SOKY convenes for 18th year at Knicely

Martina Boone, author of young adult fantasy novels, partakes in a panel on Young Adult Romance at the Southern Kentucky Book Fest in Bowling Green, Ky on Saturday, April 23. Boone, from the DC area, participated in SOKY book fest this year for the first time. Abby Potter/HERALD

Emma Austin

Reading Rainbow

Thousands of readers gathered at WKU’s Knicely Conference Center on Saturday to meet and hear from some of their favorite authors as well as purchase signed copies of their books at the 18th annual Southern Kentucky Book Fest.

“Our mission is to encourage reading and the love of books,” Sara Volpi, SOKY Book Fest coordinator and outreach coordinator for WKU Libraries, said.

The book fest, presented by Barnes and Noble Booksellers, the Warren County Public Library and WKU Libraries, featured several authors this year including New York Times bestselling authors J. A. Jance, Garth Stein and Jay Asher.

Those who attended had the opportunity to hear presentations by these authors and attend panel discussions by authors from different literary genres.

The young adult romance panel featured authors who spoke about their books and explained why they had decided to write in that genre. The authors also recounted personal experiences and gave the audience advice about revision and publication processes.

One of the speakers, “Thunder Dog” author Michael Hingson, gave a presentation about his experience of living blind since birth and surviving the World Trade Center attacks with his guide dog Roselle, on whom his book was based.

Martina Boone, author of the romantic Southern gothic “Heirs of Watson Island” series, said she attends book festivals often to promote teen literacy.

“My daughter was sort of a reluctant reader until she came across a book she loved,” Boone said.

Boone started the Compulsion for Reading program, a campaign named after her first novel “Compulsion,” to provide underfunded schools and libraries with books and spread the love of reading she and her daughter had found.

When authors weren’t speaking in panels or giving presentations, they were in the book-signing area having one-on-one conversations with readers.

Leigh Mikovch, Bowling Green author of “The Bug, the Pea, and Me,” came to the book fest this year as a volunteer with her two daughters Katie and Emily.

“If you have even a two-second relationship with an author, it gets you hooked and excited about reading,” Mikovch said.

She added that although her daughter Emily would say she hates reading, she had already used her allowance to purchase four new books.

“Even someone who would not consider herself an avid reader found a connection with one of the authors,” Mikovch said.

Volpi said the SOKY Book Fest began in 1998 as a regional author showcase and has continued to grow and expand in the past two decades to become a significant annual event featuring a wide variety of authors.

The planning process takes at least half a year according to Volpi, who said she is already looking for authors to headline at the event next year.

The festival also included the Kentucky Writers Conference on Friday. At this event, many of Saturday’s featured authors spoke about writing, revising and research.

Children’s Day was also on Friday. Volpi said about 1,000 kids showed up to meet authors and participate in various activities throughout the day.

Rita Crabtree, Friends of the Library Warren County volunteer, said the book festival is a way to promote literacy and share the way reading can take you anywhere.

“Having so many authors in one place with so many different backgrounds and different topics is a magnet to bring in people who love to read,” Crabtree said.