PANAMA CITY — Since 1999, the Bay County Public Library Foundation has been bringing local readers together with nationally-known authors, producers and other writers for the Books Alive festival of reading.
The 14th annual event will be 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Florida State University Panama City. All sessions are free and open to the public.
Books Alive mixes creativity, learning, fun and fellowship into “a weekend brew of inspiration and interaction for those who love the power of words,” according to promotional materials supplied by library public relations specialist Bettina Mead.
“Bettina and the library systems of Bay County have established a beach head for new writers, and given voice to established ones for over a decade now,” said featured author Janis Owens, a Marianna native who resides in Newberry. “It’s a favor that cannot be forgotten.”
Books Alive has grown into one of the most respected events of its kind. Past keynote speakers have included several New York Times bestselling authors, a Pulitzer Prize winner, a former governor, a U.S. Congressman, a presidential candidate, and a “60 Minutes” network producer who is a senior vice president of the Country Music Network.
The keynote speaker for the luncheon Saturday, Dr. Judith Bense, has served at the University of West Florida in Pensacola for 30 years, and became the fifth president of UWF on July 1, 2008. Bense’s books include: “Unearthing Pensacola”(2006), “Presidio Santa María de Galve (1698-1719): Struggle for Survival on the Spanish Frontier” (2003), “Archaeology of Colonial Pensacola 1750-1821: A First Synthesis” (1999), “Archaeology of the Southeastern United States: Paleoindian to World War II”(1994), and “Underground Pensacola” (1989).
Although more than 500 people take part in Books Alive every year, participation surpassed the 1,000-person mark when the 2008 school lecture tour was implemented. Readers and writers travel sometimes hundreds of miles to spend time with others who appreciate books and everything they represent. Participants leave with new ideas and knowledge, as well as new and renewed friendships.
“To me, Books Alive is a homecoming — when I return to West Florida via Highway 19, through the flat woods in winter, with a stop by all the family graves in between,” Owens said. “Once there, I see my writer friends and all my old Panama City friends, and the readers who have championed my books from the beginning, and helped turn me into the writer I am today.”
Featured author Michael Morris, a Perry native whose latest novel takes place in and around old Apalachicola, said the genuine friendliness of the organizers and participants is one of the draws for authors. He also called the event a homecoming.
“Often I attend these types of festivals and the people tell you, ‘We’re so glad that you joined us.’ In Panama City, the sentiment is demonstrated not simply by words but by the warmth of the people,” Morris said last year. “It’s really a community event where people open up their homes, welcoming authors to the city. And of course for me, having grown up in Perry, I have so many wonderful childhood memories of spending family vacations in Panama City.”
- What: 14th annual festival of reading and writing, featuring more than 18 nationally-known authors and 25 local and regional authors. Keynote speaker is Judith Bense, president of the University of West Florida.
- When: 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 2
- Where: Holley Academic Center, Florida State University Panama City, 4750 Collegiate Drive, Panama City
- Cost: All sessions are free and open to the public; keynote luncheon $20 per person; evening gala $75 per person
- Web: BooksAlive.net
- 9-10 a.m.: Michael Morris and Janis Owens, “Southern Fiction: Southern Style”; Dr. Brian Rucker, “Treasures of the Panhandle: A Journey through West Florida”; Robert Macomber, “Words of Honor: Writing Naval Fiction”; Martin Dyckman, “The Golden Age of Florida Politics”; Terry Tomalin, “Florida Everday Adventures”; Mary Alice Monroe, “Writing Green: Environmental Fiction”; Dr. Gary Mormino, “Land of Sunshine: State of Dreams.”
- 10:15-11:15 a.m.: Sen. Bob Graham, “Intelligence Matters”; Tom Doyal, “Making Room for Regional Authors”; Michel Stone, “Fearless Fiction”; Jacqueline West, “Writing The Books of Elsewhere”; Mary Murphy, “To Kill A Mockingbird: Why it Endures and Its Florida Roots”; Pam Brandon, Katie Farmand, Heather McPherson, “Field to Feast.”
- 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.: Graham, “Intelligence Matters”; Rucker, “Treasures of the Panhandle”; Terra Elan McVoy, “Capturing the Teenage Voice”; Stone, “Fearless Fiction”; François-Marie Bénard, “The Dream of Life: Poetry”; Monroe, “Writing Green”; Mormino, “Land of Sunshine”; Brandon, Farmand, McPherson, “Field to Feast.”
- 12:45-2:15 p.m.: Literary luncheon/break. Luncheon tickets: $20.
- 2:30-3:30 p.m.: Morris and Owens, “Southern Fiction”; McVoy, “How I Became an Author by Accident”; Macomber, “Words of Honor”; Dyckman, “The Golden Age of Florida Politics”; Tomalin, “Florida Everyday Adventure”; Murphy, “To Kill a Mockingbird”; Bénard, “The Dream of Life.”