Literary community writes to support writers

American fiction novelist Diana Gabaldon speaks to a full room at the 2015 Southern Kentucky Book Fest, held at the Knicely Conference Center on Saturday, April 18, 2015. The WKU Libraries-sponsored event is one of the state’s largest literary events and drew thousands of readers of all ages to meet and have their books signed by authors. Gabaldon, the keynote speaker of the event, is author of the famed Outlander series, which was adapted for television on Starz in 2. WILLIAM KOLB/HERALD


Book lovers gathered at the Carroll Knicely Conference Center this weekend to celebrate fiction and nonfiction literature in one of the largest book conferences in the state: the Southern Kentucky Book Fest.

Members of the Bowling Green community had the opportunity to meet several published authors from around the country on Saturday. The event was free and open to the public.

Among those authors was Diana Gabaldon, the author of the “Outlander” novels. The eight-book series began in 1991 and has since sparked its own TV series on Starz. 

Gabaldon delivered a presentation at 9 a.m. on Saturday and proceeded to sign books for fans from 10 a.m. to noon. People gathered in a line that wrapped around the interior of the building to wait and have books signed. 

“There’s no specific formula [for selecting the key-note author], but we like an author who has a lot of titles, has broad appeal and will bring people in who wouldn’t normally come to book fest,” said Kristie Lowry, the literary outreach coordinator for WKU and the event’s director.

Gabaldon was joined by authors Terry Brooks, Siobhan Vivian, Mary McDonough, Kelley Paul, Jamie Ford and Chloe Neill for signings.

Children’s Day occurred on Friday along with the Kentucky Writers’ Conference, which took place on South Campus.

Children’s Day featured “Click Clack Moo” author Doreen Cronin, whose work resulted in several other children’s books. 

The Writers’ Conference consisted of 12 authors giving panel presentations on various composition topics. This year’s conference offered a workshop specifically designed for teenage writers.

“There were a lot of high school students who would come to the Writers’ Conference, and although I’m sure they benefited in some way, I thought maybe a writing workshop specifically for high-school-age students would be a big draw,” Lowry said. 

 When the authors weren’t presenting on a panel, they were set up behind tables talking with readers and signing books.

Natalie and Cydney Fones, a mother and daughter from the Bowling Green community, said they look forward to the event every year due to the fact that they get to personally meet so many authors. 

Similarly, Jennifer Eberhart said she has been to the SOKY Book Fest almost every year since her family moved to the area 13 years ago. She has also helped volunteer at the event in the past. 

“The community support is wonderful,” she said. “You see the long lines waiting to get the books signed. I think it encourages reading and just makes it fun. I think we’re very lucky to have this kind of event in the Bowling Green area.”

All of the books were available for purchase from a Barnes and Noble vendor present at the event. 

Eric Reed, an associate professor of history at WKU, shared his book “Selling the Yellow Jersey” at the fest. He was excited to be on the other side of the table, he said.

Another WKU professor, David Bell from the English department, shared several ofhis books, the most recent being “The Forgotten Girl.” Bell was also one of the 12 presenters at the Writers’ Conference. He said one of the highlights of the event is being able to interact with readers.

“You get to have face-to-face interaction and conversation with people who want to read your books,” he said. “That’s not something most writers get in daily life.” 

Lowry also said she believes that being able to interact with the authors is one of the event’s primary appeals. 

“I know I love meeting the authors of the books, finding out what was going through their minds when they wrote it,” she said. “And the authors never get tired of talking about their books—they’re like their children.” 

Reed shared the sentiment. 

“Usually when you read a book, you don’t think about the person behind it,” he said. “You think about the book and the feelings you get from reading it. But here you can actually shake hands with the person who wrote it, talk about their work and tell them what you think of it. It’s a very unique opportunity.” 

English Department Head Rob Hale said he believes the SOKY Book Fest is the “centerpiece” of Bowling Green’s cultural scene. 

“We’re very fortunate to have it here in Bowling Green,” Bell said.