30 p.m. Saturday at the Fort Hayes Metropolitan Educational Center, located at 546 Jack Gibbs Blvd.
Readers and aspiring authors will have the opportunity to mingle with more than a book’s bind or keypad this weekend when about 100 Ohio authors gather at the sixth annual Ohioana Book Festival.
The festival, sponsored by the Ohioana Library Association, is scheduled to take place from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday at the Fort Hayes Metropolitan Educational Center, located at 546 Jack Gibbs Blvd.
“It’s a celebration of Ohio authors and literature,” said David Weaver, coordinator of the festival and Ohioana development director.
Before the festival began, Ohio was one of few states without a book festival, Weaver said.
“We put this festival together a few years ago with the help of Ohio State University, through a survey done through Fisher College of Business,” Weaver said. “One thing we found is that readers loved more opportunities to get together with writers.”
Nancy Petro, one of the 10 featured authors of this year’s festival, said the event gives authors the “rare opportunity” to mingle with other authors and their readers.
“I think that every one of (the authors attending) would probably say that it’s wonderful that Ohio has a way to acknowledge and support homegrown talent in the arts and in writing, in particular,” Petro said. “I think more than anything else it is a beacon to young people who may aspire to be writers and wonder if you can write outside of New York or something like that. It’s very reassuring to know there are hundreds of authors from Ohio who have written books.”
Petro, wife of former Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro, is a new author who was inspired to share her and her husband’s experiences with wrongful conviction in her memoir, “False Justice: Eight Myths That Convict the Innocent.”
Nancy Petro said she and her husband had a “rude awakening” about the prevalence of wrongful conviction when Jim Petro received a call from The Innocence Project, a program that uses DNA testing to try to get those who were wrongfully convicted pardoned. A man had been sentenced to prison for life for murder and child rape, but there was DNA evidence to clear him. The Innocence Project needed assistance from the state attorney general.
“The book became the vehicle (for us) to ask a lot of questions … and to share what we know,” Nancy Petro said. “I never envisioned myself being an author, I never viewed it as a career choice, but it warrants a desire to get a message out.”
The memoir covers three cases of wrongful conviction in detail, all that he husband was associated with in some way, Nancy Petro said.
The Ohioana Library also supports Ohio authors through the Ohioana Quarterly, which reviews new books and opens readers up to new authors, the Ohioana Awards, which were started awarding literacy awards in 1942, and other programs such as Choose to Read, Weaver said.
“That is part of our mission, to recognize Ohio authors and their contributions to American literature,” Weaver said. “A lot of people aren’t aware of the contributions Ohioans have made to American literature.”
Linda Hengst, executive director of The Ohioana Library, agreed that it was important to show support and appreciation for Ohio authors.
“Ohio sometimes thinks it’s not important other than maybe when it comes to voting, but there’s no place that has better authors than Ohio has,” Hengst said.
The Ohioana Library considers someone an Ohio author if they were either born in Ohio or have lived there for at least five years.
Authors will participate in numerous panel discussions throughout the day, with topics including writing poetry, how to get published, children’s literature and writing mystery series, Weaver said.
Hengst said she hopes there will be a dialogue between audience members and the authors, rather than authors simply talking among themselves.
“I hope (readers) have a question answered or something that they’ll think about that they haven’t thought about before … or that they may discover something new,” Hangst said.
The Ohioana Book Festival is free and doors open at 9:45 a.m.