Tuesday, September 29, 2015


John Hildebrand, Eau Claire, author of
"The Heart of Things: A Midwestern Almanac,"
visited with other passengers aboard
the Karfi, enroute to Rock Island.
Washington Island -

The recent 2015 Washington Island Literary Festival (also referred to in shorthand as the 'Lit Fest') was successful in many ways.

The number of participants is growing, the quality of author/presenters was outstanding, and the variety of venues made the weekend most enjoyable for both readers and writers.

September's weather during that weekend was also accommodating, allowing for pleasant outdoor events.

Comments received from writers and readers, and also from those who consider themselves readers and aspiring writers, praised what blended to become an intimate, enlightening and entertaining weekend.

Friday afternoon the Door County Land Trust co-sponsored an event
titled, Nature & Poetry Walk.  Madison poet Alice D'Alessio read from
her book "A Blessing of Trees" as several groups
made their way along wooded paths near the Stavkirke.

This prevalent, positive mood began with Friday's several workshops, optional opportunities to delve into fiction, poetry and life-writing, and an outdoor Nature & Poetry Walk that began at the Stavkirke.
A warm reception in the Farm Museum Barn brought together those from the workshops and the balance of the weekend's participants.  The centerpiece were Saturday and Sunday presentations by invited writers, with readings interspersed with personal comments about their work, several supporting slide shows, and back-and-forth with audience members.  Books by featured authors and poets were available for purchase at the Back Stage Bookstore (managed by Deb Wayman of Fair Isle Books).  Book signing opportunities with the writers were at an adjacent table.

Author panel led the Saturday morning presentations at
the Trueblood Performing Arts Center.  From left:
Peter Geye; Danielle Sosin; Lin Enger;  Hampton Sides.

Sunday morning's two presentations were held in the hall of the Rock Island Boat House, following coffee on the Jackson Harbor pier and a pleasant ride on the Karfi.   For those who participated in Sunday's event, the beauty and warmth of the Lake Michigan day were infused with author readings of Lake Superior-themes, and the sum total was certainly one of the weekend's highlights.   (Most photos shown here were taken during the Sunday event.)

Author Danielle Sosin read from
her book "The Long Shining Waters"
Sunday at Rock Island.

Next year's theme and dates

"Mystery and Mystique of the Midwest" is the theme selected for the 2016 Literary Festival, and as might be guessed, invited authors will include leading Midwest mystery writers.  This author list is currently being developed, and we hope to have word soon on the invited and accepting authors for public announcement.

The calendar dates chosen for the third weekend in September will generally follow this year's format, with an effort to hold the festival while outdoor events might be warm and inviting.

Workshops will expand, hallmarked by longer individual workshop length.  These will begin Thursday around mid-day on September 15 and continue Friday morning and afternoon, September 16.   The Festival itself will begin with an Opening Reception Friday evening.  Author presentations are scheduled Saturday Sep. 17 and Sunday morning Sep. 18, with longer breaks between presentations.   One committee goal will be to announce 2016 Lit Fest authors on a dedicated website page along with program outline and registration information, no later than early November.

Fees will increase slightly for 2016.   Workshops registration will be $75 (a reduction to $65 per workshop if two or more workshops are selected).  Lit Fest Weekend registration fee in 2016 will be $85.  A "late registration" deadline will be set for July 15th, and that fee increases to $100 for later registrations.  This, in part, is an effort to encourage earlier sign-ups and more efficient planning.

Visiting on the deck of  Rock Island's Thordarson Boat House Sunday
morning were:  Marianne Fons;  Bob and Deb Wayman (Fair Isle Books);
author Capt. Don, and Betty Kilpela, of Copper Harbor, Michigan.

Good vibes, positive comments

I've read several comments by invited authors who also mingled with attendees.  I think these are worth passing along to a general readership here, because of their unsolicited, supportive content.  These comments are well received, given that many of the authors are well-traveled, having attended larger, better established, and presumably more prestigious, literary festivals elsewhere.

John Hildebrand (The Heart of Things: A Midwestern Almanac): 

   “This festival had a sense of fellowship that extends beyond the readings and workshops.  There was a sense of everyone being at the same table that I suppose comes from being on an island.”

Anne-Marie Oomen (Love, Sex and 4-H, Pulling Down the Barn and House of Fields.):
   “This is a conference for readers and writers, for nurturing that connection and building a literary culture.  
  “Participants in my seminar (Life Writing Made Easy) were of the highest caliber.  And that’s exciting as a teacher to have that kind of commitment.”

Sue Wentz (Festival participant and winner of the first Norbert Blei Literary Award for Short Story;  author of The Bluff):
  “This was a great conference.  People have been wonderful.”

Peter Geye (The Lighthouse Road, Safe from the Sea):
   "I attend quite a few book festivals.  It's one of the joys of being an author.  But rarely have I enjoyed myself so much as I did on Washington and Rock Islands.  Between the graciousness of my hosts and the smartness and enthusiasm of the attendees and the generousness of the other presenting authors, I'd have to rank this experience among the very best of festivals.  Put on top of that the gorgeous islands and venues, and readers and writers of all stripes would be crazy not to consider attending the Washington Island Book Festival in the coming years."

Catherine Jagoe, poet, and winner of the first Norbert Blei Award for Poetry:
  "One of the things that struck me as so successful about this festival was the sense of community and ease between all of us there.  I was apprehensive about not knowing anyone before I went, but people were open to one another and it was easy to talk to strangers and get to know one another.
  "I hope you all feel very proud of how things went.  This was a jewel of a festival.  It will be a hard act to follow!"

- Dick Purinton

Baraboo writer Sue Wentz, winner
of the Norbert Blei Short Story Award.

In addition to a cash prize,
winners of the Norbert Blei Poetry and Short Story Awards (and
runners-up)  each received a framed print of Norbert's
"Angel of Literature" painting.

(Jude Genereaux photo)

No comments: