Charlottesville, Virginia's Festival of the Book rings Spring into the Shenandoah Valley March 26th through 30th. This annual book festival has become a staple in my yearly calendar of must-make journeys. Most years a group of fellow writers will all carpool to the event and spend Saturday trecking around Charlottesville (although many events are on the Pedestrian Mall). This year promises to be no acception. Running through Sunday, the festival covers a wide variety of book genres, including various panels and speakers from the publishing industry, as well as storytellers and educators of all sorts (this year, magician educator Rob Westcott makes an appearance). The book fair in the Omni Hotel on the downtown pedestrian mall is always a favorite, and while most events are free, there are some ticketed keynote events and luncheons.
Favorite events on my list this year? Well, Nancy Ruth Patterson's appearance Friday morning (author of A Christmas Cup , The Winner's Walk, as well as her fifth book published by FSG, Ellie Ever: Princess of Pantent Leather Shoes). Patterson was recognized by Virginia High School Hall of Fame as "one of the most sought-after writing teachers in the country." My admiration for her work began when my son played an Amish boy in a theatrical adaptation of The Christmas Cup produced by the Mill Mountain Theatre in the Roanoke Valley of Virginia a few Decembers ago. Her attending the first night opening allowed my son to get her signature in a copy of her book.
Another interesting speaker: professional storyteller Barbara Spilman Lawson is making an appearance, known for her work up and down the Atlantic Coast. Also making an appearance, award-winning non-fiction YA writer Catherine Reef, author of a biography of one of my favorite poets, titled e. e. cummings: a poet's life, as well as several other biographies for young readers.
My interest in this particular festival is, of course, those events that fall under the category of children's literature. If this is your area of interest as well, you may find a list of "family" speakers, many of them writers, illustrators, or storytellers of children's narratives, at http://www.vabook.org/site08/participants/view.php?pageno=1&catNum=6&orderby=LastName. For an introduction to participants from the publishing field, visit http://www.vabook.org/site08/participants/view.php?catNum=5.
Naturally, one of the pleasures of being in Charlottesville is the occasional stroll through the community or campus of University of Virginia. Since this festival is located on the Pedestrian Mall, there is a wealth of shops, restaurants, coffee shops and theatres to fill in your occasional break time in an enjoyable manner, not to mention the street musicians and the beauty of a spring day in an historic community in the Shenandoah Valley at the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains. For information about what to do and where to stay, as well as images of the city and University of Virginia campus, visit http://www.pursuecharlottesville.com/. Must sees are Jefferson's home, Monticello, historic Michie Tavern, and the lawn at University of Virginia, not to mention a drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway with its incredible views.