Books Readings

BEST FEST: Meet Two Authors Part of This Year’s Book Fest

Jonathan C. Slaght and Maggie Ginsberg talk about owls and empathy

V1 Staff |

Book lovers, get ready to be extremely happy: The annual Chippewa Valley Book Festival – which runs Oct. 11-16 this year – gives readers a chance to meet each other as well as a shelf full of notable writers. With 14 free events packed into six days, there are sure to be countless thought-provoking discussions centering on fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and beyond. The festival organizers were kind enough to share Q&As with a number of the authors who will be appearing, either in person or virtually, AT the festival. For full details on festival events, visit


Jonathan Slaght led a five-year study of an endangered and little-known owl species in Russia called the Blakiston’s fish owl, which led him to write his book, Owls of the Eastern Ice. In his presentation on Oct. 13 at the Phillips Memorial Public Library, Slaght will describe the owls and his project, the adventures and struggles of fieldwork, writing his book, and his ongoing conservation efforts with this endangered species. Registration for the event is required at

If you had to give someone a one-sentence reason they should come to your festival event, what would it be? To learn about the nexus between owls, weirdos, and conservation.

What do you hope attendees take away from your presentation? That wildlife knows no political borders. Endangered species and the habitats they rely on are global resources to be communally celebrated and protected.

What book would you most want to read again for the first time? Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy. This was the first of his books that I read and was wholly unprepared for the beautiful way he could write about terrible things. I often read it only a page or two at a time to re-read passages and savor the experience. I’d never had such a careful and intimate experience with a book before.

What are you reading right now? Crossings, by Ben Goldfarb, is about the (largely negative) impact that roads have on how animals (including people) interact with each other and the landscape, and what we can do to restore some of these broken connections.


Maggie Ginsberg recently published her first novel, Still True, and was awarded the honorable mention selection for the 2022 Edna Ferber Fiction Book Award, the silver medalist for Literary/Contemporary/Historical fiction at the 2023 Midwest Book Awards, and is a finalist for Outstanding Debut at the 2023 Women’s Fiction Writers Association STAR Award. Her presentation on Oct. 12 at the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library will cover how vulnerability forges connections between readers and writers and the merit in writing the “hard stuff.” Registration for the event is required at

If you had to give someone a one-sentence reason they should come to your festival event, what would it be? One day after my novel came out last year, I had the privilege of presenting (with the generous Nickolas Butler as a conversation partner) at the newly renovated L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library – I can’t tell you how special it feels to be coming back to present in the very room where I worked out the beginnings of my nerves and did my first public reading for this book in front of a warm, engaged, highly literary community. 

What do you hope attendees take away from your presentation? How personal I believe so many novels are, and the role we readers have in shaping and shepherding the stories we all share.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be? Novel writing doesn’t require the wild supernatural imagination you think it does, but rather an openness to the real world and empathy for everyone you encounter, especially yourself.

What are you reading right now? How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell, plus my fellow CVBF presenters’ books – some of which are already personal favorites.

Do you have a favorite quote about reading and/or writing? I keep a paraphrased version of Hemingway’s iceberg therapy next to my writing desk: “Know the iceberg, write the tip.”