stilts  about 10 feet above the water. I never knew that existed! Given that I love novels with a sense of place, I’ll probably look for this one too.

Boyfriend’s favorite reader, and probably mine too, was Samantha Chang, author of All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost. Her previous works are about Chinese American immigrants, but one she read from is a big departure. It takes place at a major writer’s workshop, and seems like a funny look at the writing life. Her reading wasn’t very showy, which I think actually let the book speak for itself.

Gary Shteyngart was the final reader of the night, and definitely had the crowd eating out of his hands during the reading from his newest novel, Super Sad True Love Story. His reading was more of a performance, if that makes sense, with lots of different voices and emphasis on his characters. It reminded me of David Sedaris, in the sense that listening to Sedaris read his work is almost better than reading it yourself. If I picked up SSTLS now, I’m not sure what I’d think.

In general, a really great evening of fiction that I’m so glad I attended.

Harriet Brown, Brave Girl Eating

My final event was on Saturday when I went to go see science journalist Harriet Brown read from her journalistic memoir Brave Girl Eating. The book is the story of Brown’s daughter Kitty’s battle with anorexia, and the family-based treatment they used to try and help her recover.

At the reading, Brown did a nice job of giving context of the story, then choosing passages to read from. She didn’t give away the entire story, but gave enough details so the audience could understand the passages.

The thing that made me decide to buy the book (my only festival purchase!) was the sense of humor that Brown had while talking and reading. It’s not that she was making light of her family’s situation, more that she had the ability to look back at it and see moments of (sometimes dark) humor in her daughter’s illness and recovery. I also love this sort of journalistic memoir, so I’m really looking forward to reading the book.

And that was my weekend at the book festival. I didn’t get to as many events as I would have liked to — Sunday turned into a laze around in pajamas day — but I’m happy with the events I did get to attend.

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