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Bangor Book Festival takes over Queen CIty

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BANGOR - Folks will be transported to places they never imagined when they stop by this year's Bangor Book Festival in downtown Bangor. With 35 Maine authors, poets and illustrators scheduled to present, it is the largest book festival the Queen city has ever hosted.

"We're thrilled with the caliber of writers coming. Every writer who is coming has either lived in Maine or has a significant Maine connection," said Stephanie Harp, a Bangor Book Festival Committee member. "There are some wonderful writers from around the country of course, but we have wonderful writers here in Maine who are getting national attention."

Some of those well-known writers include Paul Doiran, editor in chief of 'Down East' magazine and author of "Trespasser," and Sarah Braunstein, author of the "Sweet Relief of Missing Children." Braunstein was named the 2010 National Book Foundation's one of "5 under 35" fiction writers to watch.

'Only two writers, Sarah Braunstein and another, have ever won the award prior to publishing their first novel," said Harp.

The festival will get underway Friday, Sept. 30, with a self-publishing workshop slated for 3:30 p.m. at the Bangor Library. That's where independent writers will get tips on how to produce and market their work. Then, author Colin Woodard of Portland will officially welcome book festival participants and visitors to the event when he delivers his keynote address at the Bangor Opera House at 7 p.m.

"I'm excited about meeting Colin Woodard. His new book is coming out the day he's giving our keynote address," said Bangor Library Director and Book Festival co-chair, Barbara McDade. "I'm really interested in politics and he says that the red and blue states are nothing new."

Woodard's "American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America" was two years in the making.

"The goal of the book, which argues we are the continent of separate nations, is to provide a way for people to understand how our country formed while it's always been fractured," explained Woodard.

Books, both fiction and non-fiction, are one of the oldest forms of entertainment that folks can still get for free with a simple library card.

"Our circulation keeps increasing. We're really, really busy during the day with people using computers and wireless access and lots of people are checking out books," said McDade - which just proves that despite all the technology available these days, people still enjoy a good read.

"Our book groups which meet at the library are going strong. We have one called 'Lit Chicks' and another called 'Not your ordinary book group,'" said McDade.

But "book group" gatherings are not what the Bangor Book Festival is all about.

"People who have never been probably think, 'Oh it's just people who sit around a room reading,' but these are authors who've traveled around the world. James Babb has a fly fishing book and talks about the outdoors. Susan Conley talks about when she was living in China with breast cancer," explained Harp.

This community event, which is free to the public, will include some book readings and signings by authors, as well as panel discussions, workshops, music and children's events. Some of those events will be held in the library building, others will be held at the Maine Discovery Museum, The Charles Inn, and Bagel Central, which for one day will change its name to "Poetry Central." That's where visitors can meet poets Dawn Potter, Kathleen Ellis, Richard Foerster, Thomas Moore and Dave Morrison on Oct. 1.

"This is truly a city event, not a library event so this is something for all of downtown Bangor and we know people don't want to walk a long way so these locations are all do-able," said McDade.

One event happening at the festival that is generating a lot of buzz is the "Great Bangor Draw Off." Illustrators Wade Zahares and Charlotte Agell, will be at the library Lecture Hall at 11 a.m., Oct. 1, where someone in the audience will yell out 'fish,' 'cat' or 'dog,' and they'll both draw that audience suggestion on the spot, sharing how different two people's interpretation of the same thing can be.

"There will be really fun stuff for kids, and mom can pick up the new Susan Conley memoir on breast cancer called The Foremost Good Fortune,' while Dad may want to pick up the new Paul Doiran mystery," said Joshua Bodwell, executive director of the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance. "When I see 22 out of the 35 authors scheduled for the event are our members, our obligation is to help them gain attention for their new books. This is about supporting our members."

Harp, whose been working hard promoting the Bangor Book Festival, is also hoping for a lot of support from the public.

"We hope people will come from all over to see the wonderful writing we have here in Maine," she said.

Children's author Toni Buzzeo of Buxton can't wait for the Book Festival to begin.

"Maine book writers and illustrators have a lot of fun getting together because we're so spread out all over the state. And I'm so looking forward to connecting to the audience," she said.

Author Ellen Booraem of Brooklin is just as eager to attend the event.

"I think I've been every year, it's a lot of fun. I just love it. They always have interesting topics and it's just run by people who love books and want other people to share them," explained Booraem.

For more information on the Bangor Book Festival, including the full schedule of events, log onto www.bangorbookfest.org.

We asked some of the Bangor Book Festival authors who their favorite writer is and why. Here are their responses.

Ellen Booraem - Neil Gaiman, author of "American Gods" and" The Graveyard Book." His novels have one foot in reality and one in fantasy (my favorite stance), as well as "big ideas" lurking behind deeply realized characters. Also they're funny and a fun-winter woodstove reading!

Colin Woodard - One candidate would be "The Warriors" by J. Glenn Gray, who opened his mailbox one day to find both his doctoral degree in philosophy from Columbia University and his draft papers to fight the Second World War. The book explores - thoughtfully and movingly - what the conduct of total war does to the people who fight it and, by extension, the human condition.

Charlotte Agell - It's hard to pick a favorite author, but one I loved as a child and love still is Tove Jansson. I grew up reading her Moomintroll books in Swedish. Her illustrations are also small treasures.

Toni Buzzeo - One of my favorite children's authors is Karen Hesse. Although Karen wasn't writing her beautiful, carefully-researched and emotionally evocative books when I was a child, I know I would have gobbled them down if she had been. Karen's sensitive and nuanced portrayals of characters from all historical times and geographic places assures her readers that all humans, from every era and location are complex beings buffeted by their circumstances and struggling to make sense of the times in which they live.

Susan Conley - My favorite author of the day is Joan Didion. She was a groundbreaking creative non-fiction writer who wrote essays about arts and culture in California. Most recently she wrote "The Year of Magical Thinking," it's a memoir about the year after her husband died.

Jennifer Jacobson - It is definitely E.B. White and "Charlotte's Web." I loved his writing as a child and when I was right out of college and beginning to teach and write, it was all his books I returned to. It was my way of being mentored by E.B. White.

Last modified on Thursday, 29 September 2011 08:57

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