Anticipating Book Festival

Winding down the last day of the Fay B. Kaigler Book Festival each year leaves a mixture of fatigue (three back-to-back days at least twelve hours long) and wistfulness (another whole year before it can be repeated). It’s the replacement of my childhood anticipation of Christmas and birthday celebrations.

I’ve learned a lesson from those childhood events. I know not to start thinking about the next one immediately because the wait gets too long. The trick is knowing when to begin anticipation again since a certain amount of expectancy carries its own enjoyment.

I got this year’s “Save the Date” brochure for April 5-7, 2017 before Christmas. Despereaux runs across the front with his needle and red thread. From a favorite book, The Tale of Despereaux, the little mouse presages the awarding of the Southern Miss medallion to a favorite author, Kate DiCamillo, at this year’s festival. Still, December to April forms a wearying distance to begin anticipation. I put the card on the bulletin board and the event out of my mind – well, mostly.

This week, I woke up from a dream where I scurried around at the book festival, looking for the people I needed to get to the next luncheon, stopping to meet old friends, and answering questions from new attendees along the way. I decided it was time to anticipate.

I invite you to look with me. Authors and illustrators share their publication paths, which are never the same; their strengths and frailties as human beings; and their passions, with similarities that may end with their dedication to book-lovers. Workshops galore combine information on trends and issues for librarians and readers, fun experiences to carry home and share with children by vivacious presenters, and previews of new books with hints on using them to engage children. Awards abound. The Kaigler-Lamont award for an outstanding school librarian, and the Magnolia Children’s Choice Awards, children’s selections of their favorite books, are bookended by the prestigious Southern Miss Medallion for an experienced writer’s body of work and the Ezra Jack Keats New Writer and New Illustrator Awards for those beginning their careers.

For longtime attendees, the best part of the festival may be renewal of friendships formed with people first met while standing in line for a favorite author’s signature, lunch companions from years past who circled the round tables for lively book talk, or former USM students who helped with the festival as part of their coursework returning now as librarians and professors.

If any of this appeals to you, go to for more information. Helpful hint: If you can only come one day, make it Thursday.