Sept. 22, 2021 — The 2021 Florence Festival of Books took place on Sept. 18 and 19 at the Florence Events Center, with special guest speakers, an inspiring keynote address and social distancing and a mask mandate in place.
Although the uncertainty surrounding the COVID protocols caused concern until days before the event took place, the decision was made to present the Festival of Books Committee decided to move forward with the event. As such, the committee modified the format and logistics for this year, with a reduction in the number of authors on hand and an increase in the space allotted for each table, which allowed for recommended social distancing.
This 2021 festival featured a Friday afternoon panel discussion with Florence Festival of Books Co-chair Judy Fleagle and popular local Oregon authors Bob Welch and William Sullivan.
The crowds this year were somewhat smaller than in previous years, according to Fleagle, but the pace and interest of those attending was as keen as in previous years.
“We asked, ‘Should we be having a large event indoors while the pandemic is still ongoing? If we do, will anybody come?’” Fleagle said. “The committee decided last spring to go for it with restrictions, and be ready to pull the plug at a moment’s notice.”
The committee planned for a third fewer participants and COVID safety requirements throughout the event.
“Amazingly, there were no mask complaints and people social distanced. But, best of all, there was a really happy vibe,” Fleagle said.
The panel discussion was a welcome start to the weekend, which highlighted new books, traditional and self-publishing techniques and strategies to market and distribute author works. The audience engaged in a question-and-answer session, and the authors freely shared advice.
Sullivan and Welch have often attended the festival and the afternoon panel featured reviews of their older works and some anecdotal reminiscences which later led to books.
The event also featured a keynote address given by Melody Carlson, the author of more than 200 books for teens, children and women. As a youth, Carlson moved to Springfield, Ore., and currently resides in Sisters. Her works have generated more than $7.5 million in sales and many have been optioned for film production.
“Both attendees and participants seemed to enjoy everything — the panel discussion with Bob Welch and Bill Sullivan, the Keynote Speaker Melody Carlson on Friday and the Book Fair on Saturday,” Fleagle said. “So, In spite of all the angst, it turned out great. People showed up for all activities — not as many as in the past, not as many as we wanted, but considering COVID and the stormy weather, it was all right.”
Fleagle founded the Florence Festival of Books and is one Oregon’s best-selling self-published authors. Her book “Crossings” tells the inside story of the five major Oregon Coastal bridges designed by architect C.J. McCollough. It is a perennial best seller, selling thousands of copies since its publication.
She also returned to what she considered the takeaway from the event, that the best part was the upbeat vibe — and all the books.
The authors and publishers were happy to have their books on display once again and to be able to talk to people who read those books. And the festival patrons enjoyed talking to the people who actually wrote or published the books they were buying.
For more information, visit www.florencefestivalofbooks.org.