“I wanted to do something positive,” said Julia
Dickinson, the executive director for Ann Arbor’s inaugural
Book Festival. The event spans four days and promises to be a
capacious experience with many events featuring authors. Launching
the festival is a panel discussion about the transformation from
book to screen at the Michigan Theater. The event will culminate on
Saturday with author discussions in the Modern Languages Building
and a street fair on North University Avenue between the Michigan
League and Michigan Book and Supply.

Book Reviews
Author Michael Eric Dyson (Courtesy of Matt Carr)
Book Reviews
Author Ken Mikolowski (Courtesy of Laura Frankena )
Book Reviews
Author Derrick Bell (AP PHOTO )

According to Dickinson, the festival will feature more than 70
exhibition booths, as well as a number of pavilions highlighting a
myriad of topics including comic books, poetry, publishing,
songwriting, book arts, book groups and literacy promotion. The
comics stage will feature three comic artists who will discuss how
they got involved in the industry. An auction for the Comic Book
Legal Defense Fund with autographed “Hellboy”
merchandise is planned as well.

Students can also learn about books that have changed lives.
Michigan football coach Lloyd Carr and University President Mary
Sue Coleman will be among those speaking about books that have made
an impact on them. There will also be a stage that incorporates
this semester’s theme, Brown v. Board of Education. The event
incorporates a panel discussion and a dramatization of the historic
case by the Performance Network. Poetry workshops and a poetry slam
will also be held Saturday on North University Avenue.

An interesting addition to the festival is a tour of the Malloy
presses, where one can see books as they are being produced. The
tour costs $10 but includes a copy of “Ann Arbor
(W)rites,” a collection about Ann Arbor life with pieces by
Charles Baxter (author of “Saul and Patsy”) and actress
Lucy Liu (“Kill Bill”). The fair will also showcase 50
of the best book cover designs in the country. Unfortunately the
biggest author event, a benefit dinner gala, comes at a cost of
$200, but there will be many other opportunities to meet authors at
signings and panel discussions throughout the festival.

A primary objective of the festival is to raise illiteracy
awareness in Washetenaw County. “It is to make people more
aware of the problem around us,” Dickinson said. She added,
“Twelve percent of the population in this county struggle
with (illiteracy).” An informative guide about how to get
involved will be distributed by volunteers that Dickinson jokingly
dubbed the “literacy- guide SWAT team.”

The coordinators of the event strategically planned the festival
so that it would fall as late as possible in the term but while
most students were still on campus. “We looked at a number of
dates, and we wanted to have the students and the University
involved,” Dickinson said. According to Dickinson, sponsors
wanted to “make sure we engage the next generation …
to really keep it front and center.”

As executive director of the festival, Dickinson has been
enthusiastically involved in the planning. “Part of what we
want to do is position Michigan as a literary center, and Ann Arbor
really makes sense as that center.” She pointed out that the
city is home to more than 30 bookstores and four of the largest
book printers in the nation as well. She wanted to be involved in
an event that affects people from all different ages. Speaking
about her personal motivation, she said, “One of my thoughts
was that it is really the readers who give books lives. Without
them, they just sit on your shelf gathering dust.”

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