Big book events are coming our way in 2018 — even more of them than usual.
The Tampa Bay area has long boasted a bounty of local events for book lovers, from author signings at bookstores to university-sponsored reading series and the Times Festival of Reading. And readers respond with enthusiasm — at the 2017 Times Festival in November, for example, the 50 featured authors spoke before capacity crowds.
All that literary love might be creating a force field. This year the area has attracted a couple of major national book and author events: the Association of Writers & Writing Programs Conference at the Tampa Convention Center and the Bouchercon World Mystery Conference at the Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club.
All year long, there will be author appearances at independent bookstores like Oxford Exchange and Inkwood Books, readings at local colleges and universities and major book events like the SunLit Festival and the Times Festival of Reading.
Check these pages for book events throughout 2018. Here are some highlights for book lovers to mark on their calendars.
Association of Writers & Writing Programs Conference
AWP is a professional convention for students, faculty and staff of college, university and independent writing programs, as well as authors, publishers and others in the book industry. The conference draws about 12,000 people to its book fair, meetings, panels, readings and receptions, making it the largest literary conference in North America.
This year’s AWP keynote speaker is George Saunders, author of Lincoln in the Bardo, one of 2017’s most talked about and critically acclaimed novels. Other top authors scheduled to speak include Edwidge Danticat, Nathan Englander, Jeffrey Eugenides, Lauren Groff, University of South Florida professor Jay Hopler, Lorrie Moore, Bob Shacochis and Dana Spiotta.
AWP will take place at the Tampa Convention Center. Convention events are open only to participants, but there will be dozens of off-site events too, many of which will be open to the public, such as a reading at Inkwood Books by Connie May Fowler and another by Lidia Yuknavitch and Patricia Smith at the University of Tampa. Watch these pages for more on public events, or go to awpwriter.org for information on the conference.
Bouchercon World Mystery Conference
Bouchercon (named in honor of the late mystery writer and reviewer Anthony Boucher) will bring hundreds of mystery fans from around North America to the Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club for the premier annual event for readers, authors and lovers of crime fiction. Held since 1970, Bouchercon annually hands out the Anthony Awards for excellence in crime fiction.
The 2018 conference will present its lifetime achievement award to Scottish writer Ian Rankin, creator of the John Rebus series. Special guest authors are Mark Billingham, Sara Blaedel, Sean Chercover and Karin Slaughter; among the dozens more authors on hand will be Lee Child, Reed Farrel Coleman and Sara Paretsky. Local favorites will include Lisa Unger as toastmaster and Tim Dorsey as Florida guest of honor — and John D. MacDonald as "ghost of honor."
Bouchercon registration is now open; until Jan. 15, it’s $200, after that $225 for all convention events. Co-chair Erin Mitchell says that there will be off-site events open to the public, although they’re still in the planning stages. One will be an auction to benefit Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, hosted by Unger and Hank Phillippi Ryan. To get updates on Bouchercon events or to register, go to bouchercon.com.
University of Tampa Lectores Series
The first 2018 installment of UT’s Lectores Series, free public readings by notable authors presented by the university’s low-residency creative writing MFA program, begins Jan. 4. Another week of Lectores readings will be coming up in June. Information at ut.edu/mfacw/lectores.
Writers in Paradise
Eckerd College’s esteemed Writers in Paradise conference in St. Petersburg offers free evening readings by its faculty and guest authors. This year they include Russell Banks, Ann Hood, Laura Lippman, Ana Menendez, Stewart O’Nan and more. Information at writersinparadise.com.
1809 N Tampa St., Tampa
This independent bookstore has a hip new location in Tampa Heights with more room for author events, so look for them all year. Inkwood will be hosting a number of AWP off-site events in March. Coming up soon are talks and signings by Steph Post (Walk in the Fire) on Jan. 18, Tim Dorsey (The Pope of Palm Beach) on Feb. 1 and Alafair Burke (The Wife) with Lisa Unger (Red Hunter) on Feb. 10. Information at facebook.com/inkwood.
420 W Kennedy Blvd., Tampa
This handsome retail, restaurant and event space near downtown Tampa presents a busy schedule of author events. Start the year with good advice from Courtney Carver (Soulful Simplicity: How Living With Less Can Lead to So Much More) on Jan. 18, Roy Peter Clark (Writing Tools: 55 Essential Strategies for Every Writer) on Jan. 21 and bestselling author Daniel Pink (When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing) on Feb. 2. Oxford Exchange will also host a number of AWP events. Information at oxfordexchange.com.
Wordier Than Thou
5741 75th Ave. N, Pinellas Park
This organization, based in the bookstore of the same name, puts on a plethora of events with local authors around the bay, all year long. Look for Eat Our Words, with authors serving dishes based on their books, on Jan. 12 in St. Petersburg; the Tampa Bay Publishing Salon Jan. 20 in Tampa; and much more, including literary pub crawls and the Banned Books Burlesque Show. Check the Wordier Facebook page at facebook.com/pg/WordierThanThou/events for frequent updates.
Plume Poetry Series
The Plume Poetry Series, co-sponsored by St. Petersburg College, will present poet and four-time individual National Poetry Slam champion Patricia Smith at the Salvador Dalí Museum on April 6.
St. Petersburg’s fourth annual SunLit Festival, presented by Keep St. Pete Lit, is an eclectic celebration of writing, reading and storytelling at a variety of venues. This year’s events will include an awards presentation and readings at St. Petersburg History Museum for a countywide writing contest for high school students, a Literary Carousel at the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, a literary walking tour and readings by local authors like Lee Irby (Unreliable). Updates and information at keepstpetelit.org.
Florida Antiquarian Book Fair
The 37th annual fair, the oldest and largest fair of its kind in the southeastern United States, will pack the Coliseum in St. Petersburg with vendors and fans of antique and rare books, maps and other materials. Information at floridabook sellers.com.
26th annual Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading
And ... mark your calendars for the area’s biggest annual book and author event: the Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. We’ve already confirmed our first headliner: Author Gilbert King, who presented his Pulitzer Prize-winning Devil in the Grove in 2013, will return with another nonfiction book about Florida, Beneath a Ruthless Sun: A True Story of Violence, Race, and Justice Lost and Found. Information and updates at tampabay.com/expos/festival-of-reading/.
Contact Colette Bancroft at [email protected] or (727) 893-8435. Follow @colettemb.1