A blank page: Suwanee to celebrate first-ever book festival

Photo by Tori Boone

Photo by Tori Boone

Love of a good book has the power to change lives.

This is a belief shared by the foursome behind the latest festival to be added to Suwanee's busy events calendar -- a community-wide celebration of reading, writing and literacy.

Organized entirely by volunteers, the Suwanee Festival of Books owes its creation to four co-founders -- author and publisher Nicole Smith, Kolinda Scialabba, president and CEO of She Writes LLC, Georgia School Book Fairs owner Jay Devries and Barry Coates, owner of Knowledge Point in Suwanee.

This weekend's inaugural event is a project that has been officially in the works since October and stemmed from a desire to offer the community something new and unique.

"Suwanee is such a great town and has so many wonderful festival offerings, but it was missing one related to books and authors," Scialabba said. "A book festival gives us an opportunity to grow as a community of readers and writers. It sends a strong message, especially to our children, that we recognize and value the power of the written word."

For Smith, the two-day event is an opportunity to showcase the talents of local and regional authors.

"Many of us have a story to tell, but writers take it a step further and write, so others receive encouragement, inspiration, education, entertainment and more," she said. "Writing is a way the author and the readers connect with each other over a message. If a book's message is strong enough and is shared by many, it can create change."

This weekend's festival will feature more than 40 presenting authors who will be available following their stage presentations to sign copies of their books. Saturday's keynote speakers is award-winning Georgia author Terry Kay, who will make a presentation at 2 p.m.

"His prolific writing and advocacy of literacy combined to make him the perfect keynote choice," Scialabba said. "As the 2009 recipient of the Governor's Award in the Humanities, and a 2006 inductee into the Georgia Writer's Hall of Fame, Terry Kay is one of Georgia's finest writers of all time. To have him join us for the festival is a true honor."

Giving Sunday's keynote presentations is writer and entrepreneur Rick Smith, who will also present at 2 p.m.

"He's had an incredible career an innovative business man and his book describes how people can make the leap to a career they've always dreamed of," Scialabba said. "In these hard economic times, we wanted to bring his message of inspiration and innovation to the community."

Some of the other well-known authors who are expected to attend the festival are New York Times bestselling author Patti Callahan Henry, award-winning novelist Philip Lee Williams and children's book authors Deborah Wiles and Melinda Long, as well as Jessica Handler and Lauretta Hannon who both have books that are included in the Georgia Center for the Book's top 25 publications every Georgian should read.

Authors are expected to be in and out of the Brown Bag Deli between 1 and 5 p.m. for coffee and conversation with festival-goers.

This weekend's event is designed to offer something for all ages -- a young readers pavilion, a children's book marketplace, a teen cafe, a variety of exhibitors, author presentations, panel discussions, workshops and entertainment.

Workshops -- topics range from finding and contacting an agent, penning memoirs, self-publishing and creating characters -- require registration, which can be completed online at www.suwaneefestivalofbooks.com. Also available is a complete schedule of author presentations and panel discussions, as well as details on art demonstrations and book talks.