Spring in Memphis may seem a little late this year, but Bookstock is early by a couple of seasons.
The Memphis Public Library's annual book festival has for the past three years taken place in October. This year, though, it's been moved to late April — Saturday, April 26th, to be exact — but the location remains the same: the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library at 3030 Poplar. Why the change of date?
"A lot of literary festivals run in the fall, including the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville," Wang-Ying Glasgow, event organizer and adult-services coordinator at the Central Library, said. "We've moved Bookstock to a less crowded time."
That doesn't mean the number of authors at this year's Bookstock and the range of activities are any less. If anything, Bookstock 2014, along with its children's component, Bookstock Jr., is bigger than ever: more than 40 authors with local or regional ties signing their books and meeting with readers, plus activities that will appeal to those of any age.
Look, then, for Eric Jerome Dickey giving the keynote speech; a "Summertime Is Crime Time" panel, headed by Stephen Usery and including Megan Abbott, Michael Kardos, and Scott Phillips; and a "More Than Ingredients" discussion, which will include cookbook author Alexe van Beuren. Participating in the "Great Memphis Stories" panel (conducted by the library's G. Wayne Dowdy) are: Wei Chen, Dan Conaway, Miriam DeCosta-Willis, and Marie Pizano. Add in for Memphians to meet: Mark Greaney, Deborah Johnson, and Barry Wolverton. (But sorry: Spaces for the writing workshop, led by Shelia Lipsey and Courtney Miller Santo, have been filled.)
Bookstock Jr. will be just as filled with activities. A scavenger hunt (consisting of clues to lead to participating Bookstock authors), face painting, chalk drawing, balloon animals, and screenings of The Tale of Despereaux in the morning and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in the afternoon should keep kids busy. And for children and adults alike: half a dozen food trucks in the Central Library's parking lot.
"We're trying to make Bookstock into a real festival atmosphere," Glasgow said. "But our main goal is to showcase local authors, give them a platform.
"Bookstock began in 2011, because throughout the year the library gets calls from authors to do signings," Glasgow added. "So we came up with the idea to feature them once a year. Now we have a waiting list of authors — especially first-time authors — happy to have this opportunity to meet Memphis readers.
"We want people to come out to support our local writers. We want to encourage reading, especially among children and teenagers — encourage them to become writers themselves. Everybody, I think, has a story to tell. Bookstock is your chance to meet the writers, see how they did it."
Bookstock, Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library (3030 Poplar), Saturday, April 26th, 10:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. For more information, go to memphislibrary.org/whatsnew.
And after Bookstock? Take a break, but remember: April is National Poetry Month. So head to 438 N. Cleveland, next to the Cleveland Street Flea Market and in the shadow of the Sears Crosstown building. From 6 to 8 p.m., on Saturday you'll find four poets reading from their work: Heather Dobbins, Caitlin Mackenzie, Tara Mae Mulroy, and Elaine Scudder Walters. They are the latest poets in a series of readings called "Impossible Language," organized by Ashley Roach-Freiman.
Roach-Freiman, former librarian with the Memphis Public Library, is earning her MFA in poetry at the University of Memphis, where she also serves as poetry editor for The Pinch, the literary magazine at the U of M.
Of her reading series' title, "Impossible Language," Roach-Freiman had this to say:
"I wanted something evocative that would be a good fit for a sort of multi-genre experience — something that would help explain what it is that writers and artists experience when we enter the 'creative space.' We really are trying to get across something that is impossible to convey in any other medium."
Roach-Freiman is referring to the series' past collaborations, beginning in September, between poets and visual artists. The success of the series has surprised her.
"The turnout has been spectacular," she said, "above and beyond what I expected for a poetry reading in Memphis. Which just goes to show: This city loves and supports its artists. The creative energy has been enormous. ... I don't think I would have been able to accomplish half the stuff I've been able to anywhere else. There's so much goodness here. I love Memphis like crazy, especially in the spring."
For more on "Impossible Language," go to facebook.com/ImpossibleLanguage or follow @impossiblelang on Twitter.