Greeted by collections of books on hundreds of tables, Gainesville’s most devoted readers relished in a fully ‘booked’ weekend.
The Sunshine State Book Festival united readers and writers Jan. 28 at Trinity United Methodist Church, located at 4000 NW 53rd Ave. Authors from Gainesville and other cities across the nation stood by tables inside the church awaiting the opportunity to promote, sell or sign their books for the next local bookworm that came their way.
A total of 150 registered authors in 15 different genres — from nonfiction and children’s literature to mystery and fantasy — presented their works at the festival. This year’s festival was the fourth of its kind and had a waiting list of around 90 authors hoping to be given a spot to share their work with the city’s locals.
Jessica Gonzalez, a 26-year-old freelance writer, tutor and course developer based in New York City, promoted her book at the festival. “Luna, Yes! Luna, ¡Sí!,” a bilingual children’s book, tells a story about having a sister with autism and about the loving relationship that exists between the siblings. It was her first time participating in the book festival.
“I got to network with a lot of authors,” Gonzalez said. “I thought it was a great opportunity to really get your name out there.”
Bethany Gano, a 43-year-old artist, designer and first-time author-illustrator, also participated in the festival. Born in New Jersey and raised in the Detroit area, she has moved her talents to Florida and is currently based out of Orlando.
Gano promoted “Lulu the Beaver,” her first book as an author-illustrator. It’s the story of a beaver who dreams of being an artist, and it follows her journey of overcoming self-doubt and learning to share her gifts. The Sunshine State Book Festival was her first book fair ever.
“It's really neat to be able to meet people,…hear their publishing journey and really hear what they're passionate about,” Gano said. “I think that's one of the most exciting things.”
Along with browsing the authors’ tables, attendees were also able to delight in presentations from participating authors, meals from local food trucks and an address from this year’s keynote speaker: local award-winning author Janis Owens.
The Writers Alliance of Gainesville, a nonprofit organization founded in 2009 by Wendy Thornton and other local writers, organizes the annual festival.
The organization was created in an effort to provide the literary scene in Gainesville with a supportive community of fellow writers in the local area.
With a little over 200 members, WAG serves as an outlet for local writers to receive constructive criticism and positive feedback on their latest literary endeavors.
Pat Caren, 74, is the membership coordinator for the organization and the chairwoman of the Sunshine State Book Festival.
As an author herself, writing under the pseudonym Marie Q. Rogers, she said she appreciates the opportunity the festival offers to mingle with and support fellow writers.
“We get to meet other authors and see what they're doing and buy their books or get their bookmarks,” Caren said. “Or say, ‘OK, when I can afford it, I'm getting your book.’”
Contact Amanda at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @amandacrubio.
Amanda Rubio is a first-year journalism student at the University of Florida and an Avenue staff writer at the Alligator. When she isn’t writing, you’ll probably find her reading romance novels; binge-watching Glee, which she’s watched an unnecessary amount of times; or somehow finding more ways to make Harry Styles her entire personality.