More than 250 authors are at Louisiana Book Festival Oct. 28


The Louisiana Book Festival happens in October in Baton Rouge.
  • The Louisiana Book Festival happens in October in Baton Rouge.

The Louisiana Book Festival, which celebrates authors who either live in or have written about the state, returns for its 14th year Saturday.

The daylong event features panel discussions, book sales, music and food at several venues in and around the Louisiana State Capitol Building in downtown Baton Rouge. Highlights from this year's festival include expanded teen programming, a punk musician discussing his new book, more than 250 authors reading or appearing on panels and an award for Johnette Downing, the well-known children's book author.

"The day of the book festival is really sort of a celebration of everything that is good about Louisiana," State Librarian Rebecca Hamilton says. "We always want to have something of interest to everybody."

Hamilton says festival staff have worked hard to offer programming for all ages, and this year's teen programming particularly stands out. At the fest, Alton Carter will present his book Aging Out, a memoir of growing up in the foster care system that was a finalist for the Louisiana Teen Reader's Choice award, and Louisiana native Claudia Gray appears on a panel and signs her bestselling YA science fiction novel Defy the Stars.

Teens who attend the book festival can hear about topics that might be hard to get information on at home. In the past, YA authors at the fest have spoken about transgender issues or childhood trauma, Hamilton says.

"It might be a controversial topic that maybe the teen won't have access to in their school library. ... A teenager can come anonymously sit in the crowd and maybe hear a story that speaks to something that's going on in their own lives," she says.

The festival also hosts musician Keith Morris (of Black Flag and Circle Jerks) talking about his new book, My Damage. Last year, Hamilton says a member of the punk band X spoke at one of the fest's most popular panels, attracting a crowd she recalls from the 1980s Baton Rouge punk scene.

Johnette Downing also will be honored with the Louisiana Writer Award, given to a writer whose work represents the state or has touched many Louisiana citizens. Downing is the author of Mumbo, Jumbo, Stay Out of the Gumbo and other popular children's books; it's only the second time a children's book author has received the award.

Hamilton also says the fest has expanded its poetry programming over the past several years — "Poetry is kind of the undiscovered treasure, I think, to a lot of people," she says — working with former Louisiana poet laureate Darrell Bourque. This year several poets appear at the fest, including current poet laureate Jack Bedell and Mississippi poet laureate Beth Ann Fennelly in conversation about Heating & Cooling, her book of micro-memoirs.

The fest also features book and merchandise sales, including T-shirts, book bags and posters. All writers and panelists who appear will sell their books at the fest, and a portion of proceeds from all books sold helps fund future festivals.

The event takes place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and is free to attend. A complete schedule is available the festival's website, or through its iPhone or Android app (search "Louisiana Book Festival" in the app store).

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