Those who declare print dead, should have been at 10th annual Books in Bloom Literary Festival in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, on Sunday, May 17. The Carroll and Madison Public Library Foundation put together another great event that drew around 500 people from the region to the beautiful 1886 Crescent Hotel and Spa.
This year’s line-up was diverse with some heavy hitters. Tess Gerritsen, a frequent author of the NY Times bestsellers list who has captivated many through her compelling medical thrillers; NPR’s Roy Blount, a favorite humorist on “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” quiz show; versatile author William Bernhardt and, the author of one most anticipated books for 2015 Amanda Eyre Ward. Also featured were popular children’s book series Pete the Cat authors’ husband and wife duo James and Kimberly Dean, Ozark native Abby Burnett and author of Gone to the Grave, Burial Customs of the Ozarks 1850-1950. Throughout the day, the writers signed books and spoke with fans when not presenting their programs. Over all, the festival is very relaxed and offers an atmosphere for fans and writers to mingle without tension or formality. It’s definitely worth checking out.
Given that this was a milestone year for the festival, tensions were high to make sure that things went well.
“The weather was certainly a cause for greater concern than it has been- and the fact that the morning got off to a gloomy start that could have gone either way, added to our anxiety,” said Lin Wellford, festival co-chair. “In the end, having slight overcast and breezes made the garden feel delightful, and overall, I think we had a very strong slate of authors, with a good amount of variety. I spoke to several people who were first time attendees and the response I got was overwhelmingly positive. They were delighted to meet so many dynamic authors, to hear interesting talks and just to experience the afternoon as a whole.”
The committee had another group to please as well – the writers.
“Author care is carefully planned to make sure each participating authors has everything they need,” said Wellford. “I personally had several of our authors come up to me to express how much they enjoyed the event and appreciated the opportunity to take part. We know that Books in Bloom offers a garden party atmosphere that is festive, both in look and feel. As I scanned the venue at various times during the day, I saw people engaged in conversation with authors, something that rarely happens at the usual book signing. The connections that are made between people who write and the people who read are the heart of what Books in Bloom was designed to encourage.”
The writers certainly seemed pleased as they interacted with their fans at their tents on the lawn.
“Well, its just a joy to be here,” said Eyre Ward. “I’ve met a lot of smart readers and I think there are a lot of stories in this hotel. It’s my first time in Arkansas. Eureka Springs seems like the sort of place I’d love to come back too.”
As for the future, Wellford feels like Books in Bloom has found it’s stride.
“After 10 festivals, we seem to have hit on a formula that makes for an exciting day for the public and a relaxing change of pace for authors,” she said. “We always hold a meeting afterwards and look for ways to improve on what we do, but overall, Books in Bloom has evolved into a unique event that celebrates the importance of books, reading and writing, a goal we have been striving to achieve from the outset.
Kody Ford is a writer and lover of the arts. He hails from Fayetteville, AR, and is a graduate of the University of Arkansas and the University of Central Arkansas. He has worked as a professional writer for 15 years.