t’s an annual event that brings together readers, writers, and lovers of the written word. This year, the South Dakota Festival of Books will host more than 70 authors, and feature 100 sessions on a vast array of topics and genres. Jennifer Widman, FoB coordinator and director, and Jessica Andrews, FoB communications and outreach director, explain why we should head to Brookings September 22-25. 

What is new this year?

Jessica Andrews: Two things – We’ve centered the Festival in Brookings this year, and we’re recognizing the centennial year of the Pulitzer Prize with six Pulitzer Prize-winning authors at the Festival. The Festival alternates east and west locations, usually between Sioux Falls and Deadwood, each year. We have Young Readers Festival events in Sioux Falls this year on Thursday, September 22, and most events are in Brookings. The community is giving us great venues, businesses and organizations who are helping us fit a well-established event in a new location.

Who are a couple of super-talented up and coming authors attending?

Jennifer Widman: I’m really eager to hear from J. Ryan Stradal, who has a long history of editing and writing short fiction. He just released his first novel, Kitchens of the Great Midwest, last year. It’s funny and poignant and completely relatable to most Midwesterners with its references to lutefisk and hot dish, and it also includes some great satire on current food trends.

JA: Sidenote – Stradal’s book had a cameo in the latest season of Orange is the New Black as one of the books Red was reading.

We aim to feature South Dakota authors at the Festival, and we have a few new ones this year. Dirk Lammers, from Sioux Falls, debuts Baseball’s No-Hit Wonders. Jerry Nelson, from Volga, released Dear County Agent Guy in May. Nelson’s book evolved from his “Dear County Agent Guy” series of humorous ag-life columns.

Which event during the festival are you most excited for? Why?

JA: Always the hardest question! Any of the events featuring Pulitzer winners will be superb. The biggest of all will be Jane Smiley in conversation with Lori Walsh of SDPB’s Dakota Midday on Friday, September 23. Smiley is a prolific writer with a broad background, and, in the interviews I’ve heard, she’s irreverent and appreciative of life and writing. Then, Saturday night features a panel of five Prize winners, moderated by Michael Dirda.

Watch for beers and bees, too. Cookbook author Sue Doeden (Homemade with Honey) and Adee Honey Farms near Bruce host tours on Friday morning. She will be at The Carrot Seed [Kitchen Co.] with a cooking demo on Saturday afternoon. Jeff Alworth with his book The Beer Bible offers a guided beer tasting at the SD Ag Heritage Museum, in addition to a luncheon on The Science of Food & Drink featuring him and Doeden.

Anything else you’d like to add?

JA: The Festival is a free, family-friendly, and public event, possible thanks to a broad range of support from sponsors and partners and those who truly believe in celebrating literature and creating a community of readers across South Dakota. And…we’ll be back in Deadwood and Rapid City, September 21-24, 2017.

For more information on the SD Festival of Books schedule and presenters, visit sdbookfestival.com.

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