Special to Alachua County Today

GAINESVILLE — Book lovers and avid readers will experience page turning adventures when the Sunshine State Book Festival, debuts Jan. 24 – 26, 2020, further enriching the cultural landscape of North Central Florida.

Over the decades, Gainesville has transitioned from a small, sleepy little college town into a thriving and vibrant center of international higher education and a medical mecca with three major medical complexes.

North Central Florida residents enjoy a smorgasbord of creative offerings in the area. There are multiple stages for the performing arts, including the 1,700-seat UF Phillips Center, three visual fine-arts festivals, a variety of musical groups and ensembles in an array of musical styles, a professional dance troupe, and choral groups.

The cultural void being filled, is a literary festival to showcase and spotlight the many published authors living and writing among us as our family, neighbors, friends and associates. With an estimated 200 published authors living in our midst; a book festival is long overdue and greatly anticipated by readers and writers. The festival offers three days of free literary enrichment for readers of all genres and all ages.

Colorful characters scheme, connive and frolic about the imaginations of writers eager to be written into captivating, page-turning adventures for reading enjoyment. Books are the “magic carpets” that transport readers to another time, another place and another situation without readers leaving the comfort of their lazy-chair.

Alachua resident, Jess Elliott, has authored two collections of ghost stories, “Ghost Lite” and “Tales from Kensington” and a humorous novel, “Monkey Mind” set in Alachua. Two more novels are slated for release soon.

A kick-off public reception is Friday afternoon Jan. 24 at the Matheson Historical Museum on East University Avenue, from 5 – 7 p.m. This is an opportunity to mix and mingle with authors, guests and dignitaries, notables and VIPs.

The centerpiece of the festival will be Saturday, Jan. 25 when the Santa Fe College Fine Arts Hall hosts and showcases 75 area authors from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Readers have an opportunity to visit with authors they know and read. They will also discover authors new to them. Authors are happy to sign copies of books you add to your personal library.

Notable area authors give hourly presentations that include: Gainesville’s literary heritage, the University of Florida sports heroes and history, Florida’s natural beauty. Reading fans of Ernest Hemingway will want to hear the talk by special festival guest, author and artist Hilary Hemingway, “Remembering Uncle Ernest.” Following each literary presentation, a drawing will be held for prizes, and free signed books by participating authors.

Little readers will be attracted to the dedicated Children’s Corner for oral storytelling and activities. They will also be drawn to the several children’s authors at the festival.

The Literary Heritage Tour, Sunday, Jan. 26, is a special feature of the festival. Re-enactors will inform and entertain about the imprint and importance poet, Robert Frost at the Thomas Center; naturalist William Bartram at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park; and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings at the Cross- Creek State Park; had on our literary landscape.

Festival director Mallory O’Connor says, “A major literary event is long overdue and eagerly anticipated. It will complement the other cultural events in our area.”

Elliott, vice-president of Writers Alliance of Gainesville, a 501(C)(3) non-profit, says, “The Sunshine State Book Festival puts deserving area authors on the literary map.”

For complete festival information visit: http://www.sunshinestatebookfestival.org/

Schedule of festival activities

Friday, January 24, 2020

Kick-Off Public reception at the Matheson History Museum –from 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm – welcomes authors, dignitaries, guests, readers, all welcome


Saturday, January 25, 2020

 Santa Fe College – Fine Arts Hall – 10:00 am to 5:00 pm –Showcasing 75 area authors and

Hourly presentations:

11:00 am – Hilary Hemingway – ‘Remembering Uncle Ernest’

12:00 pm – Kevin McCarthy – Retired UF ProfessorGainesville’s Literary Heritage

1:00 p – Joe Haldeman, Nebula Award winner – An Interview: Books, Movies and War with

2:00 pm – Steve Noll, UF Professor – Florida Sports History: it’s More than just Fun and Games

3:00 pm – John Dunn – Drying Up: The Fresh Water Crisis in Florida

4:00 pm – Lola Haskins, Heeding Florida’s Past – Natural Beauty That Survived It Can Change Our Future

Children’s Corner – 10:00 am to 5:00 pm – a dedicated area for oral storytelling and children’s activities

SFC – Food Court open from 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.


Sunday, January 26, 2020

 Literary Heritage Tour – hear from re-enactors of:

10:00 – 10:45 a.m. - Robert Frost – Thomas Center

Lunch Break

1:30 – 2:30 p.m. – William Bartram – Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park

3:15 – 4:15 p.m. – Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings – Cross Creek State Park

#     #     #

Email editor@