Perhaps you have been to an author event in the past, a ticketed event where you were ushered into a dark auditorium to hear a single author present a program about his or her work, followed by waiting in line to have your book signed in a rush. Nothing wrong with that, but it was not the kind of experience that the Carroll and Madison Public Library Foundation Board wanted to create.
They dreamed of putting together a free event that celebrates the art of writing and the joy of reading. It would be a time where book lovers could mix and mingle, with a chance to hear a variety of authors speak or read from their work, and where the audience might ask questions about the publishing world or the writing life, or simply have the opportunity to tell a particular author what their books mean to them.
And that is what Books in Bloom is all about!
Year after year, interesting and compelling authors have come to the Ozarks to share their work and their stories in a casual, garden-party atmosphere that encourages the kind of interpersonal connections that the festival hoped to spark. It is not usual to see deep conversations taking place at an author’s booth, or to hear lighthearted banter between a writer and a fan. They enjoy hearing a compliment and are happy to meet their readers.
What else will you see?
Books, lots of books! With over a dozen authors taking part in Books in Bloom, you will find many books of all kinds, paperback mysteries, picture books and learn-to-read books, history and mystery in hardcover for collectors, or in budget-friendly paperback, memoirs, short story collections, westerns and travelogues to mention but a few. The University of Arkansas Press is a regular guest at the festival, and they offer fabulous bargains on a variety of excellent books. Nightbird Books of Fayetteville is our event bookseller.
Festive tents! Our bright white Author’s Tent stands ready to welcome people to sit and listen to stories of publishing trials and successes, or about the experiences that inspired people to write. Smaller tents ring the gardens, where the casually elegant ‘garden party’ atmosphere is festive and fun. Fresh-faced young volunteers will greet you with a shopping bag and program as you arrive, and the festival bookseller will stand ready to help you find the particular books you want.
Programs for the event are available ahead of time at all the libraries in Carroll County and Madison County. This can be helpful since there will be presentations on-going throughout the afternoon both in the Conservatory and in the Author’s Tent, so deciding beforehand which authors you most want to hear can be helpful.
Arrive early so you can park and have time to browse the book tables. A free shuttle is available to take you from Harmon Park down Crescent Grade from the Crescent Hotel. It runs continuously all during the event. Some people come and stay all afternoon, while others plan their arrival around a certain author presentation. There are light refreshments, plus iced tea and bottled water available at the festival, but if you don’t have lunch beforehand, you may want to bring a sandwich with you.
Dress for the weather. This is an outdoors event other than the presentations in the Conservatory. In case of rain, we will move into the hotel lobby and the veranda, but you may need a light sweater if its cool or breezy out.
While our festival is free to the public, there are certainly expenses involved. The venue and a large part of the costs are covered by our festival underwriter, the lovely 1886 Crescent Hotel and Spa. Other businesses and individuals also contribute to help us cover the costs of putting on this event. And to all of them, and to all who come to enjoy the festival, we are truly grateful.
Guest post by Lin Wellford, Co-Chair, Books in Bloom