Bringing Readers and Writers Together

by Roz Miller

Several hundred published authors live and write in our midst. These talented wordsmiths are our family, friends, neighbors and associates who have colorful, interesting characters frolicking about in their heads shouting to be to be written into compelling stories for you to read.

Reading, engaging page-turning stories, is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Books are magic carpets that transport readers on unimaginable adventures.

Over the past several decades, Gainesville has gone from a sleepy little college town, to a vibrant center of higher education, and become a medical mecca. It has also developed a culturally rich landscape. There are multiple stages for performing art, Gainesville supports three outstanding art festivals, there are many musical groups in a variety of musical styles, professional dance troupe and choral groups. What was missing in this cultural landscape was a literary festival.

The debut of Sunshine State Book Festival in January, offers readers a three-day, FREE, literary adventure to discover and get acquainted with 75 area authors. Readers will discover the many talented written storytellers among us. A ‘kick-off’ public reception, Friday night, January 24th, at the Matheson Historical Museum offers the opportunity of mix and mingle with authors, speakers, VIP guests and dignitaries.

Saturday will spotlight 75 area authors and their books at Santa Fe College’s Fine Arts Hall. A literary day devoted to talking with the authors you know and read and the opportunity to discover new authors you’ve not read yet.

A dedicated ‘Children’s Corner’ offers little readers oral storytelling and children’s activities. Throughout the day there will be hourly drawings for autographed books.

Sunday’s Literary Heritage Tour, re-enactors feature Robert Frost, Tennessee Williams, William Bartram and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and the imprinted contribution each left on our local literary landscape.

Festival special guest, Hilary Hemingway, niece of Ernest Hemingway, is an author and artist in her own right. As one of the Saturday speakers, she will present, ‘Remembering Uncle Ernest,’ who left a strong imprint on the South Florida writing scene.

Editor and memoir author, Susie Baxter whose memoir Pumping Sunshine, chronicles her rural Suwannee County childhood and her family roots reaching five generations deep. Baxter believes we should collect and record our family’s stories; the succeeding generations of your family will be grateful you did. One of Baxter’s books is a memoir writing guide which encourages the reader to, Write Your Memoir: One Story at a Time.

Strong willed female detective, Cory Marin solves crimes in the adventure mystery book series based in Gainesville. Author JW Robitaille began writing while teaching full-time at Santa Fe College. With degrees from Emory University, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and the University of Florida, now retired from the classroom, Robitaille, has eight novels to her credit. Her writing repertoire includes literary fiction, short stories and screenplays. Robitaille is also an award winning-artist, and is about to launch a young adult series.

The book festival is produced by the Writers Alliance of Gainesville. Founded in 2009, WAG supports writers, published and unpublished in their efforts to become better writers in a variety of genres. Love of the written word is the only requirement for membership which is approaching two-hundred. WAG meetings on the second Sunday of each month at the Millhopper Library, feature area authors and writers with informational programs to help further the members on their journey to becoming better writers. WAG offers workshops and seminars for writers to gain additional knowledge and experience in advancing their writer’s skills. WritersAlliance.org

Festival Director, Mallory M. O’Connor, says; “For 250 years, North Central Florida has been both home and inspiration for generations of writers. Now, the Sunshine State Book Festival will shine a spotlight on the amazing literary history of the region. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

The debut of the Sunshine State Book Festival is the beginning of an annual literary event.


Friday, January 24, 2020 at the Matheson History Museum
Kick-off public reception from 5:00 – 7:00 pm authors, dignitaries, guests, readers, all welcome

Saturday, January 25, 2020, 10:00 – 5:00, at Santa Fe College, Fine Arts Halls – Showcasing 75 area authors and Hourly presentations

10:00 am – Kevin McCarthy Gainesville’s Literary Heritage

11:00 am – Hilary Hemingway Remembering Uncle Ernest

12:00 pm – Kimberly Mullins Young Writers & Poets panel

1:00 pm – Joe Haldeman, Nebula Award winner An Interview: Books, Movies and War with

2:00 pm – Steve Noll, UF Professor – Florida Sports History: it’s More than just Fun and Games

3:00 pm – John Dunn – Florida’s Water Crisis: Drying Up in a Wet State

4:00 pm – Lola Haskins, Award-winning poet – Heeding Florida’s Past and the Natural Beauty That Survived It Can Change Our Future

Children’s Corner – 10:00 – 5:00, a dedicated area for oral storytelling and children’s activities.

Literary Heritage Tour Hear re-enactors of:

Robert Frost Thomas Center

Tennessee Williams the Hippodrome State Theater

William Bartram Sweetwater Park

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Cross Creek State Park