Ann Arbor's Kerrytown BookFest draws those who love to make, write and read books
Daniel Brenner | AnnArbor.com
Now in its 11th year, BookFest is doing fine financially, said President Robin Agnew, who is also co-owner of Aunt Agatha’s bookstore. “We’re holding our own,” she said. “ We’re terrible fundraisers, but I have to say, if it were up to me, I’d like to raise more to pay the authors more. They’re taking time and traveling, in some cases. It’s wonderful what people have been willing to do for the event.”
Indeed. The BookFest has an all-volunteer board — this is Agnew’s second year as president — and partly because a primary sponsor is the Michigan Humanities Council, the event keeps most of its focus on Michigan-based authors and book artisans.
“With such a big variety, there’s a topic for everyone,” said Agnew. “You may not be someone interested in the auto industry, but you might like mysteries. And there will be 120 vendors this year.”
The marquee events this year, happening mostly in the main tent, involve five panel discussions:
- From Motown to Iggy Pop, featuring Peter Benjaminson (author of “Mary Wells”) and Steve Miller (“Detroit Rock City”)
- Automobiles and the Industry, featuring former GM vice chairman Bob Lutz ("Icons and Idiots"), Steve Lehto (“Chrysler’s Turbine Car”) and Detroit News auto writer Bryce Hoffman (“American Icon”)
- Vanishing Cities, with Gordon Young (“Teardown”), Detroit Free Press reporter John Gallagher (“Revolution Detroit”), June Thomas (“Redevelopment and Race”) and Edward McClelland (“Nothin’ but Blue Skies”)
- Cherchez la Femme, back by popular demand, with Bonnie Jo Campbell, Lolita Hernandez, Natalie Bakopulos and poet Susan Ramsey
- And in Kerrytown Concert House, Benjamin Percy (“Red Moon”) and Matt Bell (“In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods”) will discuss the literary, the supernatural, and the strange
Each year, those who simply love to read, as well as those who also aspire to write themselves, come out to enjoy BookFest.
“I always have such great conversations with people,” said Agnew. “Usually it’s while waiting in line to buy a book. You suddenly find yourself talking about Austen or something. And it’s always great to see so many children and young people who are excited about reading.”
Winners of the 6th annual book cover contest — wherein high school students were asked to re-design a book cover for William Kent Krueger’s “Iron Lake” — will be announced (submissions will be on display at Aunt Agatha’s, Crazy Wisdom, Literati and Nicola’s through Sept. 10). In addition, children’s authors like Shutta Crum, Nancy Shaw and Deborah Diesen, along with illustrators like David Katrow and Ruth McNally Barshaw, will appear, and kids can hear stories, make handmade books and participate in an illustration workshop.
And, of course, attendees get to be outside and enjoy the day.
“It’s a fabulous venue,” said Agnew. “We’re so lucky. If we hadn’t had the farmers market as a venue, we might not still be around. It’s just perfect for us.”