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Reading Festical turns 20

By Staff | Feb 7, 2019

This year’s Southwest Florida Reading Festival will feature nearly 20 authors, as well as special events to highlight the event’s 20th year.

The free festival is set for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, March 2, at the downtown Fort Myers Regional Library campus with a variety of previews beginning next week at libraries across the county and a pair of fundraisers before and after.

“It is super important for us to celebrate reading and promote literacy in the community,” said Manager of Programming and Community Outreach for the Library System Melissa Baker.

The festival held annually to celebrate reading is an exciting event for families to enjoy, Baker said.

“Twenty years is a big milestone for us. It’s a growing festival for the community. It’s a familiar festival that everyone looks forward to,” she said.

Planning for the festival is a pretty large task for the Author Committee chairs who pretty much work throughout the year lining up authors for the event.

“We do it the old-fashioned way. We ask and see who is available,” Baker said of emailing publishers, receiving recommendations from authors and establishing relationships.

In addition to adult and teen authors, the festival also welcomes children authors.

One of the young authors this year will be 11-year-old Hilde Lysiak, who is the publisher of the Orange Street News, a paper that has more than 700 paid subscribers. She is also an author of the series “Hilde Cracks the Case,” which she writes with her dad, Matthew Lysiak.

“She may be the youngest author we have ever had,” Baker said. “She is a child author and journalist. She is a really cool author to have in our lineup.”

New to the festival this year is a audiobook narrator. Johnny Heller has narrated more than 700 audiobooks.

“He is going to be a fun presenter at the festival,” she said.

Also new this year will be the food trucks along First Street during the festival.

“There will be the traditional book signings and author talks, (but) one thing that is new is having a variety of food trucks,” she said.

Options will include barbecue, Mexican street food, American and vegan fare and cupcakes.

“It will be fun for the crowd,” Baker said.

Every child and teen who attends the festival will receive a free book.

Baker said that is something they are especially proud of – offering brand new reading material for the kids who show up to the festival.

“We plan to give away 3,000 to 4,000 books,” she said.

Typical attendance includes 3,000 or more youths.

A free book is also provided during the library’s summer reading program. Almost 12,000 readers received a free book this past summer.

“We do support reading in the community,” Baker said. “It is really important to provide a book for those kids. For some kids it may be the only book they own, or first book they are given.”

They want to spark the light and interest of reading, so children will continue to visit the library and find new materials.

“We want to ignite that life-long love of reading and passion of books,” Baker said.

The festival will also promote electronic resources the library provides to its patrons. Demonstrations will be held at the festival to showcase what kind of e-resources they provide.

“Come in and check out all the tech gadget options we have at the library these days,” she said. “Come out to the Reading Festival and see what the library is all about and celebrate reading.”

Baker encourages everyone to visit www.readfest.org to see the author line-up, as well as view what is taking places at the branches. She said other author visits are taking place in an effort to spread out the festival over the course of a few weeks.

The Fort Myers Regional Library campus is at 2450 First Street.

Previews at local libraries

Lee County Library System will offer Branch Preview Events to kick off the Southwest Florida Reading Festival beginning next Friday in Lehigh Acres.

Preview programs include:

* Local Author Talk: The Haunted Summer of 1816

11 a.m. Friday, Feb. 15

East County Regional Library

881 Gunnery Road, Lehigh Acres

Local author Marty Ambrose will discuss her latest novel “Claire’s Last Secret,” surrounding the private circle of Lord Byron and Mary Shelley.

* A Conversation with Local Authors

1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23

Cape Coral Lee County Public Library

921 SW 39th Terrace, Cape Coral

Spend an engaging afternoon with:

– Lisa Black: Mystery/thriller writer, forensic expert

-Sara Williams: Mystery and suspense novelist

-Marta Elva: Novelist and TV/film producer

– Amy Bennett Williams: Local history author, essayist, journalist and editor

Learn more about these authors and their writing as they participate in a panel discussion and take your questions during a Q&A session. The authors will sell and sign books after the program. No registration required.

* Meet ‘n’ Greet for Teens

3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23

Cape Coral Lee County Public Library

921 SW 39th Terrace, Cape Coral

Meet local authors Jamie Ayres and Trish Doller. These young adult fiction writers will discuss their books and careers and then answer audience questions. The authors will sell and sign books after the program. No registration required.

* Meet Author Alyson Richman

2 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 26

Lakes Regional Library

15290 Bass Road, Fort Myers

Alyson Richman is the international bestselling author of numerous novels, including her newest release “The Secret of Clouds,” along with “The Velvet Hours,” “The Garden of Letters” and “The Lost Wife,” which is currently in development for a major motion picture. Find out more at www.alysonrichman.com. This author presentation and book signing is sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Lee and Charlotte Counties.

* Meet Audiobook Narrator Johnny Heller

-11 a.m. Friday, March 1

South County Regional Library

21100 Three Oaks Parkway, Estero

-3 p.m. Friday, March 1

Cape Coral Lee County Public Library

921 SW 39th Terrace, Cape Coral

Johnny Heller is one of the most sought-after audiobook narrators in the country. He is the voice of over 700 titles for adults, teens and children and has won numerous national awards. In this lively presentation, Johnny will share stories from his career in audiobook creation and narration. He will also take questions from the audience.

Fund raisers

To do something special for the 20th anniversary of the Reading Festival, will they will hold meet-the-authors river cruise. The Evening with the Authors river cruise will be aboard the Capt. JP, 1300 Hendry St., Fort Myers, from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Friday, March 1.

A little fun will be added to the cruise with a special raffle drawing – a chance to name a character in an upcoming Peter Swanson boo, Baker said. Raffle tickets are one for $10, three for $20, 10 for $50 and 25 for $100.

“We will be drawing for that winner on the boat that evening,” Baker said.

Tickets are $75, They can be purchased at www.ReadFest.org until midnight, Feb. 24. Raffle tickets may also be purchased in advance and the winner need not be present to win. Visit readfest.org/events/ for more details.

The day after the festival, a special brunch will be held featuring authors Lauren Willig and Karen White. The fundraiser will take place at 1 p.m. Sunday, March 3, at the Fish & Vine restaurant, 12901 McGregor Blvd. The “Lunch on the Lusitania” brunch invites guests to board the “ship” in 1915 while enjoying time with co-authors of “The Glass Ocean.”

“The Friends of the Fort Myers Regional Library are doing this fundraiser to give back to the Reading Festival and the Summer Reading free book (program),” Baker said.

Registration is required. Tickets are $55. For more information contact information@fortmyersfriends.org.