Today was the 10th Ohioana Book Festival. It is held by the Ohioana Library Association, which “was founded in 1929 by Ohio First Lady Martha Kinney Cooper to collect, preserve, and promote the works of Ohio authors, artists, and musicians.” The festival celebrates Ohio authors, whether they were both here or moved here. The set up has one main room where authors are available to sign their books, with bookmarks and other promotional material available. Then there are rooms that run the whole day for kids and one for teens. Then throughout the day are a multitude of panels on everything from writing and publishing young reader books to panels on sci-fi, horror, and fantasy. While not extremely well attended, or particularly large, the atmosphere is fantastic and the panels were perfectly sized.
A few of the authors in attendance at the Ohioana Book Festival (and there were a surprising amount!) were: Edith Pattou (East), Tricia Springstubb (Moonpenny Island) from the children’s section. Terry W. Ervin II (Relic Tech) and Leanna Renee Hieber (Eterna and Omega) from science fiction and fantasy respectively. Along with Gary Buettner (Horror – Burial Suits), Mark Dawidziak (Nonfiction – Everything I Need to Know I Learned in the Twilight Zone), Nin Andres (Poetry – Why God is a Woman), Mindy McGinnis (Young Adult – A Madness So Discreet). Again, this was just to name a few. The ballroom was packed with tables, often 2 authors to a table.
We attended three panels. The one on writing and publishing for young readers, and the S/F/Horror panels I mentioned earlier in this post, as well as one on Crime, Punishment, and Political Intrigue. (You won’t hear me mention much about that one because my partner attended it whilst I was in the Young Reader’s panel.)
The Young Reader’s panel was laid back and very informative. Probably the coolest thing about this panel was how it brought home that both writing and publishing experiences for everyone can be so different. For the questions that were asked, each panelist had a different answer. I felt a bit out-of-place as everyone around me had notebooks and pens at the ready to take copious notes. And I just jotted stuff down on my phone. Annnyways…
I asked a question on age range, and how you figure out what age range your writing fits in/or is aiming for. I’ve paraphrased their answers below.
Carmella Van Vleet (Eliza Bing is (not) a Big, Fat Quitter) – “It’s a voice you develop (personally, I’ve found I have a middle-grade voice, or your editors tell you what group your book is for. “
David FitzSimmons (Curious Critters) – “Read your material to the group you’re aiming for. You’ll know if you succeed instantly. Also, my editors (and my wife) have helped me keep things appropriate. They keep scaling me back to where I need to be.”
Anne Vittur Kennedy (The Farmer’s Away! Baa! Neigh!) – “You don’t decide [what your market is]. Editors or publishers do it for you.”
Edith Pattou (East) – “You just tell the story. It decides.”
The most interesting thing to come out of the science fiction, horror, and fantasy was the bluntness with the which writing for the genres to discuss. “Understand this, as soon as you write this [scifi, fantasy, horror], you are permanently relegating yourself to the children’s table when it comes to the writing world.” -Mark Dawidziak. (And yes, there was general agreement amongst the other three panelists.) Related to this was the general bemoaning about tags, and how they hamper the truly versatile. (Alfred Hitchcock – Well-known ‘thriller’ director versus Robert Wise, a much more versatile – but much less well-known director). And, of course, hearing the authors talk about their favorite author (considering we had authors from across the board) turned into a love letter to Stephen King.
This panel was one I definitely enjoyed, though I do wish the that the moderator would have taken notes from the moderator of the young reader’s panel, and let the audience ask questions from the beginning and not trying to completely run the show. We managed the young reader’s panel perfectly fine without someone holding our hand, funnily enough. Mark Dawidziak really stood out amongst the panelists. They were all interesting, but Dawidziak came across as charming, irreverent, and very knowledgeable about his subjects.
In regards to the Crime, Punishment, and Political Intrigue Panel, my partner didn’t seem as satisfied by his experience as I was with mine. Most of that he puts down to “People continually asking stupid questions”. But he did say that one of the authors shared an interesting (and scary) experience when they had written a true crime novel about the investigation of a young girl. Apparently, someone made a YouTube video of pictures of the author’s family and stated that he needed to stop what he was doing. That author now writes fiction instead of non-fiction (and who can blame him?!)
Overall, the Ohioana Book Festival was a very pleasant experience. I found that I don’t mind crowds of people if we’re all just there because we love books. We purchased about 6 books total (though admittedly the majority of them were for the kiddo), and enjoyed our brief hit-and-run conversations with a few of the authors. One of the books I ended up purchasing was Mindy McGinnis’ A Madness So Discreet after briefly talking to her about the research that went into it, as well as her main character.
We will definitely be attending this festival in the future!
I would like to take a moment to note that my partner, who said he doubted we should build more bookshelves because “Wouldn’t you just end up buying more books than you need?” purchased more books at The Ohioana Book Festival than I did. And no, I’m not letting him forget that anytime soon.