Write Off the Page

Chippewa Valley Book Festival makes reading a social affair with 20 author events

Tom Giffey

THEY WILL SPEAK VOLUMES. Among the many featured authors at the 20th annual Chippewa Valley Book Festival are, from left to right, Kim Brooks, Kim Blaeser, Art Cullen, and Rebecca Makkai.
THEY WILL SPEAK VOLUMES. Among the many featured authors at the 20th annual Chippewa Valley Book Festival are, from left to right, Kim Brooks, Kim Blaeser, Art Cullen, and Rebecca Makkai.

Reading is typically a solitary act. True, a reader can commune with the mind of a writer via the printed page, but it’s a one-way process. So for readers, meeting authors – hearing directly from them, talking with them, even sharing a meal with them – can be a rare and revelatory treat.

The Chippewa Valley Book Festival offers a buffet of such treats, with 20 events over the course of seven days featuring writers of local, regional, and even national prominence. This year’s crop includes a Pulitzer-winning weekly newspaper editor, a Pulitzer-nominated novelist, a former Wisconsin poet laureate, numerous authors who will visit schools, and more.

The festival, now in its 20th year, “is a literary spectacle for devoted book lovers from Western Wisconsin and beyond,” said co-chairperson Judy Dekan.

Amy Alpine, co-chairperson of the authors and events committee, echoed this sentiment, recommending a range of authors who will be part of the fest Oct. 21-27:

Kim Brooks (Small Animals: Parenting in the Age of Fear, Oct. 24 at the Pablo Center) for parents (and grandparents) of young children. (“As a grandparent I just devoured it,” Alpine said of the book. “Parenting has changed so much in just a generation.”)

Carolyn Porter (Marcel’s Letters, Oct. 22 in Fall Creek and Oct. 23 in Menomonie) for people who enjoy a true story of love and the impact of war.

Leif Enger (Virgil Wander, Oct. 23 in Chippewa Falls) will be particularly appealing to those who might like a second chance in life.

Mindy Mejia (Leave No Trace, Oct. 26 at the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library) for thriller aficionados with the bonus of a Midwest setting.

Art Cullen (Storm Lake: A Chronicle of Change, Resilience, and Hope from a Heartland Newspaper, Oct. 26 at the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library) for the role journalism and individuals can play in change in the world, specifically legislative change.

Rebecca Makkai (The Great Believers, Oct. 26 at the Pablo Center) for readers who like a well-researched story on the relationship between family and friendship.

Makkai will speak at 7:30pm in the Pablo Center’s RCU Theatre in what promises to be one of the festival’s most notable events. Her most recent novel, The Great Believers, which chronicles the 1980s AIDS epidemic in Chicago, has drawn immense critical acclaim: It was a finalist for this year’s Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, was one of the New York Times’ top 10 books of last year, and has also won the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence from the American Library Association, the Stonewall Award, and the Chicago Review of Books Award. Late last year, the book was optioned for a TV adaptation by Paper Kite, actress Amy Poehler’s production company.

In addition to her literary talent, Makkai is a excellent speaker – a skill that organizers look for when booking authors for the festival, Alpine said.

While tickets remain for Makkai’s appearance, some of the festival’s other events – including those with John Hildebrand, B.J. Hollars, Beth Dooley, Adam Regn Arvidson, and ecWIT – are sold out, so be sure to check cvbookfest.org for details. Most events are free and open to the public, but some require tickets, so be sure to check to ensure you can snag a seat in front of the person who may just become your new favorite author.

Learn more about all the Chippewa Valley Book Festival at cvbookfest.org or look below ...