The Fox Journal

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Authors share expertise with local writers

By Emmi Colford

Author Richard Louv signs a copy of his book, Last Child in The Woods, for Lucy Valitchka of Appleton April 22.

photo by Riley Hays
Author Richard Louv signs a copy of his book,
Last Child in The Woods, for Lucy Valitchka of Appleton April 22.

Bookworms and writers attended the sixth annual Fox Cities Book Festival April 17 through April 24.

The week-long festival featured a variety of authors and poets speaking at venues around the Fox Cities. The literary celebration was the brainchild of Ellen Kort who served as Wisconsin's first Poet Laureate between 2000 and 2004, and has written 11 books and eight poetry collections.

"The first Fox Cities Book Festival grew from a seed deeply rooted in the knowledge that the art of reading and writing, no matter who we are, has a way of becoming one of life's greatest strengths," Kort said.

The festival includes lectures and writing workshops which span the genres of novels, short stories and poetry.

Dean Bakopoulos, author of Please Don't Come Back from the Moon and My American Unhappiness, led a workshop on writing suspense short stories at the Appleton Public Library April 20.

Bakopoulos shared a story about his mentor from an undergraduate writing class that helped him improve his writing.

"In short stories for some reason, people like to be artful and lyrical. One day my mentor parodied the ending to one of my short stories, and it was the best teaching moment," Bakopoulos said.

"It totally showed me what I had been doing wrong, and how all I wanted to do was write the pretty ending."

Jessie Sankey, a festival attendee, admired Bakopoulos' points on how to structure a short story.

"He had a lot of great ideas and made it easy to understand how to lay out a plot for short stories," Sankey said.

Later that day, fans gathered to listen to Kathleen Ernst, author of the American Girl series and Meet Caroline Abbott. She revealed the stories behind those of characters Kit, Josefina, Kirsten, Molly and the newest American Girl, Caroline.

"As readers, no matter what kind of things you like, books can take us on wonderful adventures. They can take us to other places, other times, and even to fantasy worlds. You can find friends in books, people to admire, people to inspire us," Ernst said.

"The wonderful thing about writing is you can create stories that make you happy. You can express yourself. You can be creative. So, writing is a wonderful hobby and my best inspiration came from reading books that I love and getting so much pleasure from reading."

In honor of Earth Week, Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods and The Nature Principle, concluded the festival, appearing at venues throughout the Fox Cities April 22 through April 24.

Louv discussed the importance of getting out into nature, especially for children, and the health benefits it provides. His work has inspired the establishment of family nature clubs around the country, encouraging families to get outside and discover the social and psychological benefits of nature. He emphasized that in a society reliant on technology, there needs to be a balance of environmentally-focused experiences.

Louv also spoke about an emerging genre in young adult fiction called dystopic fiction, and warned about the deteriorating nature of humanity it portrays.

"The number one juvenile fiction genre now is called dystopic fiction. I mean, vampires are so 1990, but these books describe a future where not even vampires are having a good time," Louv said.

"I think most Americans carry around an image in their heads, a very dominant image, that if you ask them to paint a picture of the future, those people say it would look a lot like Blade Runner, Mad Max, The Hunger Games – a post-apocalyptic future in which nature and our humanity have been stripped," Louv said.

The book festival coincided with this year's National Library Month and National Poetry Week. [goal of NLM and NPW]

For more information about the Fox Cities Book Festival and event highlights, visit http://www.foxcitiesbookfestival.org.

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