This is part of a weekly series that highlights a grant provided by the Foundation.
At the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, numerous kinds of art are represented, from basket weaving and glass blowing to painting, music, and much more. But until recently, books were largely left out.
“The literary arts should be recognized too. Writing a book is certainly something that is an artistic process. You’re creating something. You’re putting something together,” said Pat Griffith, Head of Adult Services at Schlow Centre Region Library. “The process of reading the books and being taken to another time or place and meeting these people that they create – It’s such a creative process, and I think it s nice to recognize that.”
So Griffith and others pursued the idea of creating an event that would promote an interest in reading and creative writing, and also serve as a medium for local authors to present their works to the public.
Out of this idea, BookFestPA, which is a collaboration between Schlow Centre Region Library, the organizers of the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, Nittany Valley Writers Network and the Pennsylvania Center for the Book, was born. The inaugural event took place last year.
Griffith and others involved received a lot of good feedback about last year’s event, both from authors and attendees.
“The best feedback I got from the local authors was that they all wanted to come again. So to me that indicated that it was a success last year in their minds,” Griffith said. “That made me feel really good.”
The good publicity that the event received last year caused many authors to contact Griffith about a month beforehand, wanting to get involved.
Though by then it was too late to put them in last year’s event, she kept track of all of those people. She invited them, along with last year’s authors and others, and Griffith was surprised by just how many people said ‘yes’ to her requests.
This Saturday, at this year’s BookFestPA, which received a $2,400 grant from the Centre County Community Foundation, there will be about twice as many local authors (24) and about three times more volunteers (30) than there were at last year’s event, as well as bestselling presenters from outside of the area.
And Griffith has a new list of more authors who want to be involved next year.
“I think when you have a program that’s successful, it reproduces itself,” she said. “People want to be a part of that. It just seemed to take on a life of its own.”
Though it looks as if the event will continue to garnish more and more interest year by year, Griffith said she would like to see it remain small enough that people can experience everything it has to offer.
“My goal was to not make people have to make choices about what author they wanted to see. So if somebody wanted to see all the presenters, they could,” she said.
Those presenters will be spread out in different locations across downtown State College. BookFestPA organizers have decided to group featured authors by genre for their presentations. Three bestselling mystery authors, Nancy Martin, Tamar Myers and Lisa Scottoline, will speak at the State College Presbyterian Church. Three authors of books aimed at young adults, Cyn Balog, Lyndsay Eland and Josh Berk, as well as children’s author Lindsay Barrett George, will speak in Schlow Library’s Downsbrough Community Room. Paul Yeager, author of Weather Whys will speak at the Hintz Alumni Center.
Griffith said that one of her favorite parts of BookFestPA is being able to meet the creative minds behind the books she’s reading.
“As a librarian, it’s so exciting to me to find out from the authors what they were thinking when they wrote these books,” Griffith said, adding that many people have told her how excited they are to meet one author or another.
Last year, presentations and author tables were in the same room, which made it difficult for fans and authors to connect.
“People wanted to talk to the authors and there’d be a presentation, and they couldn’t really talk,” Griffith said.
But this year, a large tent in the Schlow parking lot will play host to the authors, which Griffith said will provide a much better experience.
Griffith said she is excited to see BookFestPA grow, because the event gives people a chance to share in a celebration of reading and writing, and because it gives local authors a chance to show their skills.
“The local authors really appreciate being appreciated and recognized for what they do,” she said. “We have so many really talented local people.”
To learn more about BookFestPA, and find out when each presentation is, check out their website or visit the Schlow Centre Region Library in person.