With the abundance of talent residing in the Centre County area, State College will be exploding with multiple types of art this weekend for the 46th annual Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts.
The Arts Festival is well under way, with a variety of artists setting up their booths for this weekend’s annual Sidewalk Sale and Exhibition taking over Penn State and Allen Street.
But for those looking to meet some of their favorite local authors or find some new summer reading material, the third annual BookFestPA is the place to go.
Pat Griffith, Schlow Centre Region Library’s head of adult services, said this year’s BookFestPA will feature 28 authors. There will be a Book Tent open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday in the parking lot of the Schlow Centre Region Library, 211 S. Allen St., for people to meet the featured authors, get autographs from them and buy their work.
The BookFestPA 2012 speakers include “Pretty Little Liars” author Sara Shepard, former university archivist Lee Stout, New York Times bestselling author Tawni O’Dell and children’s author Artie Bennett.
According to the official BookFest PA website, Bennett will make an appearance at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. in the Downsborough Room in the library, while Stout will speak at 3 p.m. at the Hintz Family Alumni Center on campus. Shepard and O’Dell will both speak at the State College Presbyterian Church, 132 W. Beaver Ave., at 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. respectively.
When local authors wanted to showcase their work in the Arts Festival, Griffith said there was no vehicle to do so in the festival. Thus, local author Ken Hull approached Griffith and Arts Festival Executive Director Rick Bryant with the idea of putting together an event to showcase authors’ work during the Arts Festival, she said.
And from there, BookFest PA was born.
Griffith said she hopes people will attend BookFest PA even if they have not read some of the featured authors’ work because the authors will tell the stories behind their work, which she always finds interesting.
Stout, the former head of public services and outreach for the Eberly Family Special Collections Library, wrote “Ice Cream U: The Story of the Nation’s Most Successful Collegiate Creamery,” a book about the Penn State Berkey Creamery, which was published in 2009.
Stout has also released “A Matter of Simple Justice: The Untold Story of Barbara Hackman Franklin and A Few Good Women” earlier this year in March.
He said his work stems from his research while working at the library for 35 years and he has been called a “great storyteller.”
He said he thinks BookFestPA is a “marvelous” event, offering community members the chance to interact with local and nationally-known authors, adding he is happy that the number of people attending the event has been increasing since its start.
Stout said having the event during the Arts Festival is wonderful, but at the same time, he hopes that BookFestPA expands into something larger and perhaps to have it as its own separate entity in the future.
“It’s nice to see people embracing local authors,” Stout said. “It’s encouraging people to read, and I’m happy to see people still picking up physical books.”
With a study filled with about 3,000 books, Stout said he believes reading, whether in print or online, “opens up the world to people.”
“That’s one of the great values of high education,” he said. “It takes you out of where you came from and gives you new ideas and new ways of looking at things.”
Stout’s books are available at the Schlow Library and on psupress.org, the official Penn State University Press website.
Bennett didn’t begin his writing career until about three years ago, when he penned the children’s book “The Butt Book,” which was released in 2010. His recent book, “Poopendous!” to Dr. Seuss, calling him his muse.
“I even played around with the spelling of muse to make it ‘meuss’,” Bennett said, adding his spelling of muse was to have it look similar to Dr. Seuss’ name.
When he was contacted by Griffith to be a part of BookFest, Bennett said he jumped on the opportunity. He said he remembers hearing of BookFest when it started two years ago and contacted Griffith with interest in being a part of the event.
Bennett said he is looking forward to “strolling the campus” and visiting Old Main and Beaver Stadium.
“It’s going to be a great mini adventure,” Bennett said of his upcoming visit to State College.
Bennett’s work is available for purchase on Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and at Schlow Library.
Hull is an author and former artist out of Boalsburg, known for his “Going Local” books spotlighting local restaurants and establishments.
As an artist, Hull was involved with the Arts Festival for many years, showcasing his artwork. But when Hull wanted to showcase his written work, he realized that authors and books were not accepted into the Arts Festival for the Sidewalk Side and Exhibition. This is when he approached Griffith and Bryant with the idea of creating BookFestPA.
“There are amazing artists here, but there are also great authors. This is a great opportunity to get up close and personal with them,” Hull said. “If we don’t support local authors, like local businesses, we could lose them.”
He added buying local authors’ work greatly helps them in situations where writing is their sole job and not something they do on the side.
Hull said his dream would be to have authors mixed in with the other booths set up in the Arts Festival, adding books and writing are also forms of art.
Released in December 2007, “going Local!” spotlighted 57 places around Pennsylvania, in which most of them offered to sell his book to their customers. There were 5,000 copies of the book printed, and Hull said the book was sold out in Spring 2011.
“going Local! Volume 2: A Second Helping” was released in late 2010, with a new set of local establishments.
Hull said he enjoyed going to the places he wrote about in his “Going Local” books, calling himself a “beer geek” and “foodie.” He said locally owned establishments and locally-made food are better than chain restaurants, adding the money earned at these establishments stays local and is good for the local economy.
“going Local, Volume 2: A Second Helping” is available on his website, goinglocalpa.com and is also available at the Schlow Library. The library also has a copy of the first volume of “going Local!”
J. Kelly Poorman
Local author J. Kelly Poorman’s work includes “Roman and Jules,” a novel about a straight man and a gay man creating a friendship while working at gay rodeos, and “All the Little Children,” a novel based off of Poorman’s play of the same name about a gay Christian man struggling to have people understand him.
His recent book, “And a Child…,” will be available for purchase during his appearance at BookFestPA.
Released in March 2011, the book follows two high school friends, Hank and Edwin — one raised by two gay men and the other by two lesbian parents — and how they make an effort to protect each other from people who bully them in high school.
The idea for the book originally started with just a few paragraphs Poorman had written about a child raised by gay parents. After putting what he had written away for 15 years, he found it and wrote “And a Child…” within two months based off of what he had.
Poorman said the issues touched on in “And a Child…,” such as suicide and the various types of bullying, were not only inspired by national events but also has local inspiration as well.
When the subject of suicide was touched upon in his book, Poorman originally planned to have one of the characters commit suicide, he said. But after reports of suicides as a result of bullying started to get national attention, he felt he could not bring himself to go with that portion of the storyline.
“After hearing about actual kids committing suicide, I just couldn’t do that to my characters,” Poorman said, adding his characters are like his “children.”
He said a lot of people do not realize that there is a lot of bullying in their own town, and every child should be able to feel safe in school.
A portion of the proceeds from the book earned during the BookFestPA will be donated to the State College Area High School Gay-Straight Alliance, Poorman said.
Poorman’s work is available on his official website, no-urnotalone.com, and Amazon.com and is also available at the Schlow Library.