Bookshelf: Decatur bookstore launches children’s book festival

And Georgia Writers Museum hosts a weekend retreat for aspiring writers.
Kate DiCamillo will provide the children's keynote address at the inaugural Decatur Children's Book Festival in May. (Brian Peterson/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Kate DiCamillo will provide the children's keynote address at the inaugural Decatur Children's Book Festival in May. (Brian Peterson/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS)

In this week’s Bookshelf, Decatur gets a new book festival, and a bunch of accomplished authors gather in Middle Georgia to share their expertise with aspiring writers.

For the kids. Fans of the Decatur Book Festival (DBF) were universally dismayed last year when organizers canceled the 2023 event, announcing they were “taking a pause” and planned to relaunch in 2024. The one-two punch of changes in leadership and COVID-19 seemed to have had a destabilizing effect on an event that once attracted more than 80,000 people to the Decatur Square but struggled for sufficient funding from the get-go.

What DBF 2.0 will look like is open to speculation, but the board is working on a plan. According to board president Alison Weissinger, look for an announcement in late February about the future of the festival.

Meanwhile, the folks at Decatur’s Little Shop of Stories have gotten proactive and launched their own Decatur Children’s Book Festival, set to take place May 3-5

“This town loves children’s books, so we just felt like it was a great thing to do,” says Diane Capriola, co-owner of the Decatur bookstore that caters to young readers and the person who programmed the children’s and teen stages for DBF.

“We’re loosely basing our format on the children’s programming for DBF, so we’re going to have a dedicated children’s stage, a dedicated YA stage. We’re going to have a children’s keynote event the Friday before,” she says. “Something different we’re going to do is add some YA keynotes as well.”

The one thing they won’t be bringing back — for this year, at least — is the popular DBF children’s parade.

“This year the mantra is, we’re starting small, so we’re not going to have a parade,” she says. “We didn’t feel like we could logistically make it work this time. Hopefully in the future.”

The Decatur Children’s Book Festival will be held in conjunction with the Decatur Arts Festival, which will fill the town’s streets and greenways with artisans’ booths, entertainment stages and food vendors on the same weekend.

“Because of Winn-Dixie” author Kate DiCamillo will be the children’s keynote speaker. Her new novel, “Ferris,” for ages 8 and up, publishes in March. Watch the Decatur Children’s Book Festival’s social media accounts on Facebook and Instagram for upcoming announcements of more participating authors and related events.

“We’re really thrilled that we can use our experience and expertise to bring really great names in children’s and teens’ books back to the Decatur area for kids and adults alike,” says Capriola.

Atlanta author Christopher Swann will discuss "Things I Wish I'd Known Before Publishing My First Book" at the Georgia Writers Museum's Writers Retreat '24.

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Community of writers. Aspiring writers, and even accomplished ones who would benefit from a little inspiration, should head to Eatonton for the weekend of Feb. 9-11. That’s when the Georgia Writers Museum hosts Writers Retreat ‘24 featuring educational panels, workshops and keynote speeches led by published authors.

The weekend begins with a happy hour Friday afternoon, followed by two full days of events including sessions on how to create suspense, the art of revision, mastering minor characters and tools for success in self-publishing, as well as sessions on marketing and traditional publishing.

Among the authors sharing their expertise will be Christopher Swann, Jessica Handler, Mickey Dubrow, Beverly Armento, Roger Johns, George Weinstein, Kim Conrey and Chip Bell, among others.

There will be two keynote lunches. Saturday’s speakers are Love Hudson-Maggio, author of “Karma Under Fire,” and Jennifer Moorman, author of “The Magic All Around.” And Sunday’s speaker is Joshilyn Jackson, author of “With My Little Eye.”

Pricing options include tickets for the whole weekend, just one day or a single keynote lunch. For details go to georgiawritersmuseum.org.

Suzanne Van Atten is a book critic and contributing editor to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. You can contact her at svanatten@ajc.com.

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