Ten Sioux Falls Authors Featured at Festival
Festival Host City Showcases Own Talent
By Anna Wempe
Although the Festival brings in talented authors from all over the country, some of the featured authors won’t have to travel very far. They all live in Sioux Falls, they all are authors — but that is where the similitude ends. Some were born here; others are “transplants.” One is a cartoonist; one produced a documentary. These authors, like the city they call home, offer a little bit of everything.
The authors presenting at this year’s South Dakota Festival of Books cover the history of both South Dakota and the Sioux Falls area through different lenses.
Although Jennifer Dumke grew up in Iowa, her hometown is less than an hour away from Sioux Falls. She moved to Sioux Falls after graduating from South Dakota State University and worked in TV reporting and photography. Since childhood, however, Jennifer had wanted to write, and soon she and her husband fulfilled that dream by producing the documentary “W.L. Dow, Architect” for PBS. W.L. Dow is known as the “Builder on the Prairie” because of his work throughout South Dakota and especially in the Sioux Falls area. The documentary and companion book discusses the life and work of the man who designed many historic buildings and residences, including the Sioux Falls courthouse and the School for the Deaf. Jennifer Dumke will both present on Saturday at 9 a.m. in the Holiday Inn City Centre Palisades II on “The Pros and Perils of Writing About the Past,” and show a screening of the documentary “W.L. Dow, Architect,” later that day at 3 p.m. in the Palisades I room in the Holiday Inn.
Jon Lauck, a born-and-raised South Dakotan, writes on politics, history, and South Dakota. His work as senior advisor to South Dakota Senator John Thune gives him insight into the political culture and workings of the state, a subject on which he has written essays, articles, and reviews. He remains quite busy between books as a professor, editor, leader of the Midwestern History Working Group, and, of course, his job with Senator Thune. His latest book, The Lost Region: Toward a Revival of Midwestern History, emphasizes the significance of Midwestern history. He strives to repudiate the myth that the history of the United States lies mostly in events on the East and West coasts. Lauck will speak about his book on Saturday at 2 p.m. in the Palisades I room in the Holiday Inn, and again at 7 p.m. about “Perspectives on the Dakotas After 125 Years” with Kathleen Norris, Dan O’Brien and Diane Johnson in the Main Theatre of the Orpheum.
In 1941, sparked by the United States’ entrance to World War II, the Army Radio Technical Training School began operation in Sioux Falls. Lynwood Oyos, in his book Reveille for Sioux Falls takes a long look at the growth and transformation of Sioux Falls after the school’s opening. He says the transformation promoted the biggest change in the make-up and appearance of Sioux Falls since the coming of the railroad, both in economics and culture. Oyos has written many books, including several on the history and Lutheran faith in the area and some scholarly publications. He works as professor emeritus of History at Augustana College in Sioux Falls. He will discuss and answer questions about his latest work on Friday at 3 p.m. in the Palisades I room in the Holiday Inn.
Sioux Falls is a very productive area for children’s authors, with four of the featured authors for the Young Readers South Dakota Festival of Books residing in the Sioux Falls area.
Although Chris Browne was born in New Jersey and raised in Connecticut, he now makes his home here in South Dakota. He began his career as a nationally acclaimed and widely published cartoonist when he took over the Hagar the Horrible comic strip upon his father’s death. Most recently, he wrote and illustrated his first children’s book, The Monster that Ate the State, about a monster that travels throughout South Dakota and settles in Sioux Falls. He will do a reading and discussion of his book four times at the festival, twice at the South Dakota Children’s Museum in Brookings on Thursday at 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., and twice on Saturday at the Washington Pavilion at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.
David Volk combines all three prominent themes in his books: historical books for children about South Dakota. Volk was born in Mitchell and studied to be a teacher at Northern State University until the Vietnam War broke out and David became a soldier. After his return from the war with a Bronze Star, he ran for State Treasurer at the age of 25 and made state history as the youngest person elected to statewide office. He remained in state government for several years and terms. His books reflect his many experiences. Draftee: A High School Teacher Goes to War is a memoir of his transition from a teacher to a soldier and his experiences in that war. Continuing with this theme, he recently penned a children’s book called My Grandpa’s War, which deals with the complex issues facing Vietnam and other vets through the eyes of a child and helps explain that war and those who fought in it to children. He speaks at the Children’s Museum in Brookings on Thursday at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., as well as at the Siouxland Public Library in Sioux Falls in Meeting Room B at 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. on Saturday.
Although Rebecca L. Johnson lives in Sioux Falls, she doesn’t seem to stay there much. While researching for her science-based children’s book, she has been from the bottom of the ocean floor to New Zealand to Antarctica, has tagged sea turtles and tracked endangered parrots, and many more. She has won many awards and honors from the American Library Association, National Science Teachers Association, National Council of Teachers of English, and others. She combines her love of nature, science, and reading into books meant to spark the same love in children. Her most recent book is entitled When Lunch Fights Back: Wickedly Clever Animal Defenses. She has two science presentations for children. “Are Zombies Real?” takes place both at the Children’s Museum on Thursday at 10 a.m. and in the Belbas Theatre at the Washington Pavilion in Sioux Falls on Saturday at 3 p.m. Johnson personally knows “What Lives Deep in the Sea?” because of her descent in the Johnson-Sea-Link submersible, and will talk about it both on Thursday at the Children’s Museum in the Classroom 202 at 12:30 PM and in the Siouxland Public Library on Saturday at 9 a.m. in Meeting Room A.
In a fundraising effort for the Children’s Home Society, an organization that helps children that are victims of neglect or abuse, Tom Roberts and his wife decided to pen a children’s book called ‘Twas the Night Before Christ in 2002. This book’s success led to them not only joining the staff of that organization, but also writing other books and a CD of stories that they use to raise awareness of and funds for the Children’s Home Society. Born in the Aberdeen area and living in Sioux Falls for many years, Roberts continues his dream with the latest book Return to the Farm: A Christmas Journey and his writing series based on interviews with cancer patients and their families. Roberts will speak at the South Dakota Children’s Museum in the Art Studio on Thursday at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
Although several Sioux Falls authors specialize in history or children’s literature, readers who prefer poetry or short stories or novels can find local authors who write more to their taste.
For short story aficionados, Ron Parsons offers a reading of his work A Sense of Touch on Saturday in Sioux Falls at 10 a.m. in the Anne Zabel room of the Orpheum. A native South Dakotan, this author set his work in the upper Midwest. A versatile author, he has works published by sources from The Gettysburg Review, a well-respected literary magazine, to The Onion, an online satirical newspaper.
Poetry lovers will not be disappointed by Sioux Falls’ contribution to this genre and should seek out David Allan Evans, the Poet Laureate of South Dakota since 2002. The recipient of three degrees in Creative Writing, several writing grants and awards, and twice a Fulbright Scholar to China, Evans’ work appears in many publications, including Reader’s Digest, Prairie Schooner, and others. He recently released a collection of poems called The Carnival, The Life. He speaks alongside former United States Poet Laureate Ted Kooser at the event entitled “Readings & Musings from Two Poets Laureate” which takes place at the Coliseum, Multi-Cultural Center, 515 N. Main Ave. on Saturday at 10 a.m.
This year, the Writer-in-Residence at Augustana College Patrick Hicks shows his versatility as an author. His first presentation at 9 a.m. on Saturday in the Coliseum, Multi-Cultural Center at 515 N. Main Ave. in Sioux Falls discusses his historical fiction novel The Commandant of Lubizec. This dark tale of human nature in the midst of one of the darkest periods of recent human history contrasts with his reading of his poems from his latest book of poetry, Adoptable at 2 p.m. on Saturday in the Cascade Room of the Holiday Inn. These two works not only contrast in genre, but also in style and subject matter. Written mainly about his son, the author describes Adoptable as a book about “love, and hope, and wonder, and life.” Don’t miss either reading or discussion from this award-winning, diverse author and please, come out and support all of these local authors.