Literary Lincolnites rejoice — the best in Nebraska literature will be celebrated at the 26th Nebraska Book Festival this Saturday at the Nebraska Union.
The festival is an annual event dating back to 1991, though there were no festivals held in 1997, 2010 and 2016. The free event draws Nebraskan authors and poets as a celebration of their works and of Nebraskan literary heritage as a whole, according to festival coordinator Rosemary Sekora.
Sekora said the event used to travel around the state and be held on different Nebraska campuses, including the University of Nebraska-Omaha, Wayne State College and Nebraska Wesleyan University. When she took over as festival coordinator in 2016, however, she said she and her fellow organizers strove to make it more of a Lincoln-centric event to establish a consistent location.
“Lincoln doesn’t really have anything else like this,” Sekora said. “It’s kind of year three of an experiment to keep it in Lincoln, and we feel really good about it.”
This year’s festival runs from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., featuring four separate panels of writers throughout the day in the Union auditorium. Presenters include novelist Kassandra Montag and UNL professor Kwame Dawes, among others.
Montag will kick off the festival with a conversation about her debut novel, “After the Flood,” published Sept. 3. The Omaha-based author described her book as a “post-apocalyptic quest novel” set a century in the future after a global flood has reduced all the land on earth to just mountaintops.
It tells a survival tale of a mother trying to rescue her daughter who is being held captive in the Arctic Circle. Montag said her book was recently optioned for a television series with Linda Woolverton, screenwriter of “The Lion King,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “Maleficent,” attached to the project.
Montag said she is looking forward to presenting at the festival and meeting fellow Nebraskans who are as passionate about literature as she is.
“It has been such an honor [to be invited],” Montag said. “I’m so delighted and excited to be able to meet more readers from my home state and talk with them. It will be an intimate gathering where I can connect with people and hear their experiences and share my own. Hopefully, my story will be inspiring.”
Leading up to the festival was the first-ever Bookwalk. Between Aug. 1 and Sept. 6, patrons could visit participating Lincoln bookstores to get a punch on their “bookmark.” The day before the festival, Friday, Sept. 6, Zipline Brewing Company will host a Bookwalk party where people can participate in a trivia contest, win book-related prizes and show their completed “bookmark” in order to receive happy-hour pricing.
Many of the participating bookstores, including A Novel Idea Bookstore and Francie & Finch Bookshop, will be set up in the Regency Suite in the Union during the festival. They will be selling discounted books, with the University Bookstore table selling the works of the festival’s presenters.
Cinnamon Dokken, owner of A Novel Idea, said she will be selling t-shirts, postcards and more bookstore swag along with their books. Her shop is located just a few blocks from the Union, and she said the festival is a great promotional opportunity.
“It gives people a little taste of what we do,” Dokken said. “We have all kinds of stuff and we’re a ton of fun. If people like what they see at the booth, they’ll really like coming down to the store.”
As the festival nears, Sekora said she is excited about this year’s author lineup and thinks the whole event is a great opportunity for UNL students.
“They can discover writers and authors that they may not otherwise know about,” she said. “It’s a totally free event and a great resource to talk to some of the best authors in the area, some of them nationally recognized.”
She paused and then added one last point with a laugh.
“It’s a good thing to do this Saturday that isn’t going to a football watch party.”