Southeastern Wisconsin Festival of Books

Barbara Vey -- June 18th, 2012

This weekend the Southeastern Wisconsin Festival of Books was held for the third time.  I’d love for this little book fest to grow into something big and fun, but I think the idea of a Friday/Saturday gig is not so great.  Why not have it Saturday/Sunday when the majority of people can attend?  Just a suggestion.

I moderated two panels on Friday afternoon.  Both were terrific and fun, but unfortunately not at the best time and with six other workshops at the same time vying for an audience, it spread everyone a bit thin.  It was a shame too because the authors had terrific things to say.


J.R. Turner, Elizabeth, David Thome, B.A. Binns

J.R. Turner, Elizabeth Ridley, David Thome, B.A. Binns

Romance With a Twist featured B.A. Binns, Elizabeth Ridley, David Thome and J. R. Turner.  It was a lively discussion made entertaining with David Thome on the panel.  His focus seemed to be on the fact that he is a male writing romance and is that an acceptable thing.  But mainly it seemed like he wanted to talk about Fifty Shades of Grey (yes, everyone groaned at this point).   One of the questions was “With the popularity of fantasy, paranormal, and supernatural elements in romance today, how much romance does a book need to have to be considered a romance?”   The authors pretty much agreed that there is no set percentage.  It was felt that it depended on the publisher.  One author told how her story was deemed not romantic enough by one publisher, while another thought it too romantic.  I guess the same applies to readers.   Some of us like a lot and others like a little.  It’s up to the author to put out the best story that fits each situation.


The second panel I moderated was Make Room for Romance with Adrienne Giordano, Sherill Bodine, Tracey Devlyn.  Because of the audience, this panel talked more about the process of writing the book.  One of the questions was “What is my favorite part of the book writing process?”  Everyone seemed to enjoy the research element.  Discovering new things they didn’t know before.  But they all took different roads to get their books finished.  Adrienne appears to be the more outline kind of writer while Tracey admits to writing by the seat of her pants.  She admits that at times she’s not sure where the story is going.  Sherill is very old school, preferring to hand write her stories in notebooks and then transferring them to the computer.

The book signings are held after each workshop and unfortunately on dead end corridors.  I felt bad for the authors seated in such out of the way places.  I wish they would do a huge book signing in a large room a la RWA (Romance Writers of America), where readers could wander the aisles and stop and chat with the authors.  As it is, one would have to come to each event to see every author and get a signed book.  Two full days is a big commitment for that.

There was an author cocktail party held in the library with guest speakers Tawni O’Dell and an interview with Jean Feraca of Wisconsin Public Radio.

Saturday, the Mystery Writers of America held their MWA University.  For an additional fee, aspiring writers could sit in on workshops to help hone their craft.  It was open to the public.

There really was something for everyone with a Cookbook Stage that offered cooking for kids, with cheese and gardens with Jane Austin.  Poetry, literary books, children’s writers and illustrators and a discussion about challenged and censored books.  There was even a concurrent event for teens and tweens.

I think local book festivals are wonderful and have so much to offer.  I just wonder how much the time of the year they have them has to do with attendance.  Summers in Wisconsin are so short and everyone seems to want to be outside when the weather is beautiful.  Would it make a difference to have it in the fall?  Or is it because of the location (UW-Waukesha) that makes it harder because of school being in session at that time.  Just some things to think about.

Bottom Line:   Support your local Book Festivals.  “We read to know we are not alone.” ~ C. S. Lewis

34 thoughts on “Southeastern Wisconsin Festival of Books

  1. Beverly Diehl

    Well, I hope this little 3-year old sprout keeps growing, because I’d love to come participate some day. I think any new “event” takes time and support to really find its legs, and I would love to come home to Milwaukee some year and be a part of it.

  2. Anne Norup

    I really agree that author signings should all take place at one time in a large room where all the authors are easily accessible. This just makes sense! It’s easier for both authors AND consumers. Hope conference/festival planners listen to you!

  3. Stephanie Scott

    I attended last year from the Chicago area — thanks to your blog that promoted it! I met some great authors, but I agree with all your comments on the organization of the event. If all authors signed in the central lobby with the book fair, that would make more sense. Also, for such a small festival it doesn’t make sense to schedule that many panels at the same time. Two or three at the same time on varied topics (YA vs. romance readers forum vs. mystery writers for example).

    RWA knows how to hold a conference; I hope your insights can help them. Some simple changes with layout and planning might help their event become more successful.

  4. Susan Carlisle

    I handle the booksigning for the GA Romance Writers confernce and I’m always interested in how others do their events. I’ll certainly keep your views in mind when setting things up in October.

  5. Debbie Kaufman

    Hey Barbara: I see your point about the weekend. The culture of the South is such that it wouldn’t work as well here. It was only recently that we started having children’s sports practices on Wednesday evenings and Sundays. It was quite the controversy where I live since those are considered “church days” and were held “sacred” for only those activities. (No, really not kidding.)

    Having just booked LA airfare, what I want now is an event that allows me to fly on the cheapest days of the week, and Sunday isn’t one of them! So your idea would work-fly back out on Monday after it is over. :)

  6. Dave Thome

    Nice write-up of a particularly satisfying conference. I guess 50 Shades did come up a few times during the Romance With a Twist panel, but sexy content is a big issue in romance these days, and 50 Shades seems to set some kind of bar. I think B.A. said it best, though, when she asked, “Are we talking about sex, or romance?” One thing’s for sure: Next time I’m on a panel, I’ll talk more about my own book, Fast Lane, than on 50 Shades or whatever.

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