Alaska Book Festival a showcase for local authors

By Kelsey Gobroski
Sun Star Reporter

Authors, librarians, and bookstore representatives congregated at Pioneer Park for the first sale of the Alaska Book Festival, which holds events throughout the summer. Over the past three years, the festival took up a few days of concentrated activities. This year, Summer Sessions split up the activities into the book sale and several guest speakers.

“We feel like it’s been fairly successful, and people are walking out with books in hand — so I guess they’re happy,” Book Festival Committee member Mary Calmes said. She said about 200 or so people visited throughout the day on June 25, a mixture of tourists and locals.

“It’s not a huge crowd, but it’s a nice crowd,” said vendor Debbie Miller, author of Survival at 40 Below. The sunny skies may have contributed to a smaller crowd, she said.

Miller is a Fairbanks author from Arctic Village and has written 11 children’s books, essays, and has co-authored a number of other books. Miller, who had been invited to the festival, tries to participate in events around town, but bookstores usually sell her work for her, she said.

Ron Inouye and Judy Triplehorn did much of the planning for this event, but a committee of about 10 people plans the festival, Mary Calmes said. Representatives from UA Press, Noel Wien Public Library, the school district, and other literary venues serve on the committee. The university bookstore also partners with the committee.

“The basic idea is to celebrate Alaskan authors, literature, and illustrators,” Calmes said, adding that not all the books were Alaskana. Inouye also added that they are trying to promote an appreciation of books.

“We’re concerned with people who live only on the Internet,” Inouye said.

It took about three or four months to plan the festival, according to Inouye. People in town might ignore events occurring on campus, but there were few facilities in town that could accommodate space and parking for this kind of event. The book sale filled the ground floor of the Alaska Centennial Center for the Arts, at Pioneer Park.

Pat Holloway, representing the Georgeson Botanical Gardens, presented gardening books and books by local horticulturalists on one table, and an array of used books on another table. She was trying to promote local authors and Alaska gardening, she said, but over the last two days had been accepting old book donations from members. One stranger had shown up at her booth and left a box of used books. Although the used books sold well, she said they also drew in some revenue for local titles.

Robin and Steve Brooks stepped out of the Centennial Center for the Arts into the hot sun, with a large bag of books and arms full to overflowing. Robin Brooks said she thought the festival had a good selection of used books. She said she prefers used books so she could buy more. The couple conversed, saying they had met their budget for the day. She found a lot of Alaska-based books, Robin Brooks said. Debbie Miller agreed.

“I’m always amazed at how artistic our community is … we’ve got a lot of talent in this town.”

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