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Something for every reader in Wisconsin Book Festival lineup
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Something for every reader in Wisconsin Book Festival lineup

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Female authors will headline this year’s Wisconsin Book Festival, highlighting issues ranging from race and politics to flight and food.

“Some of the events I anticipate most highly are incredible books by women this year,” said Conor Moran, director of the Wisconsin Book Festival, a year-long literary event that also hosts a four-day celebration of books at venues throughout Madison Oct. 17-20. “This book festival presents completely new topics and authors.”

Those will include a discussion by best-selling author Tea Obreht on her recently published second novel “Inland,” at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 18 at the Central Library. “Inland” tells the tale of two people whose lives mysteriously connect in the water-starved Arizona Territory in 1893.

The Wisconsin Book Festival features more than 60 events with chances for the public to hear from and meet the authors. The events, which are free, take place in and around Madison Public Library’s Central Library at 201 W. Mifflin St.

Other high-profile female authors include Donna Brazile and Yolanda Caraway. Moran describes them as “two of the most powerful African Americans in politics.” They’ll be presenting on the book “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Politics,” which they wrote along with Leah Daughtry and Minyon Moore. Brazile and Caraway will speak at 6 p.m. on Oct. 19 at the Central Library.

“What I’m seeing from my desk and things I’m getting pitched ... it’s more and more women who are getting that kind of lead title attention,” Moran said.

Also that Saturday, former Olympic figure skater and bronze medalist Adam Rippon will speak about his book “Beautiful on the Outside,” a memoir that discusses his journey and self-discovery, Moran said.

“We’re going to round out the day on Saturday with Michele Filgate and her book ‘What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About,’ an amazing collection of essays ranging from serious to mundane (topics),” Moran said.

Filgate’s book pulls together work from a dozen authors, and festival coordinators are putting together a small panel of festival writers to discuss the book, he said. “I expect that to be a really great way to go out on Saturday.”

This year, award-winning author Kate DiCamillo will deliver the festival’s Charlotte Zolotow Lecture. Named for a longtime children’s book editor at Harper Junior Books who studied at UW-Madison, the lecture brings a distinguished children’s author or illustrator to campus each year.

DiCamillo is the author of many children’s books, a two-time Newbery Medalist and two-time National Book Award finalist. She also was named the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature through the Library of Congress in 2014. Her new book, “Beverly, Right Here,” is due out in September.

The festival also will include two authors with books geared toward STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) education. The Wisconsin Science Festival takes place the same weekend.

Author Korwin Briggs writes a series of books called “Invention Hunters,” which have a fun cartoon-like design, but really do explain how things work, Moran said. In addition, Dean Robbins, a Madison author and former editor-in-chief of the Isthmus, will be featured for his book “The Astronaut Who Painted the Moon: The True Story of Alan Bean.”

Robbins is one of several local authors at this year’s festival. Madison writer and illustrator Kevin Henkes, whose novel for young readers, “Sweeping up the Heart,” was published in March, will host a talk on writing books for children. Henkes has written more than 50 books, including picture books, books for beginning readers and novels, and has been awarded The Caldecott Medal for his book “Kitten’s First Full Moon.” His lecture will focus on writing for readers at different ages and look at differences and similarities of three of his most recent books: “A Parade of Elephants,” a picture book; “Penny and Her Sled,” a book for beginning readers; and “Sweeping Up the Heart,” a middle-grade novel.

Other Wisconsin authors include John Hildebrand and his book “Long Way Round: Through the Heartland by River,” which is about Hildebrand’s experience traveling the waterways of Wisconsin and understanding the people who live along those waterways, Moran said.

In addition, UW-Madison assistant professor and author Bianca Baldridge will discuss her book, “Reclaiming Community: Race and the Uncertain Future of Youth Work.”

These authors have “big ideas that are really formative in setting that intellectual foundation of the country,” Moran said.

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