Decatur Book Festival prepares for next installment

Ever since Daren Wang first introduced the idea in Sept., 2006, the Decatur Book Festival has been a staple of the city’s culture. Every year, writers and book-lovers from all over the country come to Decatur on Labor Day weekend to see author presentations, buy books, and explore the Square.

The Book Festival also enjoys a steady influx of published writers, all eager for the opportunity to present their work to an intelligent and well-read audience.

“It’s got a strong reputation among authors,” said Programming Director Julie Wilson. “We have no shortage of authors who want to present. [But] I don’t think as many people know about us as they should.”

Wilson thinks that one of the festival’s greatest weaknesses is its simultaneous fame and obscurity, depending on where one lives.

On panel with Decaturish writers Dena Mellick and Dan Wisenhunt, Nicki Salcedo reads from her book “Intersections,” at the 2015 Decatur Book Festival. (Photo courtesy of Johnathan Phillips).

“We’re one of the largest in the country,” Wilson said, “yet people in Johns Creek don’t know about us, while people in New York do.”

Nicki Salcedo is a local author who was invited to present at the 2014 and 2015 festivals, and believes that the author experience is a very good one.

“I thought I was very well received,” Salcedo said. “It’s tough for some writers who might be more shy or used to being at their computer. [But] for me, it’s been positive and I’ve had very positive feedback.”

While public speaking skills are a big help for presenters, Diane Capriola, Manager of Children and Teen Programming, believes there are other skills necessary to be an engaging speaker for younger audiences.

“They need to be able to get and hold a child’s attention,” Capriola said. “We really like for there to be this fun atmosphere on the Children’s Stage, whether it’s through asking questions, or the author asking questions, or asking the kids to participate in some way. We really look for their personalities to work well with kids and get them excited about being there.”

While there are some similarities with the approach to the Teen Stage, there is a general consensus that those who attend those have a higher maturity level. Capriola has made the appropriate changes this requires.

“The interesting dynamic with the Teen Stage is that it’s not just teens that go to that,” Capriola said. “There are a lot of adults who like to read YA [Young Adult] fiction. So I have to be thinking about both.”

The festival’s marketing strategies and programming have been a topic of conversation since Jan., but all involved are determined to keep their plans a secret until the big reveal on June 12.

“We don’t want information to get out,” Wilson said. “In the scheme of things, there’s no true, deep harm to the festival by telling people. But I think there are things that are always kind of in the works, and so if we announce too much too early, it impacts how we’re able to schedule things.”

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Decatur High School, GA
Decatur Book Festival prepares for next installment