In a world where technology dominates free time, the 24th Annual Utah Humanities Book Festival encourages their participants to unplug and soak up the benefits of literature.
The festival kicked off on Sept. 14 when internationally-renowned poet Forrest Gander shared his work with a live audience at Weber State University right outside of Elizabeth Hall.
Since then, there have been authors such as April Jones Prince, a children’s author; Abraham Smith, an associate professor at Weber State, who read his bird-themed poetry at the Ogden Nature Center; and award-winning writers Kat Smith and Rob Carney.
There are many more events scheduled for the festival until its end on Nov. 16.
While the majority of events are readings from published authors, there are a couple that will feature different topics, like picking books for book clubs, writing and publishing.
Sunni Wilkinson, an adjunct instructor in the English department at WSU who is involved with the festival, also alluded to an event on Sept. 30 for those interested in one day becoming a published writer.
“It’s all about self-publishing and how to self publish,” Wilkinson said. “That event is specifically for those that write and maybe are closet writers that want to publish but don’t quite know how to go about doing that.”
A large reason for her excitement is the number of students at WSU who are interested in writing and enrolled in creative writing classes who may find the prospect of not needing a traditional publisher intriguing.
There are many events to attend and multiple ways to attend. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, some events will be in-person and others will be held on Zoom. However, each event will strictly be one or the other instead of a combination of live and virtual audiences.
Regardless of the event being in-person or virtual, they all provide an opportunity for interaction. Wilkinson believes that this is much needed in society today.
“For those of us that read, we do it because we care to connect with other stories and lives,” Wilkinson said. “Reading can make us more empathetic, and being able to see other readers that are interested in that same writer or topic builds a real sense of community. I feel like this is an incredible opportunity to open a world into someone’s mind, someone else’s compassion and someone else’s vision.”
Wilkinson said she also serves as a kind of co-chair of the committee for Weber Book Links, the organization running the Utah Humanities Book Festival in Weber County. Weber Book Links works with numerous partners in the county, including WSU, the Weber County Library, the Treehouse Museum and the Ogden Nature Center, to bring literature to the county and advertise the organized events.
The organization was started by Kathy Gambles who worked in the Ogden city school district for years. She noticed that Utah Humanities was holding state-wide events, but none of them had reached Weber County, so she put together a committee and pushed for more events to be held in northern Utah.
The next scheduled event is on Sept. 24 with a presentation from Kase Johnstun at St. Joseph’s Catholic School.