The Ashland Book and Author Festival

On June 23th from 10 a.m-5 p.m., SOU’s Hannon Library will host its first Ashland Book and Author Festival featuring writers, artists, publishers and readers. I sat down with Laura Baden, one of the Festival’s organizers to find out more about this newest Ashland festival.

Originally from Chicago Laurie Baden has been a teacher, a corporate trainer and a copy editor for and contributor to Book Magazine and Truthout.

EB: What is the Ashland Book and Author Festival?

LB: The Ashland Book and Author Festival will be a Festival of books, poetry, authors doing live readings and meeting their readers, people who we are calling “Local Stars” or “Notable Readers” from our community will talk about their favorite books, including Mayor John Stromberg, SOU President, Mary Cullinan, Little League Coach, Zach Edwards, Jazz master, Bill Leonhart, retired Reverend Ann Bartlett, OLLI lecturers Wolf Hoppe, Barbara Hopfinger, Alan Journet, host of JPR’s Musical Meander show, and Kathleen Gamer, of SOU’s United Nations Club.

For families and children, there will be story readings and a special review of books for Middle School children with Janis Mohr-Tipton of Jackson County Public Libraries. There will be special topic panels on publishing, health and wellness, and one with award-winning crime fiction writers including Tim Wohlforth and Bobby Arellano. We’ll have live readings of Shakespeare’s poetry, music and some beautiful art books, letterpress art, and book designs on display–all kinds of activities that will bring the written word to life. It will be fun!

EB: Who’s sponsoring the event?

LB: ABAF 2012 is sponsored by the Friends of Hannon Library, an organization whose mission is to assist the library in acquisitions that may be needed to enrich the regular collection, or special reference books that cannot be covered by the regular University budget for the library. Co-sponsoring is S.M.A.R.T., (Start Making a Reader Today), a group that promotes literacy and reading fluency with pre-K through third graders. They will be at the festival doing story readings for younger children and families followed by a special children’s tour of the library. We want to encourage future readers to be part of the day.

EB: And who’s organizing everything?

LB: The idea of hosting a festival came up a board meeting of the Friends of Hannon Library. I had missed that meeting, and when I returned, I was asked by the President of the board, if I’d be interested in organizing this event. I jumped at it. I thought it was a great idea. I knew the Hannon was a perfect venue–and to have the use of whole building, with its beautiful space, art gallery area, meeting rooms, children’s area was fantastic. I had some experience organizing small festivals for students and families when I was director of the community music school of the Lake Forest Symphony near Chicago. And the Dean of the Hannon library, Paul Adalian, was equally enthusiastic about hosting the Festival, so, with his support, our team was off and running.

EB: What’s the goal of the Festival?

LB: The Friends of Hannon’s goal is to sign up new members. One of the big benefits of membership, by the way, is full check-out privileges from the circulation library. The Friends also host a lecture series throughout the year and an annual meeting with a special guest speaker. This year it was Shirley Patton, who spoke of her life in theater to a standing room only house!

My personal goal is to bring together as many facets of our community as possible. That’s why we have the Notable Readers panel. Books and reading are part of all of our lives. And the Festival, to me, should be like the ones in Europe, where the whole community comes together for a celebration around, for us, BOOKS!

EB: Is there an admission fee?

LB: There is no fee to attend. It is free and open to the public.

For exhibitors and authors, it is free until May 19, when there will be a $25 registration fee. Also, there will be free parking, since it will be the week after graduation. The easiest way will be to come up Mountain Avenue and turn left on Ashland Street and park in one of the lots there, and just walk to the end of Ashland Street which becomes the entrance to the library.

We were very happy that RVTD started Saturday bus service. Now, OSF tourists can also come by just getting on the bus at the Plaza and riding to the campus stop just past Mountain Avenue and then walk up to the library. We’ll have signs and chalk directions on the sidewalks to guide them to the Hannon. The cafe at the entrance to the Hannon will be open for most of the day with espresso drinks and sandwiches and soft drinks, so that will be convenient, especially for the authors.

EB: How can authors, bookstore and publishers get involved?

LB: We have a web site where they can all sign up to participate. We have already approached all of the local publishers, Willamette Writers, a few poetry groups, the Ashland Mystery group and the local bookstores. You can look at the “Participants” tab on the website and see who is signed up already.

EB: What are you looking forward to most?

LB: As I said, I am looking forward to seeing all kinds of folks show up for this festival. It will be interesting to see how it all comes together with all the layering of activities. I have been to the Printer’s Row Book Festival in Chicago, the ABA Show, NYC Public Library Book events, the MLA, and I’m hoping to recreate that on a smaller scale here in Ashland.

We are hoping to build from our first Festival, and maybe in the future have discussions of new, contemporary writing, or mining the Southern Oregon Digital Archives, which is housed at the Hannon, full of First Nations’ history and narratives. There is already a lot of enthusiasm for future ABAFs at the Hannon Library. This one on June 23rd is going to be a lot of fun for readers, writers, book artists, and book lovers of ALL ages! Come and see!

About Ed Battistella

Edwin Battistella’s latest book Dangerous Crooked Scoundrels was released by Oxford University Press in March of 2020.
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