2019 Festival of Books Preview: What You Need to Know for the 2019 Event, Oct. 4-6 in Deadwood

Planning your Festival of Books visit? Here is "what you need to know" — our full preview featuring important information about authors, dates, times and locations.

Featuring More than 60 Presenters: Local Favorites to Perennial Bestsellers

The 17th annual South Dakota Festival of Books, Oct. 4-6 in Deadwood, will feature more than 60 presenting authors, from local favorites to perennial bestsellers, including Heather Graham ("A Lethal Legacy"), Craig Johnson ("Land of Wolves"), Megan Phelps-Roper ("Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church"), Sean Sherman ("The Sioux Chef's Indigenous Kitchen") and J. Ryan Stradal ("The Lager Queen of Minnesota") participating in readings, lectures, panel discussions and book signings.

For easy reference during your journey to the 2019 Festival of Books, click the link below to access a PDF of this blog post, which you can save to your phone.

South Dakota's premier annual literary event, the Festival features more than 40 exhibitors in Exhibitors Hall, along with two official bookstores where Festival patrons can buy books written by their favorite presenters and have them signed. Thousands of readers, young and old, flock to the event each year.

The adult and youth tracks are led each year by the One Book and Young Readers One Book authors, respectively. The 2019 One Book author is Kent Nerburn, whose “Neither Wolf nor Dog” is being read and discussed by South Dakotans leading up to the event; meanwhile, Rapid City author, artist and illustrator Donald F. Montileaux is the 2019 Young Readers One Book author of “Tatanka and Other Legends of the Lakota People,” which is being distributed to nearly 8,000 youth throughout the state. An estimated 5,000 students will meet children's and young adult authors and illustrators, including Montileaux, via school visits throughout the Black Hills.

Because the Festival of Books includes more than 60 authors and a multitude of author presentations, writing workshops, book signings and even a Wild West Shootout, you’ll want to plan ahead with our “What You Need to Know” preview.

While most events are free, events with food and writing workshops require tickets. Please visit our ticket page to reserve your spot at our ticketed events.

General Festival Information


Where is the 2019 Festival Being Held?

The 2019 Festival of Books is hosted by our Presenting Partner, the City of Deadwood, which has generously supported our gathering of readers and writers since our inaugural Festival in Deadwood in 2003. The Festival is in Deadwood during odd years and is held East River during even years.

What are the Deadwood Venues?

The 2019 Festival is centrally located at the Deadwood Mountain Grand, 1906 Deadwood Mountain Dr. Other Deadwood host venues include Deadwood City Hall, Deadwood Public Library, Deadwood VFW, Historic Franklin Hotel (Emerald Room), His and Hers Ale House & Wine Bar, Homestake Adams Research and Cultural Center, Martin & Mason Hotel 1898 Ballroom, Springhill Suites at Cadillac Jack's Resort, and Tatanka: Story of The Bison.


When is the 2019 Festival?

The 2019 Festival of Books is Oct. 4-6 in Deadwood.

Are There Events in Other Communities?

Yes. While the main event is Oct. 4-6 in Deadwood, there are a handful of auxiliary events starting Oct. 2 in other areas of the Black Hills, including Rapid City, Lead and Sturgis.

Auxiliary Events in Other Communities

Rapid City

Thursday, Oct. 3

Various Young Readers events held from 11:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. at the Rapid City Public Library; click here for full schedule.


Thursday, Oct 3

7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Festival Fundraiser & Author Reception (Buy tickets here).
Sanford Lab Homestake Visitor Center
Meet and mingle with Festival presenters, enjoy delicious food

Friday, Oct 4

10:30 am - 11:15 am
Tatanka and Other Legends
Donald F. Montileaux
Historic Homestake Opera House

12:30 pm - 1:15 pm
Tatanka and Other Legends
Donald F. Montileaux
Historic Homestake Opera House


Thursday, Oct 3

4:30 pm - 6:00 pm
Mystery and Mayhem in the Black Hills
Sandra Brannan and Ann Charles
Sturgis Public Library

Dates & Times to Remember: Festival Schedule by Day

Wednesday, Oct 2

The Festival opens with Women Behaving Badly, an evening of fun featuring three presenters with books in genres from mystery to history.

5:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Women Behaving Badly 
(Buy tickets here.)
Chris Enss, Heather Graham and Melissa Lenhardt
Mount Rushmore Society, Rapid City

Thursday, Oct. 3 (Young Readers events start at 11:30 am in Rapid City)

Perhaps the most interactive of all Festival events is the opening night Festival Fundraiser & Author Reception. From 7-8:30 pm on Thursday, Oct. 3, you can mingle with Festival authors, ask them about their work and enjoy hors d'oeuvres and drinks, all for a $50 ticket.

Thursday will largely belong to the younger generation of readers, as Young Readers Festival of Books events will be held at the Rapid City Public Library, starting at 11:30 am and continuing throughout the day (as well as in Deadwood on Friday, Oct. 4 and Saturday, Oct. 5).

Check out our Young Readers preview via the button below.

Times to Remember:

  • 10 am - SDPB Live Broadcast, In the Moment Book Club with Lori Walsh
    Sean Covel, Tracy Nelson Maurer, Traci Sorell, and Rebecca Swift
    SDPB Black Hills Studio, 415 Main St., Rapid City, SD 57701

  • 11:30 amYoung Readers events start at the Rapid City Public Library

  • 7 pm - Author Reception begins in Lead (Buy tickets here.)

Friday, Oct. 4 (events start at 10 am)

The Festival of Books, a strong supporter of both published and aspiring authors, kicks off in Deadwood Friday morning at 10 am with a slate of writing workshops covering everything from the process of publishing a book to the finer points of styling prose and plotlines. At "High Noon," mystery authors Sandra Brannan and Heather Graham will face off in a Wild West shootout outside the Deadwood Mountain Grand with members of the Deadwood Alive troupe.

Exhibitors' Hall opens at the Deadwood Mountain Grand Event Center at 1 pm, which is also when the afternoon's concurrent sessions begin. Festival authors and attendees will gather for a book signing at 3:30 pm, followed by a series of special events starting with "Books and Brews" with 2017 One Book SD author J. Ryan Stradal at 4:30 pm, the annual Literary Feast at 5:45 with Tosca Lee, Kimberly Stuart and Nicole Baart, and the "Friday Night Feature" with John Amble and Matthew Cavanaugh, who close the evening with a discussion of Game of Thrones and modern warfare at 7:30.

Times to Remember:

  • 10 am Writing workshops start, with the following taking place from 10-11:45 am:
    - "Make Your Prose Sparkle"
    - "Publishing Your Novel: Start to Finish, from an Independent and a Traditional Perspective"
    - "Say What? Dialogue, Taglines and Narrative Voice"
    - "Sonic Revolution: Developing Your Poet's Ear"
    - "Three Dimensional, Unforgettable: Creating Character"


  • 12 pm Deadwood Alive presents "Showdown at High Noon" featuring Sandra Brannan and Heather Graham
    Outside the Deadwood Mountain Grand

  • 1 pm An afternoon of concurrent sessions kicks off and Exhibitors' Hall opens at the Deadwood Mountain Grand Event Center

  • 3:30 pm Mass Book Signing at Exhibitors' Hall

  • 4:30 pm Books & Brews - Researching & Writing The Lager Queen of Minnesota - featuring J. Ryan Stradal at His & Hers Ale House & Wine Bar. (Buy tickets here.)

  • 5:45 pm - 7:15 pm LITERARY FEAST - Shoulder to Shoulder: How We Work Together to Connect with Readers, Booksellers & Communities
    Nicole Baart, Tosca Lee, Kimberly Stuart (Buy tickets here.)
    Martin & Mason Hotel - 1898 Ballroom

  • 7:30 pm - 8:30 pm FRIDAY NIGHT FEATURE: Winning Westeros: What Game of Thrones Tells Us About Modern War & World Affairs
    John Amble, Matthew Cavanaugh
    Deadwood Mountain Grand - Event Center

Saturday, Oct. 5 (events begin at 9 am)

On Saturday, Exhibitors' Hall opens at 9 am as concurrent events begin at venues throughout the historic Wild West town of Deadwood. Books will be signed again at 1 pm in Exhibitors' Hall, followed by more concurrent events and the always popular Happy Hour event at the adjacent Bill's Backstage Bar at 5 pm, immediately following Megan Phelps-Roper's highly-anticipated "Unfollow: Growing Up in (& Getting Out of) America's Most Controversial Church" presentation on the main Deadwood Mountain Grand Event Center at 4 pm. The event marks her first public speaking event in South Dakota since moving to the state after leaving the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas and marrying a South Dakotan.

At 6:15 pm, the 2019 Distinguished Achievement in the Humanities Awards will be handed out on the Deadwood Mountain Grand Event Center stage, followed by a celebration of new South Dakota Poet Laureate Christine Stewart at 6:30 pm; the day's events conclude with bestselling author Craig Johnson's "Saturday Night Special" event at 7:45 pm.

Times to Remember:

  • 9:00 am Exhibitor Hall opens and concurrent events begin

  • 1:00 pm Mass Book Signing begins at Deadwood Mountain Grand Event Center

  • 4:00 pm - 5:15 pm Happy Hour for Readers & Writers with Literary Loot at Deadwood Mountain Grand, Bill's Backstage Bar (win autographed books, original illustrations, Skype sessions with authors and more!)

  • 6:15 pm - 6:30 pm Distinguished Achievement in the Humanities Awards
    Deadwood Mountain Grand – Event Center

  • 6:30 - 7:30 pm A Celebration of South Dakota's New Poet Laureate, Christine Stewart Patrick Hicks, Jim Reese, Lee Ann Roripaugh and Christine Stewart
    Deadwood Mountain Grand - Event Center

  • 7:45 pm - 8:45 pm SATURDAY NIGHT SPECIAL: Longmire on the Page, on the Screen and on the Road Craig Johnson
    Deadwood Mountain Grand- Event Center

Sunday, Oct. 6 (events begin at 9 am)

Sunday is the final day of the 2019 Festival, and it's a day of food-related celebrations, including the annual Book Lovers' Brunch, which this year will be held at 10 am at the Deadwood Mountain Grand Event Center. The culminating event for the 2019 Festival is a luncheon with Sean Sherman of The Sioux Chef at 1 pm at SpringHill Suites at Cadillac Jack's Resort.

Times to Remember:

  • 10:00 am Book Lovers' Brunch at Deadwood Mountain Grand Event Center (Buy tickets here.)
  • 11:00 am Looking Back, Thinking Ahead: Women & Memoir – Stephanie Anderson, Shonda Buchanan & Tiffany Midge
  • 1:00 pm Closing Celebration: A Taste of Indigenous Tradition: A Luncheon by Sean Sherman of The Sioux Chef (Buy tickets here.)

2019 Festival of Books: Video Preview

For a visual depiction of what to expect at the 2019 Festival, view our 2019 Festival of Books commercial produced by Midcontinent Communications!

Email info@sdhumanities.org or call 605-688-6113 if you have any questions about the event.

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