In a book festival pre-event, Las Vegas writers, edited by panel moderator and former CityLife editor Scott Dickensheets, talk about books and writing on Thursday, Oct. 24. The nine writers contributed to an anthology looking at the many meanings of “progress” in a city that embodies it. This year’s volume features writers Aurora Brackett, Henry Brean, Geoff Carter, Abigail Goldman, John Katsilometes, Rena Mason, Kris Saknussemm, Sarah Jane Woodall and Douglas Unger.
Books for you. Books for me. Books for pre-teens. Books for young adults. Books for curmudgeonly old ink-stained wretches.
Books for and about Las Vegas, by Las Vegans. Books looking to the edge of the universe. Books with pictures. Books of pictures. Books of pictures telling stories.
Fiction, non-fiction, prose and poetry. High art and low brow. Comical and terrifying.
There are as many kinds of books and as many authors and as many readers as you can find anywhere this week in Las Vegas, a gift of literature courtesy of the Las Vegas Valley Book Festival. It still seems a bit surprising, perhaps, to visitors to our dusty desert land, but not only does Vegas have a book festival, it’s a big one, and it’s growing.
This year, there will be 165 authors, 100 events - including a day-long comic book festival embedded in the bigger event - 45 panel discussions and four keynote speakers.
And that doesn’t count several “pre-events” that includes a short-and-fast “flash fiction” competition, a nine-writer panel of local Las Vegas literary luminaries and a discussion of banned and censored literature.
Participation by the public could top previous years in which more than 10,000 people attended programs around the valley.
Melinda Brown, co-chair of the literary committee, puts together the huge program. There’s no real defined theme to the effort, she says.
“We don’t have a theme every year, but we do say that there is something for everyone,” Brown says. “That’s one of the things we’re really striving for, to provide a very literary component, as well as the genre component, things for young adults, things for adults, books for children, books for everyone.”
This is Brown’s third year with the program, which this year marks its 12th year overall.
The highlighted speakers illustrate a bit of the diversity of the program.
On Saturday evening, Luis Alberto Urrea will bring his experience in writing in many genres - including fiction and nonfiction - and his personal experience as an immigrant from Mexico growing up in Southern California. His first mystery short story, “Amapola,” (the poppy, in Spanish), won the prestigious Edgar Award. Urrea will speak at 5 p.m. at the Historic Fifth Street School, 401 S. Fourth St.
Earlier the same day, Walter Dean Myers - a National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature - will present his dictate that “Reading is not optional.” Meyers is an award-winning author in the field for young adults, one of the fastest-growing areas of literature. Myers has written more than 110 books and, according to various sources, is the winner of every major award in children’s literature.
Myers is scheduled to speak at 10 a.m. at the Fifth Street School.
* On the non-fiction side, noted author and consultant on relationships Robert E. Hall will speak on how the electronic information revolution has changed and threatens personal relationships, and how that affects policy on issues such as poverty, education, global competitiveness, politics, culture and health. Hall has advised major corporations for more than 20 years on personal and business relationships.
Hall will speak Friday, at 7 p.m., at the Charleston Heights Art Center, 800 S. Brush St.
Eileen Horn, a literary committee member, says the diversity of the keynote speakers mirrors the diversity within the community and in the world of literature.
Horn worked to coordinate the adult-books panel discussions, but as a former librarian with the Clark County School District, she believes exposing young people to books is critical if they are going to be readers later in life.
“There’s not really an overall theme except that we’re promoting literacy and imagination,” she says. “I like to promote reading of all kinds. Kids become adult readers… The secret is to hook them into reading at an early age.
“I don’t think it’s an option for kids to read.”
Horn has been with the festival for four years and seen it gather in size and scope, in the number of panels and the number of adults.
She discussed comic books and their mature-sounding siblings, graphic novels. Comic books draw young people into the world of literature, she says, but the genre also includes such classic graphic novels as 1991’s Maus, the allegory of Nazism and Jews written and illustrated by Art Spiegelman.
This year the book festival will devote Saturday to children’s and young-adult activities and tables at the Fifth Street School and to comics and graphic novels at the Clark County Library.
The Comic Book Fest will feature special guests Greg Rucka (Lazarus, Batman, Wonder Woman, Queen & Country) and Georges Jeanty (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Deadpool, Gambit, Teen Titans); performances by two nerdrock artists Adam WarRock and 3d6; cosplay contest; artist jam; artist alley; marketplace; panels and workshops on drawing, writing, creating cosplay and mask making; portfolio reviews; Superman’s 75th anniversary; and the story behind Wonder Woman.
The festival is brought to Las Vegas with the support of seven producing partners; the national bookseller, Barnes & Noble, joined the partnership this year.
The other producing partners are the Las Vegas chapter of AIGA (the former American Institute of Graphic Arts), the City of Las Vegas Office of Cultural Affairs, the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the Nevada Humanities and UNLV’s Black Mountain Institute. (Disclosure: Las Vegas CityLife, which you are reading, is one of seven co-sponsors of the festival.)
For a full schedule and location of exhibits and events, go to vegasvalleybookfestival.org. CL