On May 19, 2007 from 10am-6pm, Kansas City hosts its first annual celebration of books, writers and reading, the Kansas City Literary Festival. The event will be held on the Country Club Plaza. Scheduled events promise a day jam-packed with entertainment, book making, interactive workshops with participating authors, author exhibits, and fun activities for the kids. A broad array of brews, fermented and non-fermented, and food will be available at the Books and Brew Lounge sponsored by Brio on the Plaza.
David Ernst, president and founder of Book-A-Friend has been working on bringing this event to Kansas City for several years. The non-profit, which is sponsoring the event, is “dedicated to enhancing the literary landscape of communities through events like this one.” While doing the groundwork, fundraising, contacting the city’s literary organizations and seeking supporting sponsors, he began to seek out individuals to help him make the event happen. As a result of his inquiries and research, he recruited Valissa Smith, a local former broadcast journalist and owner of VSquared Productions, Inc., to act as festival director.
She emphasizes that people, who are considering whether or not to put KCLF on their Saturday agenda, should not consider it a book fair. “We’re doing it more as a celebration. We are well read.* We enjoy good books, so let’s celebrate that. This event is about keeping books in our everyday lives. There’s something very nurturing about pulling a book off a shelf, curling up in a chair and absorbing yourself in a book,” she said.
According to Smith over 60 authors have been invited, but there will be “upwards of 100” when exhibitors and those administering workshops are counted as well. Some of the more notable writers attending are Jennifer Weiner, author of In Her Shoes which became a movie starring Cameron Diaz and Shirley MacLaine, Ted Kooser, former U.S. Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner and local writer Lewis Duiguid, a Kansas City Star columnist and author of A Teacher’s Cry; Expose the Truth About Education Today.
In addition to presentations by various authors, whose works span an impressive range of genres, there will be five stages with featured performances. The mainstage will be where local, regional and national authors present;for the cookbook lovers, cooking demonstrations take place at the culinary stage. A kids stage has been included to keep children entertained with storytelling, musical performances, the Paul Mesner Puppets, music from Radio Disney and more. The Poet’s Tent and the Specialty Authors stage roundout the presentation spaces at the festival.
Although the main event, KCLF, occurs on Saturday, the weekend is full of special events and exhibits. A few are highlighted here:
Date: Thursday, May 17
Time: 5:00 pm Reception
5:30 pm Lecture
Location: Linda Hall Library of Science, Engineering and Technology
Cost: Free and open to the public.
The Linda Hall Library will inaugurate its newest exhibition, “Out of this World”, featuring a magnificent display of rarely seen star atlases from the time of Gutenberg until 1850. Internationally renown author-lecturer-expert on star constellations, Roger Gaskell (Roger Gaskell Rare Books of London) will speak on the exhibition subject matter in his aptly entitled lecture, “Star Wars: Mapping the Celestial Frontier.” A must for rare book enthusiasts and astronomy fans! Call 816-363-4600 for more information.
Date: Friday, May 18
Time: 6:15 p.m. – Reception
Live music by Mason Brown and Friends
7:00 p.m. Poetry Reading: Winter Count
Location: Kansas City Public Library – Plaza Branch
Cost: Free to the public. Reservations are recommended.
Best-selling Celtic singer and songwriter, Connie Dover reads from her debut book of poetry, Winter Count at a release reception and performance. Dover’s appearance is one of the kick-off events for the Kansas City Literary Festival. Dover will join Mason Browne and Friends in their live music with a special guest accompaniment. Visual art by Rich Bowman, a Kansas City resident who provided the cover art for Winter Count, will be on display. Dover will be appearing May 19 at the KCLF on the Poets Stage.
Writers Lunch & 2007 William Rockhill Nelson Awards Ceremony
Date: Saturday, May 19
Time: 12:30-2:30 pm
Location: Plaza III Restaurant (lower level)
Presented by: The Writers Place
Sponsored by: The Kansas City Star
Hosted by: Robert Stewart, Editor-in-Chief of New Letters
Cost: $30/per person. Reserve tickets through The Writers Place. Call (816) 753-1090. (luncheon cost includes a complimentary issue of the journal New Letters)
Crosby Kemper III, Executive Director of the Kansas City Library, will deliver the keynote address, celebrating the Missouri and Kansas literary tradition. Enjoy lunch and honor the winners of the 5th annual William Rockhill Nelson Awards, the best of the best for 2007 in fiction, non-fiction and poetry.
Special Closing Performance: Quixotic Fusion Dance Group
Date: Saturday, May 19
Time: 6:00-7:00 pm
Location: On the Main Stage
Cost: Free and open to the public.
These listings and more detailed information regarding scheduled events and authors can be found on the official website of the Kansas City Literary Festival, http://www.kansascitylitfest.org.
Books will be available for purchase and authors galore present to sign them, but remember this is not a book fair; it is a celebration of reading, writers and the books they create. It is also an opportunity for local literary organizations to promote literacy and encourage the appreciation of literature. Smith stated, “You don’t have to be a book-head or a literary snob to enjoy this. We’re going to have something for everyone. Just come try it on–take it for a spin. We think you’ll love it.”
* In recent years, the “Most Literate Cities” study published by Central Connecticut State University, ranked Kansas City as high as No.14 overall out of 70 cities surveyed and No.2 in library utilization.