By Brian Kepetsky
When we began planning the 2014 Fox Cities Book Festival back in June, we knew we wanted to do a better job a number of areas. One area in particular was communication. We want people to be aware of the book festival, the authors, and who will be where and when. We also think it is beneficial to be as transparent as possible and share the process of putting together one of the largest book festivals in the Midwest. With that in mind, you will be seeing monthly updates here in the Scene leading up to the book festival. We hope to take you behind the scenes, share in our joys and even why we may look a little frazzled by the time the festival gets here.
Most people are aware of the Fox Cities Book Festival, but for those who never heard of us or those that are only aware of it in only a vague way, here’s the Cliff’s Notes version of what we are. The book festival is a weeklong celebration of reading and writing. We offer dozens of events around the area, allowing people to meet and listen to a diverse mix of nationally known, state, and regional authors. In some cases the authors will spend their time talking about their work. Other programs are designed as learning sessions where participants can learn the craft of writing, from the act of putting words on paper, to selling their creations and everything in between.
So who runs this thing? It takes many people to put together a weeklong event spread across more than 20 locations. At its core we have a board that is charge of the overall operation. The board is completely volunteer and made up of community members. In addition to the board members, we have a number of committees that handle everything from lining up authors, to marketing, to finding volunteers to ferry authors around town for their appearances. The long and short of it is that none of these folks are drawing a check from the book festival; they do it because they believe it is a benefit to our community.
What about the money? The Fox Cities Book Festival is truly a community-driven event. The majority of the funding comes from donations made by community members. We also get some support from community organizations; usually these funds are tied to a topic on which they want to partner with us. In addition we also write grants to cover expenses. The Community Foundation of the Fox Valley has been very supportive of this event for years. To make the dollars stretch, we work very hard to negotiate deals with the authors coming in. Don’t bother asking what we paid for a given author; typically, we are contractually bound to keep that information private. It’s also important to point out that some of our authors come in for free because they enjoy their craft and want to share their experiences with you; we’re big fans of these folks!
Preparing for the book festival is a slog. Working with author’s agents can be a pain. Trying to make everyone happy is difficult in the best of circumstances, nearly impossible when you are working on a small budget. So why do we do it? Storytelling is built into the human DNA, whether it’s hearing a joke by the water cooler on a Monday morning or reading the great American novel, we can all relate to stories. The Fox Cities Book Festival Book Festival gives us the opportunity to bring in some of the best storytellers of our generation and share them with our community. If you believe in the power of stories, you can’t ask for a better pay off.
Dates: April 7-13, 2014
Where: Locations all over the Fox Cities – full program available in early March
Brian Kopetsky is the community partnerships supervisor for the Appleton Public Library.