2020 Central Wisconsin (Virtual) Book Festival :: Featuring Events for Literature Lovers of All Stripes

Written by Chad Dally

The 4th annual Central Wisconsin Book Festival (CWBF) takes place September 21–27, 2020, with events happening each of the 6 days, bringing authors and literature lovers together in exciting, creative, and introspective ways. Although organizers felt it was necessary to make this year’s festival all-virtual, we’re still really excited about this year’s lineup and hope you will be, too.

About a dozen volunteers have met monthly — first in person, then virtually — since the end of the 2019 festival to set up this year’s events. It’s been a challenge to reorganize the whole festival to take place online, due to the coronavirus pandemic. We’ll certainly miss the opportunity to gather together and listen to authors in person and to have books signed and to converse and connect with each other in the same rooms. But with COVID-19 cases still rising in the Central Wisconsin area, it was decided by Marathon County Public Library organizers that the safest way to move forward was to host all events virtually this year.

Central WI Book Festival logo

2020 Central Wisconsin (Virtual) Book Festival Lineup

Hosting a virtual event doesn’t mean that we’ve put any less effort into our 2020 lineup. On the contrary! A virtual festival has provided us with the opportunity to secure authors who might be outside the budget of our smaller, grant-funded festival if we were to pay the travel costs to bring them to Central Wisconsin for in-person events. This year, we can compensate them for their time and effort, and everybody gets to stay safe at home.

Sample Headliners

Joy Harjo
U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo. (Photo by Matika Wilbur, Courtesy of the subject.)
  • U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo — We’ve been lucky enough to host poet laureates from Wisconsin and Montana, but Harjo is the nation’s poetry ambassador (and the first Native American poet to hold the position). Seriously, it doesn’t get much bigger in the world of poetry than the U.S. Poet Laureate, and we’re so, so excited Joy will join us at 7 p.m. on Saturday, September 26.
Tim Egan
Author and journalist Timothy Egan. (Photo by Ruth Fremson, Courtesy of the Steven Barclay Agency.)
  • National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning author and journalist Timothy Egan — Egan will discuss his newest book “A Pilgrimage to Eternity,” about his journey along an ancient route from Canterbury, England, to Rome to re-examine Christianity’s past and present and its place in his own life. Egan’s talk will be at 7 p.m. on Friday, September 25.
Tiffany Midge
Writer and poet Tiffany Midge. (Photo courtesy of the author.)
  • Award-winning writer and poet Tiffany Midge — On Sunday, September 27, at 3 p.m., Midge will share some of the musings from her awesome and hilarious book “Bury My Heart at Chuck E. Cheese’s” and some of the poetry from her forthcoming collection “Horns.” (Lest you think the book title is offensive, Midge has a right to the play on words as a member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.) She’s also going to discuss humor writing with another festival guest, Steve Hannah, on Thursday, September 25, at 7 m.

Selected Guests

Some of the other guests for the 2020 festival include (but are definitely NOT limited to):

  • Well-known Wisconsin author and historian Jerry Apps will be discussing his newest book, “When the White Pine was King,” about Wisconsin’s logging industry.
  • Wisconsin mystery author John Galligan will discuss his new novel, “Dead Man Dancing,” the second in a series about a female sheriff set in the fictional Wisconsin county of Bad Axe.
  • Charles Hagner, director of Bird City Wisconsin and the author of the “American Birding Association Field Guide to Birds of Wisconsin” will share information (and photos!) about what makes Wisconsin such a great state for bird watching.

Partnered Events

While the festival was started in 2017 by the Marathon County Public Library, from the beginning our organizers have made an effort to collaborate with other organizations and businesses in the community, and that remains true for the 2020 festival — and 3 events in particular…

  • In collaboration with North Central Area Congregations Organized to Make an Impact (NAOMI), we have organized a community read and two panel discussions centered on the book “Wild Counselor” by Merrill, WI, author Jim Finucan. Jim’s memoir details how his father, once a prominent local attorney, suffered a mental breakdown and ended up homeless. The two panel discussions during the festival (September 25 and September 26) will bring together elected officials, law enforcement, and staff from local nonprofit agencies, along with Finucan, for a conversation aimed at developing a greater understanding of homelessness in the greater Wausau area. NOTE: Free copies of Finucan’s book will be available for pickup at MCPL locations beginning around September 1.
  • We are partnering with the Master Gardener Program of Marathon County for a September 21 talk by New York Times bestselling author Douglas Tallamy on his book, “Nature’s Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation that Starts in Your Backyard.” Tallamy will share with viewers a plethora of steps the average homeowner can take to provide habitat — flowers, fruit, and other vegetation — to benefit wildlife.
  • To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote, the Wisconsin Institute for Public Policy and Service and CWBF will host author Rebecca Boggs Roberts on September 22 to discuss her book “Suffragists in Washington, DC” and the history of the women’s suffragist movement. Boggs Roberts also is the co-author of the new book for young adults “The Suffragists Playbook: Your Guide to Changing the World.”

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Information on joining all of this year’s virtual (Zoom) events for the festival will be made available in early to mid-September on the CWBF webpage, as well as in the Events section of the CWBF Facebook page.

We’ll miss seeing all of your book-loving faces in person during this year’s festival, but your safety and the safety of all our festival guests is very important to us.

We hope you’ll find some time over the 6-day virtual festival to tune in, listen to some great authors, and ask your always-insightful questions!

Chad Dally - MCPL - Library SpecialistChad Dally
Library Specialist  |  Marathon County Public Library

Chad Dally is a library specialist with the Marathon County Public Library, where he’s worked since 2012. He splits his time at the library between reference and programming, and generally prefers to read nonfiction over fiction.  Email Chad Dally

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