Southwest Florida Reading Festival
A popular festival that attracts upwards of 10,000 people each year will open a new chapter next week with a dozen pre-event activities around Lee County.
The 21st Southwest Florida Reading Festival will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, March 7, at Fort Myers Regional Library & Campus, 2450 First St.
But before the festival, the Lee County Library System the will offer 12 activities at various branches around the county.
All of the preview events are free with some of them highlighting the festival authors.
The preview event schedule opens in North Fort Myers on Thursday, Feb. 27, with an Author Talk with Lisa Unger at the North Fort Myers Public Library.
It then moves to Cape Coral on Saturday, Feb. 29, with a pair of events at the Cape Coral-Lee County Public Library and another at the new North Fort Myers facility.
Lee County Library System Manager of Program-ming and Community Outreach Melissa Baker said the Southwest Florida Reading Festival is getting better and better. They are always looking to make improvements, as well as smart decisions in regards to the festival’s layout.
“It’s free to the community. It will go on rain or shine. Everything happens under the tent. It doesn’t matter what the weather is like,” Baker said. “We will still have an amazing event no matter what the weather.”
On Thursday, Feb. 27, Unger will discuss her latest book “The Stranger Inside,” at 2 p.m. at the first pre-event at the library at 2001 N. Tamiami Trail NE.
On Saturday, Feb. 29, the public is invited to Celebrate Dr. Seuss, at 11 a.m. at the Cape Library at 921 S.W. 38th Terrace. Broadway and film actor Duffy Hudson will do a 45-minute show bringing Dr. Seuss to life.
Also on Saturday, Feb. 29, the community will have the opportunity to meet local author Carol Freeman at 3 p.m. at Cape Coral-Lee County Public Library. Freeman is the author of “The Cape Coral Caper: Murder on the Caloosahatchee” and “The Cape Coral Casanova: Murder on Crimson Court.”
Meanwhile, at the North Fort Myers Library, a meet-the-authors event featuring a variety of local writers doing book signings will be held from 1-3 p.m. that Saturday.
Other events include:
n An Author Talk with Mary HoneyB Morrison, at 11 a.m. Friday, March 6, at the North Fort Myers Public Library, 2001 N. Tamiami Trail NE and again at 2 p.m. at East County Regional Library, 881 Gunnery Road in Lehigh Acres.
n Author Spotlight: Inside the White House with Karna Bodman, at 2 p.m. Wednesday, March 4, at Bonita Springs Public Library, 10560 Reynolds St.
n Author Spotlight: A Visit to the Morgue with Lisa Black, at 2 p.m. Thursday, March 5, at Bonita Springs Public Library, 10560 Reynolds St.
n Author Talk with Chris Pavone, at 2 p.m. Thursday, March 5, at Lake Regional Library, 15290 Bass Rd., Fort Myers
n Author Talk with Chris Pavone, at 11 a.m. Friday, March 6, at South County Regional Library, 21100 Three Oaks Parkway, Estero
n Family Stories: Evoking Emotion in your Characters at 2 p.m. Friday, March 6, at South County Regional Library, 21100 Three Oaks Parkway, Estero
The showcase is, of course, the festival itself.
Twenty-two authors are scheduled for this year’s festival, including adult, children and teen authors.
“We try to have something for everybody,” Baker said. “We have a very diverse mix of authors to represent the community that we live in. We are very proud of accomplishing that this year.”
The adult authors include Jack Carr; Jennifer Chiaverini; Lincoln Child; Sonali Dev; Mark Greaney; Michael Koryta; William Kent Krueger; Erik Larson; Jenn McKinlay; Mary HoneyB Morrison; Chris Pavone; Lisa Unger and Susan Beckham Zurenda.
Children authors include Kamilla Benko; Monica Brown; Karina Yan Glaser; Kate Messner; Zachariah OHora; Sara Varon; Sara Holland; K.A. Holt and Alexandra Monir.
Baker said they have a fabulous author committee that works all year long to bring authors to the festival. She said it is all about establishing relationships with the publishing companies, word of mouth with the authors and attending the Book Expo America in New York City in May.
“We have authors lined up in October and November for the following year,” she said. “We have our wish list. Sometimes it’s whose book is coming out and who is trying to promote it on tour. The reputation of having this for over 20 years . . . people in publicity know . . . they sometimes reach out to us. We get really lucky sometimes.”
Baker said they also look at the Sunshine State Book awards to find authors for the youth, which includes Kate Messner this year. She said they want to find authors that the kids are familiar with, books they have read.
The March 7 festival is about strengthening the community and enriching lives.
“We have this big festival and have it on the library grounds, so they can go into the library and see what our resources are all about,” Baker said.
There will be crafts and activities taking place outdoors during the festival, as well as food vendors offering several different cuisine options.
There will also be a merchant tent, a feature brought back again, selling reading festival T-shirts, which includes a design that adults can color. Baker said they can color right on the T-shirt and design them at the festival if they choose.
Festival attendees also can buy raffle tickets for the name the character raffle, a chance to have their name featured in an author’s upcoming book.
“We have traditionally done those at fundraiser events,” she said, but this year they wanted to feature it at the festival. “People can buy chances to win their character names online through the 28th (of February). The drawing is the Monday after the festival for several lucky winners.”
This year in addition to having the festival outdoors under tents, there will also be a portion indoors, Little Reader Zones, featuring carnival games for the littles, as well as Read to the Dogs in the afternoon for children learning to read.
“Every kid and teen gets a free book,” Baker said during the festival because “we always want to promote literacy, reading and fostering that life long love of reading.”
The free book, featuring popular titles, will be of the child’s choice.