Rosemount to host Writers Festival and Book Fair

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What better way to spend a spring day than a day-long celebration at one of the region's largest literary festivals and book fair. After strong attendee feedback from its inaugural event, the second annual Writers Festival and Book Fair will be back from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, March 24, at the Steeple Center, 14375 S. Robert Trail, Rosemount.

The event has two primary components: a book fair and a series of workshops.

In addition, Lorna Landvik is the keynote speaker. As the author of 11 books, she won the hearts of Minnesota readers with "Patty Jane's House of Curl," "Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons," "Oh My Stars," "Best to Laugh" and many others. She will talk about writing, publishing, inspiration and aggravation in a fun-filled and informative talk. The presentation will be 9-10 a.m. in Room 100.

"The festival is an opportunity for writers to learn their craft, network with a variety of people in the literary arts and meet some authors," co-event organizer Jo Gilbertson said.

Educating workshops

To date, there are 21 workshops scheduled throughout the day. The workshops are designed to benefit anyone; from a beginning writer to someone that has mastered the subject but seeks to learn new perspectives.

One of the workshops Gilbertson is most excited to provide is children's story writing.

"We have two children's writers," she said. "The workshops are for learning how to write for children — picture books, that sort of thing."

Co-event organizer Sue Stein also has a workshop in mind that she thinks will be a hit for attendees — "Truth or Consequences: Accuracy in Memoir." "The workshop is being conducted by a retired professor from the University of Minnesota," Stein said. "He's a holocaust survivor and he's going to be presenting on accuracy and memoir."

There are also some new offerings this year including comedy writing by Dave Walbridge. He has written for Garrison Keillor and the Renaissance Festival. "Marketing dos and don'ts" by Roseanne Cheng is also new this year.

In addition to the workshops, there will be the opportunity for writers to get the first 10 pages of their manuscript critiqued by their choice of a few different people. An editor, a literary agent, a marketing director at a publisher, and two best-selling authors have agreed to critique works and meet with writers for about 15 minutes to discuss the manuscript.

"The workshops are not just for people who have a book already in the works," Stein said. "They are geared towards anyone interested in the literary arts — beginner or advanced."

Writing and publishing workshops are $15 each. The keynote address prior to the first workshop is also $15.

Book fair

The book fair is one of the largest in the region with over 60 authors and vendors selling their books and meeting with guests.

"The book fair is nice because it's free for the general public," Stein said, "but it can also be for authors that want to talk to fans or other authors. It's a nice way to network."

Six book publishers and one magazine publisher are scheduled to attend the book fair. One of the more unique publishers is Sigma Bookshelf. They are offering teens their first book free publishing and will also edit it.

Stein notes that attendees won't just find local authors at the book fair. "We have 60 authors, and they are from all over the state," she said. "There are even a few from across the border in Wisconsin.

"The book fair isn't just for authors to sell books," Stein added. "You are there to network and be part of the community of writers."

Teenage authors get their start

Sigma's Bookshelf is an independent book publishing company started by teen author Justin Anderson, 16, who attends Wayzata High School. Anderson is a twice-published author who came up with the idea for the company after experiencing publishing success at the age of 14. His first book, "Saving Stripes: A Kitty's Story," was self published on Amazon's Create Space. It tells the true story of the cat family rescue he was involved in from the point of view of the orange tabby he ended up adopting. Since its release in June 2015, the book has sold more than 300 copies for $10 each with 100 percent of the proceeds going to the S.O.S. Rescue Relief, Inc., the Plymouth, Minn., nonprofit that helped with the rescue.

After he gained more regional exposure, he asked the question, "Why aren't there more teen authors with books?" With his parents' help, he decided to do something about it and started up his own publishing company. Sigma's Bookshelf exclusively publishes the book-length work of teen writers between the ages of 13-19. All services to bring books to market are 100 percent free for the teens, who also get royalties for books sold online and in stores. Book submission guidelines can be found at SigmasBookshelf.com.

Sigma's Bookshelf has published six books so far. The teen authors are from Minnesota, Wisconsin and Winnipeg, Canada. Learn more about the books at sigmasbookshelf.com/books.

Sigma's Bookshelf is a project of Springboard for the Arts, a nonprofit arts service organization. Contributions on behalf of Sigma's Bookshelf are tax deductible and can be made online at SigmasBookShelf.com/Donate.