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'Baby-sitters Club' author Martin to headline 2020 WV Book Festival

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Ann M. Martin, the bestselling author of “The Baby-sitters Club” series, will headline the 2020 West Virginia Book Festival Oct. 2 and 3 at the Charleston Coliseum & Convention Center.

Martin will be joined by other featured authors, Colson Whitehead, Douglas Preston, Josh Malerman, Eric Eyre and Denise Giardina.

Martin’s popular series, which has sold more than 176 million copies, ran from 1986 to 2000, and included 213 novels and special editions.

While the series may be finished, 2020 is going to be a big year for the Baby-sitters Club — there’s a graphic novel, “Logan Likes Mary Anne,” coming out in September, a 10-episode Netflix series set to debut and all 131 books in the original series are now available on Audible.

“Ann M. Martin pretty much defined a generation of young readers,” said Michelle Ross, head of the book festival’s selection committee.

Whitehead, who will speak Friday, Oct. 2, is a New York Times best-selling author of “The Underground Railroad,” which was an Oprah’s Book Club selection, and winner of the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize.

He is also the author of “John Henry Days,” which is set in West Virginia.

Author and journalist Preston’s most recent nonfiction book, “The Lost City of the Monkey God,” was named a New York Times notable book

Malerman is the author of the thriller “Bird Box,” which was adapted into a Netflix film. Malerman’s follow-up to “Bird Box,” “Malorie,” is scheduled to be released May 19.

Eyre, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Gazette-Mail reporter, will discuss his upcoming book about the opioid crisis, “Death in Mud Lick.” Giardina, a McDowell County native, has authored six novels.

This year’s process for picking authors was a little different than previous years, and the lineup was finalized much earlier than usual.

“With the selection process, it can be really hit-or-miss sometimes,” Ross said. “We got really lucky this year in that everyone we asked to come to the book festival said yes the first time. Usually we get a lot of no’s until we get every spot filled.

“We’re really excited about that. I think more and more authors are excited about coming to West Virginia and promoting in West Virginia.”

Last year, Orson Scott Card, sci-fi author of “Ender’s Game,” was one of the featured authors. In late summer 2019, some people started contacting the library and the city about their concerns over Card, who has said he supports laws against same-sex marriage.

“After the festival, we created a selection committee to provide more voices from our community in the selection process,” said Sarah Mitchell, co-chair of the book festival. “Members include a city representative appointed by the mayor.”

Travis Hogbin, a member of the City of Charleston’s LGBTQ Working Group, said he volunteered to be the city’s representative.

“I am so excited to see that our concerns were met with open ears and open minds,” he said. “Ann M. Martin’s books have been such a big part of so many childhoods, but the fact that she is also a member of the LGBTQ community is important. Visibility — seeing someone from your community who has made such an impact on so many lives — is, I think, a huge step in the right direction.”

Along with author events, the book festival also includes writing workshops, for which the library is still seeking applicants.

“What we’re interested in right now is writing workshops,” Ross said. “Anything people have to offer in the way of tips in writing fiction, nonfiction, memoirs, children’s books.”

Local authors are also encouraged to apply if they’d like to do a presentation on their book.

Applications can be found at wvbookfestival.org, on the main page under program proposal forms. The deadline is March 15.

This year’s Book Festival will also feature annual favorites such as the used book sale, which will be held on Oct. 3, and the festival’s marketplace, where attendees will be able to meet and talk with authors, or buy signed copies of books.

Charter presenters for the West Virginia Book Festival include: the Kanawha County Public Library; the Library Foundation of Kanawha County Inc.; the West Virginia Humanities Council; and the Charleston Gazette-Mail. Sponsors for this year’s festival are West Virginia Public Broadcasting; the West Virginia Library Commission; the Center for the Book; the Martha Gaines and Russell Wehrle Memorial Foundation; the H. B. Wehrle Foundation; the Marshall University Foundation; the Friends of the Library; Encova Insurance and BB&T.

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