Festival of Books Preview: Authors from All Genres to Converge in Deadwood

Events for All Ages and Interests on Tap for Festival of Books

From iconic war writers to skilled illustrators and a quirky "foodie" author, the 2017 South Dakota Festival of Books lineup is packed with talent.

The state's premiere literary event unites thousands of readers and writers for book discussions, autograph sessions and more. Most events are free, while a handful of special events require tickets.

The 2017 South Dakota Festival of Books is in Deadwood Sept. 21-24.

South Dakota Strong

The host state will be strongly represented at the 2017 Festival of Books. Artists, illustrators, historians, mystery novelists, poets and more make up the South Dakota contingent. 

Nancy Tystad Koupal of Pierre will discuss her highly successful book "Pioneer Girl Perspectives: Exploring Laura Ingalls Wilder," on Saturday, Sept. 23. The collection of essays from noted scholars of Wilder's Life and work explore the themes and genesis of Wilder's writings. Koupal is director of the South Dakota Historical Society Press. 
According to a review from Publisher's Weekly, “The essays offer a rich diversity of subject matter. . . . [striking] a balance between hagiography and expose; all are even-handed in their treatment of Wilder’s life and writing, not glossing over views she held that clash with modern sensibilities. These informative essays will be of considerable interest to Wilder fans and scholars."

South Dakota authors Joseph Bottum and Frank Pommersheim are featured on an expert panel with SDSU graduate Chuck Raasch for the highly-anticipated "Authors, Appetizers and Aperitifs; The Bill of Rights: Liberty Through Limits" special event on Friday, Sept. 22. Bottum, Raasch and Pommersheim will discuss America's founding principles with political expert David Azzerad, director of the B. Kenneth Simon Center for Principles and Politics and AWC Family Foundation fellow at The Heritage Foundation. (Tickets can be purchased here.)

Bottum is a nationally-known public intellectual and bestselling author, while Pommersheim is a University of South Dakota Law Professor who writes extensively in the field of Indian law and serves on several tribal appellate courts. Raasch is a former USA Today cover story writer who now works as Washington correspondent for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Many more talented South Dakota authors are included in the 2017 lineup. Visit sdbookfestival.com for a full list of South Dakota authors.

One Book – J. Ryan Stradal

"Kitchens of the Great Midwest" by J. Ryan Stradal is the 2017 One Book South Dakota, while the Young Readers selection is "Adventures on Deckawoo Drive," a bind-in of three books in a series written by Kate DiCamillo and illustrated by Chris Van Dusen. Both books have been featured in book discussions, presentations and more as a part of South Dakota Humanities Council programming.

Stradal will kick off the Festival of Books at Racing Magpie in Rapid City Sept. 20, the final stop on a book tour that included several stops in South Dakota this past summer (tickets are still available). 

A Minnesota native and current Los Angeles resident who's made a living as a producer for reality television shows, Stradal found his groove immediately with his nationally-acclaimed debut novel.

"Kitchens of the Great Midwest" centers on Eva Thorvald, born into a food-obsessed family and blessed with a uniquely sensitive palate. From Lutheran church bake-offs to chili-pepper eating contests, the book captures the zeitgeist of the Midwest, including South Dakota.

"I really wanted to mention South Dakota in the book, and for good reason," Stradal said in a recent interview. "I really loved South Dakota growing up and went there through my childhood and teen years with family and friends." 

By turns quirky, hilarious and vividly sensory, the book tells an unexpected mother-daughter story about the bittersweet nature of life – its missed opportunities and its happy surprises. 

"All Midwesterners will find something to relate to in this book, whether it's baking bars from old family recipes or hunting for game for the next meal," said Jennifer Widman, director of the South Dakota Festival of Books. "Stradal also provides some very timely and often humorous commentary on current food trends and the disconnect between rural and urban cultures."

Chris Van Dusen is the 2017 Young Readers Illustrator.

Young Readers - A Familiar Face

Meanwhile, the featured Young Readers illustrator paired with an old Festival favorite to produce a trio of books that make up "Adventures on Deckawoo Drive." The 2017 Young Readers selection is a three-book bind-in - "Leroy Ninker Saddles Up," "Francine Poulet Meets the Ghost Raccoon," and "Where Are You Going, Baby Lincoln."

South Dakota's Young Readers are familiar with Mercy Watson author Kate DiCamillo, the 2014 Young Readers One Book author.

"It was pretty incredible to get paired up with Kate for those books," Van Dusen said.

Van Dusen, who spent his childhood drawing pictures with his brothers, loves to inspire young readers to pursue their dreams. 

"I go around to schools and sometimes meet with really young kids. I say, 'raise your hand if you like to draw.' Almost all hands go up. So, all kids really like drawing," he said. "It's the ones that keep with it that go on to be professional artists or illustrators."

"A lot of classmates could draw just as well as I do. Others quit. I kept at it."

As part of the 2017 Young Readers Festival of Books, Van Dusen will visit third-graders in Rapid City on Sept. 21 and the Northern Hills Sept. 22-23, giving drawing demonstrations and sharing his experiences of illustrating his books and books written by others. DiCamillo will provide a video greeting to the students.

2014 Young Readers author Kate DiCamillo wrote the "Mercy Watson" series of books illustrated by 2017 Young Readers Illustrator Chris Van Dusen. Photo by Emily Spartz/Sioux Falls Argus Leader.

Big Name Authors in a Small Wild West Town

In addition to providing authors to inspire the younger generation, the 2017 Festival of Books will feature many familiar names for adult readers. 

Fans of almost any writing genre will enjoy interacting with Vietnam Veteran and author Tim O'Brien, who won the National Book Award for his fiction masterpiece, "Going After Cacciato," and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for "The Things They Carried."

"We are pleased to host an author whose visceral storytelling speaks for so many who served and are serving in the military," said Widman. "O'Brien's novels are considered 'must read' material in Veterans' circles, and we could not ask for a better author to advance our growing Veterans' Writing program."

Joining him at the Festival is fellow Vietnam author Robert Olen Butler, the author of sixteen novels and six short story collections, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning "A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain." He has twice won a National Magazine Award for Fiction and received the 2013 F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Award for Outstanding Achievement in American Literature.

Tim O'Brien and Robert Olen Butler will appear at the 2017 S.D. Festival of Books.

Exploring Divisive Issues

While O'Brien and Butler use their rare talent to convey the emotional toll the Vietnam War took on their generation, another 2017 Festival author covers a conflict that, unfortunately, continues to play out prominently on the national and international stage.

Geneive Abdo is a nonresident fellow at the Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings and a fellow in the Middle East program at the Stimson Center. Her research focuses on modern Iran and political Islam.

Her most recent book, "The New Sectarianism: The Arab Uprisings and the Rebirth of the Shi'a-Sunni Divide," examines how religion is utilized for political purposes. She also delves into how religion is perceived and practiced by Muslims. Abdo argues that sectarianism poses a threat to regional states and stakeholders in the wider world, including the United States and its allies.

Abdo spent 20 years as a foreign correspondent focused on coverage of the Middle East and the Muslim world. From 1998 to 2001, she was the Iran correspondent for the British newspaper The Guardian and a regular contributor to The Economist and The International New York Times (formerly the International Herald Tribune). She was the first American journalist to be based in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

O'Brien, Butler and Abdo are just a few of the many acclaimed authors appearing at the 2017 event. Explore the full presenter list at sdbookfestival.com.

2017 Festival of Books Genres

In addition to reading about individual authors, exploring our genres is a great way to get accustomed to the events happening at the 2017 Festival of Books.

  • Children's/Y.A. - The body of works and accompanying illustrations of children's literature will not only provide entertainment for young readers but adults as well. Attendees will have the opportunity to hear Native American stories and songs with Joseph Bruchac and witness the artistry of cartoonists Mike Artell and Chris Browne.

  • Fiction - Literary works with the goal of telling a captivating story while giving readers an escape from reality. Attendees will hear from authors who've written on a wide variety of topics, from romance to South Dakota history to the Vietnam War and much more. Authors such as Stradal, Phillips, and O'Brien will engage audiences with their captivating stories.

  • History/Tribal Writing – The history/tribal writing genre covers both past events in the state and nation and current cultural concerns related to American Indian people. For example, attendees will hear from Philip Deloria, Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve and S.D. Nelson on Black Elk's legacy and his impact on South Dakota's history.

  • Non-Fiction – This wide-ranging genre is made up of literature based on facts. A sampling includes Rob Fleder, Paul Higbee and Jerry Wilson's event "Nonfiction Writing for Magazines" and Ron Capps' discussion on "Homecoming and Healing: Helping Veterans Write Their Way Home."

  • Poetry - Poetry comes in all different forms and styles and can be subdivided into many different genres such as narrative, romantic and dramatic. Explore the different styles of poetry with poets Whitnee Thorp, Heid Erdrich, Phyllis Cole-Dai, Ruby Wilson and many others.

  • Writer's Support - Groups of writers gather together to gain support and feedback in the different aspects of writing. From Jim Reese's workshop, "Get Published Now," to Alison McGhee's event "The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Writer," attendees will gain firsthand writing knowledge from authors.

Find More Information

For tickets and additional information about the Festival of Books, including event locations, author bios and more, visit sdbookfestival.com or download your free copy of the Festival Guide below