County page-turner
Large crowd attends second annual reading festival

LAWRENCEVILLE - Steve Wright said his 9-year-old son, Zach, loves to write stories.

"He's written three books already," Wright said, adding that none have been published yet.

On Saturday, the two visited the second annual Gwinnett Reading Festival because Wright wanted to give his son the opportunity to learn how authors work.

"I learned you may find adventure - or at least fun - every which way you turn," Zach said before he had the chance to meet any of the dozens of authors attending the event.

Thousands of people visited the festival at the Gwinnett County Fairgrounds. Nancy Stanbery-Kellam, the executive director of the Gwinnett County Public Library, said about 1,500 people arrived within the first hour of the event.

Stanbery-Kellam said she was pleased so many people turned out for an event designed to celebrate and promote reading.

"Reading can be something you do by yourself," she said, "but it really is something to celebrate and enjoy together."

The festival offered several ways for people to interact with authors. Carmen Agra Deedy, Rick Bragg and Steve Martini spoke in front of audiences at the main stage. Others talked with small groups in the "Author Chat." Patrons also had the chance to speak one-on-one with the writers in "Author Alley."

Union City resident Brandon Massey, award-winning author of books including "Thunderland" and "The Other Brother," said the event was a wonderful way to bring writers and readers together. Attendance at the festival showed people still have a love of good books, he said.

"Especially in these challenging economic times, books provide a much-needed escape for readers and writers," he said.

Massey spoke to a small group about his latest novel, "Don't Ever Tell." He talked about the importance of

networking in publishing and how he crafts his stories around a "what if" scenario.

Lawrenceville resident Monica Walters brought her niece to the festival.

"It's definitely a good event for a child," she said. "It encourages them to read, and they're making it fun."

Lorna Tanner of Duluth said she liked that the library gave away free books to the children.

"Myself and my husband are big book readers, and we want to expose our kids to loving books," she said.

A Gwinnett County firetruck and the Georgia State Fire Marshal's Fire Safety House were popular attractions for the children. Library officials set up a table showcasing some of the available children's books about firetrucks.

Gwinnett County Fire Department spokesman Capt. Thomas Rutledge said the firefighters wanted to promote literacy as well as their fire safety message. October is Fire Prevention Month.

Stanbery-Kellam said the event was supported by many sponsors, including the Gwinnett Daily Post.