On Saturday, the Dallas Public Library in downtown is hosting a day-long celebration of literature, arts and culture. The Dallas Book Festival features an all-star literary lineup including Pulitzer Prize-winning Texas author Lawrence Wright, along with 75 events packed into an 8-hour festival. Ronnie Jessie is helping to organize the event. And he joins me now. Ronnie, thanks for being here
Justin Martin: First off, how did this book festival come about?
RJThe library has hosted book festivals for some time. We actually started in 2006 with the Dallas International Book Festival. It was a way to bring international stories to Dallas, to the library, and so we would create something international where we would focus on various culture and backgrounds, and Dallas would get a chance to hear from different people from different parts of the world.
This festival is bigger than prior events. Why expand?
RJIn 2014, we decided to re-brand the festival, to call it Dallas Book Festival. So this was our way to sort of put the spotlight on Dallas and to market it as a Dallas book festival and hopefully turn it into something Dallas would be proud of it. And so the format this year — it is, of course, still held at the Central Library, but there are events and activities happening on every floor in the building.
What kind of events are people going to experience?
We have an awesome lineup of headliners that will speak in the auditorium. But in addition to that, we will open the book festival with a sports brunch. It will be a line-up of ESPN sports writers, and so we thought this would be a nice addition to the festival. Bring in a new audience of sports fans, and so we will kick it off not only with a panel but with a breakfast. And so there’ll be food included as well. Other activities will include panel discussions, everything from oral history to African-American literature to young adult literature, children’s activities on the second floor. We even have beer and wine tasting as well as chocolate, so you chocolate lovers out there, we have a little something for everybody.
The second floor, as I mentioned, is our children’s floor, and there’ll be a full day of crafts, stories, children’s performers. We’re also partnering with the Dallas Museum of Art to provide crafts as well, so we have plenty for the kids.
I’m wondering, is the festival aiming to mix local authors with writers from across the country?
RJYes, while we do want to bring in the featured authors, the ‘New York Times’ bestsellers, the award-winners, we also want to showcase our local authors. You will see anywhere from 45 to 50 local, self-published authors and vendors. They will have tables, and so you’ll get a chance to meet and talk to those people and hopefully buy books from them as well.
What do you make of the scene here? Is the literary scene growing in Dallas?
RJI think so. I think that there’s a new surge of energy. I think the literary scene, there’s an excitement built around reading, which is extremely important these days especially for our young people to see and get a chance to hear from authors and presenters live and in person I think it’s awesome.
Are there any costs associated with this event?
RJThis event is totally free. It’s a family event, and so we’re inviting everybody to come out. And there’s no cost.