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Book festival brings local authors to forefront
Southeast Wisconsin Festival of Books held at UW-Waukesha the weekend

By KATHERINE MICHALETS - Special to TimeOut

September 19, 2013

WAUKESHA - Technology may be changing the way people are able to read, but the appeal of holding a physical book and talking to the author who wrote it is an experience that will draw people from all over the area to the fourth Southeast Wisconsin Festival of Books this weekend.

Panel discussions, readings and talks will be held throughout the three-day event on a variety of topics, such as “The Future of the Book,” “Chick Lit and Women’s Fiction: Sexist Marketing Practices?”, “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Sausage Making,” and “Science Fiction Gaming.”

Programming has been created to meet a wide range of ages and interests. There are areas for children and young adults, as well as a cookbook stage. The Southeast Wisconsin Festival of Books also partnered with the Science Fiction Writers of America to offer presentations on topics appealing to readers of that genre.

Laraine O’Brien, vice president of the the University of Wisconsin-Waukesha Foundation, said the festival was moved from June to September this year to better coincide with school calendars and to a time when people are thinking more about reading. Another change is that there are three keynote speakers - Kathie Giorgio, Christina Schwarz and Dean Bakopoulus - this year instead of one.

Giorgio’s newest novel, “Learning to Tell (A Life) Time”, will be debuted during the Festival of Books.

During her keynote address at 6 p.m. Friday, Giorgio said she is going to talk about the theme of the book festival: “To Books and Beyond - Literacy Without Limits.” She will also do a reading from her new novel and will be interviewed by Stephanie Lecci of WUWM-FM Lake Effect.

“I think it’s a really good thing. It’s a chance for readers to meet with authors, finding out what goes in to the book,” Giorgio said of the Festival of Books. “It creates a real sense of community.”

She is also happy that the Festival of Books focuses on Wisconsin authors.

Saturday’s keynote speaker, Schwarz, will be returning to Waukesha County from her new home in California. She grew up on Pewaukee Lake and she has drawn on her Wisconsin roots for her writing. Her newest novel, “The Edge of the Earth,” which was published in April, is set in 1898 and uses Milwaukee as part of the setting.

“I was impressed and excited when I first learned about the Festival a few years ago,” Schwarz said in an email. “The way the book market works now, only a few authors manage to get enough attention to let people know that their work exists. But what makes the United States interesting is that there are still lots of regional differences among us and a rich variety of points of view. The Southeast Wisconsin Festival of Books encourages and energizes our local voices, and so keeps them from being drowned out by the generic squawk of the market.”

Another component of the Festival of Books is a focus on Little Free Libraries, which are boxes that citizens set up where people can give and take books for free. Little Free Libraries founder Rick Brooks will show a film and talk about the libraries several times Saturday and Sunday. A Little Free Library will also be given away during the festival.

“This is an opportunity to interact with authors and to discuss the issues that are in our world today and also to enjoy some of the best of what is going on in the literary field in Wisconsin,” O’Brien said.

At a glance

What: Southeast Wisconsin Festival of Books

When: 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday

Where: University of

Wisconsin-Waukesha, 1500 N. University Drive

Cost: free admission and parking

More information: www.sewibookfest.com

Kathie Giorgio is a Waukesha author who will debut her new novel, “Learning to Tell (A Life) Time,” during the Festival of Books on Friday. She will take the stage at 6 p.m. “Learning to Tell (A Life) Time” is the sequel to 2011’s award-winning “The Home for Wayward Clocks.” “Giorgio uses a non-traditional format, inserting independent short stories between novel chapters, to portray what one reviewer calls ‘a masterful, artful look at what it means to be him and the fissures that are ever present between any two people,’ “ according to the festival’s program. She is also the founder of AllWriters’ Workplace & Workshop LLC in Waukesha.

Christina Schwarz will discuss her newest novel, “The Edge

of the Earth”, during her keynote address at noon Saturday. Shwarz grew up on Pewaukee Lake and still draws on Wisconsin for her writing despite living near Los Angeles. Her novels include “All is Vanity”, “So Long at the Fair”, and “Drowning Ruth”, a 2000 New York Times bestseller and Oprah’s Book Club selection. Her newest novel is about a restless character who leaves a comfortable life in 1898 Milwaukee and goes to live at an isolated lighthouse on the California coast. 

Dean Bakopoulus teaches English at Grinnell

College in Iowa and is the author of two novels, “Please Don’t Come Back from the Moon” and

“My American Unhappiness.” Another novel, “Summerlong,” is forthcoming, he said. Bakopoulus will be the keynote speaker at 11 a.m. Sunday at

the Festival of Books. Bakopoulus lectures across

the country and has written essays with topics ranging

from the economic and environmental problems facing the post-industrial Rust Belt to inspiring love for literature in students.