Chippewa Valley Book Festival celebrates 20 years of authors, readings and literary events

The 2019 festival lineup features a Pulitzer Prize finalist and UW-Eau Claire professors

More stories from Ta'Leah Van Sistine

Life in the city
December 8, 2021

Photo by Submitted

The Chippewa Valley Book Festival sign greets attendees when they go to events hosted at the Pablo Center, the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library and other locations throughout the Chippewa Valley.

The Chippewa Valley Book Festival is celebrating their 20th year with a new lineup of more than 20 authors. 

There are events from Oct. 21 through Oct. 27 at locations such as the Pablo Center, L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library, Chippewa Valley Museum, Altoona Public Library and Fall Creek Public Library, among many other places.

Sara Meeks, the co-chair of the marketing committee for the book festival, said the widespread locations of events ensures that people from all surrounding areas feel welcome to attend them.

“It’s not just the Eau Claire book festival,” Meeks said. “We want to make it accessible to people in the Chippewa Valley and beyond.”

The 2019 festival marks her second year of involvement, Meeks said, and her and other marketing committee members have the responsibility of promoting the festival. 

“A lot of people in the Chippewa Valley don’t know (the book festival) exists,” Meeks said, which is why it is crucial for the marketing committee to spread the word about it. 

Meeks said an aspect she appreciates about the Chippewa Valley Book Festival is that the festival’s author and events committee aims to host authors from various topics and genres, piquing many individual interests. 

Although it is often considered a cliché saying, Meeks said the phrase “there’s something for everyone” truly is applicable to the Chippewa Valley Book Festival.

“It’s not just about people who read the book or know the author,” Meeks said. 

“The Great Believers: Where Fiction Meets History” event, for example, features a discussion about what Meeks said is one of the best books she’s ever read: The Great Believers” by Rebecca Makkai. 

According to Goodreads, the novel—which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in fiction and the National Book Award — explores the tragedy and loss surrounding the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s.  

During her event from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Oct. 26 in the RCU Theatre at the Pablo Center, Makkai will read excerpts from “The Great Believers” and talk about the origins of its plot. 

UW-Eau Claire professors were also invited to participate in several Chippewa Valley Book Festival events. 

Dorothy Chan, an assistant professor in the English department, will be reading from her newest collection of poetry — “Revenge of the Asian Woman” —  from 6 to 7 p.m. on Oct. 23 at the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library. 

Chan said the festival allows participants, such as herself, to share their work because it is important. This is something she recommends her students do as well. 

“Poetry lives both on the page but also in person,” Chan said, “so it’s important to be able to read the work out loud and, in a sense, perform the work and present the work.”

BJ Hollars, an associate professor in the English department, will also be presenting on his book “Midwestern Strange: Hunting Monsters, Martians, and the Weird in Flyover Country,” although his event is sold out, as indicated on the festival schedule. 

Hollars said he has been involved with the Chippewa Valley Book Festival for about the past five or six years and continues to appreciate how these events grant people from around the Chippewa Valley access to “so many incredible writers.”

“The book festival inspires, encourages, entertains and provides so much for so many,” Hollars said. “I’m reminded of what a gem we have right here. Few festivals have the capacity to bring such a range of writers that will be of interest to so many of our community members. I just hope that the community recognizes what a gift we have … and continues to support it for years to come.”

For a complete schedule of events, ticket availability, locations and times, go to the Chippewa Valley Book Festival website.

Van Sistine can be reached at [email protected].