Frontlist | Virtual Buckeye Book Fair promotes literacy

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When the Buckeye Book Fair transitioned to a virtual event, Executive Director Julia Wiesenberg found a silver lining.

The annual event ramped up its schedule by offering more online programs hosted by Ohio authors.

Participants can find a number of programs ranging from character writing workshops to insider writing tips for young authors between Nov. 6 and Nov. 15 on the Buckeye Book Fair’s website. The online book sale kicked off Friday and runs until the end of November.

Buckeye Book Fair presents an annual multi-day festival each year in Wooster during the first week of November. The book fair is a fundraiser for the Buckeye Authors’ Book Fair Committee, Inc. and its literacy awards programs. Since its inception, the nonprofit has given away more than $200,000 worth of books.

This year’s book festival features 115 Ohio authors and illustrators on a virtual platform.

“Aside from the fact that it can’t be in person it’s going to be very much like the traditional book fair,” Wiesenberg said. “This year we have more programs and more authors since we don’t have space limitations with it being a virtual event.”

Virtual book fair

The Buckeye Book Fair is traditionally held at Fisher Auditorium at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center Library.

The decision was made to transition to an online platform due to safety concerns and logistics with following social distancing and other COVID-19 guidelines, Wiesenberg said. Having an in-person event would significantly reduce the number of people who could participate in the book fair, she said.

Authors would need to be more spread out and the number of visitors would have to be reduced to 50% the capacity of the auditorium, Wiesenberg said. The event typically attracts 2,500 people, she said.

With restrictions and guidelines continuously changing, she added, it was in the best interest of the event to hit the web.

While preparations have roughly been the same, Wiesenberg said, there was the added element of organizing the technology to ensure virtual programs run smoothly.

She estimated there are four times the number of programs compared to previous years.

“We did feel there was opportunity there — though certainly our preference would be to have an in-person event,” Wiesenberg said. “We’re finding ways to provide new opportunities this year rather than limitations, and that’s been really fun.”

Ashland area author Dandi Daley Mackall, who has published more than 500 books, said she was happy to hear the book fair still is taking place. She has participated in the event for more than 30 years and has seen children grow up and return with their own children.

Mackall draws inspiration from her surroundings. Her first book published in 1979, and her writing followed her three children as they grew up. Mackall wrote children’s books when they were young, moved to chapter books and then began dipping into adult fiction. The local author has a variety of published works for all ages.

Mackall will be leading a few programs including Insider Writing Tips: Young Authors Writing Workshop and Kids Book Showcase.

Her husband, Joe Mackall, is also a published author participating in the event.

“(Wiesenberg) really expanded the workshops and the programs,” Mackall said. “I think it’s a great addition. … I think (these workshops ) are inspiring for them to get to do that and for us. I love listening to the kids.”

According to the Buckeye Book Fair, proceeds from the event benefit the literacy awards program, which provides support to Ohio reading programs, Ohio public and community libraries, and Ohio school librarians and teachers. Each literacy grant winner has a special project using books by and about Ohioans.

The Wooster-Orrville NAACP received $500 to donate Black-themed children’s books to the seven branches of the Wayne County Public Library.

 A grand total of $2,000 in grants have been awarded to six Ohio schools, libraries and literacy programs. According to the Buckeye Book Fair, with this year’s awards, more than $222,468 will have been distributed.

Promoting Ohio authors

The Buckeye Book Fair has a unique, two-fold mission, Wiesenberg said.

The organization supports Ohio authors and the literary arts. It also supports reading and literacy as an educational imperative, she said. The Buckeye Book Fair and its literacy awards program bring those two missions together, Wiesenberg said.

“The way we can bring those purposes together so easily is all of literacy projects use Ohio authors and everything the organization does uses Ohio authors,” she said.

Wooster resident and recently published author Jeannine Love has attended the Buckeye Book Fair frequently after she moved to the area 20 years ago.

The art historian will be participating in the book fair for the first time this year.

Though Love has written various articles and journals, her first book was published in June. The nonfiction work — titled “Cleveland Architecture 1890–1930: Building the City Beautiful” — takes a look at the architecture during an era bookended by Post-Civil War and the beginning of World War I.

Love was disappointed to learn the book fair would be virtual but commended Wiesenberg’s efforts to create an organized and seamless book fair.

“I’d hope it would still somehow be able to be in person like it has been in the past because I was really looking forward to meeting people who were interested in the subject of my book and discussing it with them,” Love said. “I thought that would be great fun.”

Wiesenberg said participants will be able to ask questions of the authors at any time using chat features or can submit questions via Survey Monkey. People can register for the virtual events ahead of the book far. after we know the audience sizes, we will see where we can set up interactive sessions.

“One-on-one interaction is the hardest thing for us to replicate this year,” Wiesenberg said.

Mystery and adventure author Bob Adamov has been writing fiction since 2001. The Wooster resident said he’s always looking for ideas and enjoys tying historical events into fictional stories.

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