Dozens of Ann Arbor residents and University of Michigan students walked between 4th and 5th Avenue for the 14th annual Ann Arbor Book Festival Saturday afternoon. Visitors could meet with about 20 authors, both local and from around the country, ready to pitch and sell their novels.

The fair was organized and run with the help of dedicated people like Renee Tembeau, the chair of the fair. She explained that the event used to be centered much more around the University, but has changed over the years.

“It initially started with community members and University support, and it had a real focus on literacy and bringing together the community in part with the University,” she said. “Now, however, as the festival has grown, it’s become independent of the University.”

She said the demographic has also changed, and the fair now reaches more people.

“We’ve started to bring way more local people,” she said. “We have expanded a little bit. It used to be much smaller, and we used to be closer to the University. We’ve tried to bring it out a little bit to the community.”

According to the event’s website, the purpose of the festival is to encourage reading but also to spread awareness about literacy challenges.

The fair attributes its organization and success to those in the community with a passion for literature. 

“Each year a diverse group of community leaders committed to literature, language, and the arts in Michigan plans the Festival,” it reads. “While the festival is located in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, it is regional in its scope and interest.”

One relatively new feature of the book festival is the book crawl. At the crawl, artists gather at local venues to discuss their works, and patrons follow them. Bookstores, like the Vault of Midnight, as well as other community establishments, like the Blue Nile restaurant, participated in the crawl this year.

Tembeau said she thought the crawl was a new and innovative way to ingratiate the book fair with the Ann Arbor community and something that she would like to continue in the future.

One of the authors showcased at the book festival was Tj O’Connor, an author of suspense stories, who presented a series of supernatural stories he has written. According to O’Connor, the stories came about by accident.

“The very first one came out four years ago,” he said. “I wrote them for my daughter, based on a nightmare I had 20 years after the First Gulf War. And I was telling her about it, and she wanted me to write it as a light hearted murder mystery, so I did, and it came out really well, and I sent it off and got my first agent and my first book contract.”

O’Connor, who works and lives outside Washington D.C., said he was invited by people he met in Virginia.

“I had some friends who live in the area, and I met them (when) they came to Virginia, for a book fair,” he said. “And after getting to know them for a while they said, ‘Hey, we are having this wonderful book fair, would you come?’ ”

O’Connor said he values any opportunity to showcase his work and meet new people.

“As a new author, you’ll go anywhere that you get to talk about books,” he said.

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