Virtual 2020 Festival to Kick Off with Bestselling Mystery Author, Rising Songwriter, Fun & Games

Festival Preview Party Slated for Sept. 22, Kick-Off Celebration to be Held Oct. 1 

Festival of Books fans have become accustomed to meeting their favorite authors in person every fall over the event's 17-year history. This year, they'll find joy from their living rooms through a carefully curated slate of events held via Zoom and Facebook Live. With kickoff sessions featuring Festival favorite William Kent Krueger and musician/rancher/author Eliza Blue, virtual participants will have plenty to smile about.

Festival Preview Party

"We're excited about bringing readers and writers together virtually," said Jennifer Widman, South Dakota Festival of Books Director. "We know this is a new experience for many loyal festivalgoers, so we want to help them navigate the technology to make sure they have a great time and don't miss any of the authors and events they love."

On Sept. 22, to warm up the crowd for the virtual slate set to begin Oct. 1, William Kent Krueger and Lorna Landvik will host a free-wheeling conversation about reading, writing, and finding ways to gather and celebrate books amidst a pandemic. The Festival Preview Party will begin at 7 p.m.

Between Krueger, whose engaging personality and knack for mystery writing have made him a popular draw during appearances at the Festival of Books, and Landvik, a comedian who said she "devoured the Little House on the Prairie books but in a cage match, believed Caddie Woodlawn would whup Laura Ingalls Wilder," there will be nary a dull moment.

Festival Kick-Off Celebration

On Oct. 1, Eliza Blue and the Wild Violets will kick off the Festival with a concert as part of a celebration featuring author Patrick Hicks and other special guests. A folk singer, author, and South Dakota transplant, Blue worked as a musician in Minneapolis before moving to a ranch in Bison, S.D. She was struggling to find collaborating musicians until fate brought her an unlikely neighbor: Billy Talbot, the bass player for Neil Young.

Talbot recorded and produced Blue's album "South Dakota, 1st of May." At the kickoff event, Festival fans will get a healthy dose of tunes written on the South Dakota prairie and produced by a bona fide rock star as Blue's group performs from the Kokomo Art Gallery in Lemmon. Blue will also read from her first book, "Accidental Rancher," a 2020 collection of essays about her transition from urbanite to ranch wife and mother.

Through a live stream from the South Dakota Humanities Council office in Brookings, viewers will find myriad opportunities for virtual mingling with fellow bibliophiles, authors, and more, as additional special guests will pop in and out of the session.

Virtual Kick-Off Events: What you Need to Know

  • Tuesday, Sept. 22, 7-7:45 p.m. – FESTIVAL PREVIEW PARTY with William Kent Krueger and Lorna Landvik –Grab a snack and a beverage and join these two fan favorites for a fun, free-wheeling conversation about reading, writing, and finding ways to get together and celebrate books amidst a pandemic!

  • Thursday, Oct. 1, 6:30-8:30 p.m. – FESTIVAL KICK-OFF CELEBRATION with Patrick Hicks, Eliza Blue, and Other Special Guests – Join Festival authors, sponsors, and staff for your guide to navigating the virtual Festival experience, complete with games, contests, and a concert by singer/songwriter Eliza Blue and friends, live from the SDHC office in Brookings and the Kokomo Art Gallery in Lemmon!

All events can be accessed at

More About the Virtual 2020 South Dakota Festival of Books

With the coronavirus pandemic continuing and the health of readers and writers in mind, the 2020 South Dakota Festival of Books will be an all-virtual experience in 2020.

The Festival, in its 18th year of bringing readers and writers together, typically includes more than 100 public presentations. In lieu of in-person events, the 60-plus authors on the 2020 roster will discuss books, teach workshops, and interact with fans via Zoom, and Facebook Live. The lineup includes local favorites and perennial bestsellers.

"Safety is the first priority," said Ann Volin, director of the South Dakota Humanities Council, which hosts the annual event. "We will dearly miss our personal interactions with fans, volunteers, sponsors, authors, and everyone else who has made this event so special during the past 17 years, but we will host a robust virtual event and hope to be back in person in 2021."

Most events will be broadcast on the South Dakota Humanities Council Facebook page. We will also provide Zoom t links to events where attendees must sign up. Please watch for more information as we gather our virtual schedule.

About the Authors Featured in Kickoff Events

Eliza Blue
Tracks: Non-Fiction, South Dakota Authors

Eliza Blue is a Dakota shepherd, writer and folk singer. In addition to her weekly column "Little Pasture on the Prairie," carried by 11 different print publications, she contributes to South Dakota Public Radio and Prairie Public Radio with her monthly series "Postcards from the Prairie." Her byline has appeared in many regional and national publications, including the New York Times, and her first book, "Accidental Rancher," a collection of essays about her transition from urbanite to ranch wife and mother, came out this year.

Patrick Hicks
Tracks: Fiction, Poetry, South Dakota Authors

Patrick Hicks is the author of "In the Shadow of Dora," "Library of the Mind," and "The Collector of Names," among others. His work has appeared on NPR, The PBS NewsHour, and American Life in Poetry, and his first novel, "The Commandant of Lubizec," was selected for National Reading Group Month. Hicks is the Writer-in-Residence at Augustana University and a faculty member in the MFA Program at Sierra Nevada University. He lives in South Dakota and hosts the popular radio show, "Poetry from Studio 47."

Author Patrick Hicks.

William Kent Krueger
Tracks: Crime/Mystery, Fiction

New York Times bestselling author William Kent Krueger has logged timber, worked construction, done freelance journalism, and researched child development. He now makes his living as a full-time author of the award-winning Cork O'Connor mystery series, set in the north woods of Minnesota. Krueger's 2013 stand-alone novel, "Ordinary Grace," received the Edgar Award and was named the 2015 One Book South Dakota. The companion novel, "This Tender Land," was published in September 2019. Kreuger lives with his wife in St. Paul, a city he dearly loves.

Author William Kent Krueger

Lorna Landvik
Tracks: Fiction

Lorna Landvik is the author of 12 novels, including the best-selling "Patty Jane's House of Curl," "Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons," and "Oh My Stars," which has been made into a short "proof of concept" film. Her latest book, "Chronicles of a Radical Hag (with Recipes)," has just been released in paperback. Also an actor, Landvik regularly performs a one-woman, all-improvised show called Party in the Rec Room.

Author Lorna Landvik.

Find out More About the Virtual 2020 South Dakota Festival of Books

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