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Red Dirt Book Festival

Pioneer Library System
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Innovation Leader: Cindy Stevens, Librarian, Center for Reader’s Services - Pioneer Library System, cindy@pls.lib.ok.us

Problem Statement

The biennial Red Dirt Book Festival was developed in 2003 to celebrate the art and craft of writing through an event that brings together Oklahoma readers and writers.

Innovation

The Red Dirt Book Festival is a free two day, biennial event held in Shawnee, Oklahoma. The previous 4 festivals (2003, 2005, 2007, 2009) have been funded through a grant from the Oklahoma Humanities Council, Pioneer Library System, family foundations, local sponsors and individual donations. The event begins with an opening session and proceeds to a series of workshops and author talks. There are several programs every hour to choose from, including authors who read from their works. Workshops have been given on such topics as: self publishing, memoir writing, storytelling, plotting, genre writing, writing poetry and much more.

A few Oklahoma authors involved in past festivals have been: Tony Hillerman, Billy Letts, William Bernhardt, Carolyn Hart, Marsha Preston, Hannibal Johnson, Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz, Tim Tingle, Sharon Sala, Merline Lovelace and PC Cast. Short story, poetry, illustration and photography submissions are accepted at the festival and for a short time after for publication of an anthology which is sold for a nominal fee to cover production.

Progress

The Red Dirt Book Festival has had participants attend from several states across the country and Canada, many of whom have reported that they plan their vacations for this event. Authors network, and new writing collaborations have been forged. New, mentored writers have developed their techniques and furthered their writing careers. The Library has made many connections and built relationships with authors and publishers that have been invaluable for other programming endeavors.

The 2009 Red Dirt Festival included a teen writing component that featured Mel Odom, a professional writer with over 150 published works who worked with students from several area high schools. Many institutions such as the Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art, Oklahoma Baptist University, St. Gregory’s University and the Shawnee News-Star have participated as partners. The festival was featured in the February 15, 2005 Library Journal.