SOKY book fest features world famous authors

Olivia Mohr

Over the weekend, readers crowded into the Knicely Conference Center to meet 160 visiting authors and buy signed copies of their books.

R.L. Stine was one of this year’s visiting authors, and he had a book signing at the festival. Stine is best known for his “Goosebumps” and “Fear Street” series. Stine hails from Columbus, Ohio and currently lives in New York City.

“I have a good time at this festival,” Stine said. “I love it.” 

Stine last visited the festival 17 years ago and came back this year because of an invitation he received from Steve Marcum, Marcum is on WKU’s library board. 

Stine said the festival allows people who are excited about reading to come together and talk about books.

“Any time you get people out who are excited about reading and you can get a whole bunch of authors in one place talking to people and getting people enthusiastic about reading, it’s a wonderful thing,” he said. “That’s why I like these book festivals so much, and how great it is to see all these young people and other people here because they’re all interested in books.”

The annual Southern Kentucky, SOKY, Book Fest is a partnership between Barnes and Noble Booksellers, Warren County Public Library and WKU Libraries. This year marked the 19th year of the literary festival.

On Friday, the festival held its Children’s Day, Teen Writers Conference and the Kentucky Writers Conference at the conference center. At the Kentucky Writers Conference, authors taught workshops on various topics. On Saturday, readers gathered to meet authors and get books signed.

Lisa Rice, director of the Warren County Public Library, said the event is funded by sponsors and a used book sale held in the spring. Barnes and Noble also gives a percentage of money from book sales at the festival back to the festival for the next year’s funding.

David Bell, associate professor of English, was also a visiting author at the festival. He has published eight suspense novels. His latest novel is called “Since She Went Away,” and he has a book coming out in July called “Bring Her Home.”

Bell is originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, and he has visited the festival every year since he first came to Bowling Green about eight years ago.

Bell said he believes the festival is a good experience for aspiring writers.

“Most writers are leading fairly normal lives, and they come to events like this and you can talk to them and they’re relatively normal people, so I think it goes a long way, if someone is an aspiring writer, it goes a long way for them to be able to say ‘I can do this, too,’” he said. 

Lee Martin, another author at the festival, was a Pulitzer prize finalist in 2006 with his book called “The Bright Forever.” Martin has written three memoirs, five novels and a short story collection. He has another short story collection coming out next year and book about writing coming out in October.

Martin is originally from southeastern Illinois and has lived in Columbus, Ohio for the past 16 years. He teaches in the creative writing program at Ohio State University. Martin has come to the festival three to four times in the past, and the last time he went to the festival was around 2011. He was a teacher at the Kentucky Writers Conference this year.

Martin taught a workshop at WKU in 2008 for three weeks and said he grew fond of Bowling Green during that time. He said he enjoys seeing old friends and meeting readers at the SOKY Book Fest.

“I know a lot of people here,” he said. “I get to see old friends when I come back here. It’s a really good book festival. I enjoy meeting the people who come through and want to chat about my books, so I always have a good time in Bowling Green,” Martin said.

Martin said he feels the SOKY Book Fest benefits the community.

“I think it benefits the community because it brings a lot of writers here on a single day, writers like R.L. Stine this year, who many people in the community would never have the chance to have contact with if it weren’t for this book festival,” Martin said.

Reporter Olivia Mohr can be reached at 270-745-6288 and [email protected]