For true bookworms, walking into a bookstore is like walking into a candy store as an overstimulated toddler. Your heart starts beating faster and faster as you touch your fingers to every spine in sight, high off the smell of fresh ink and paper, and eager to consume as much as possible.
The smorgasbord of delicious offerings presented at a bookstore is coming to Northern Colorado next weekend in the form of The Fort Collins Book Festival: “Food for Thought.” The free festival, produced by Poudre River Public Library District in partnership with Colorado State University’s Morgan Library, features two days of food-themed writing workshops, book talks and other literary events that will satisfy every reader’s taste.
For writers, the festival is the chance to escape the solitude of their chosen career and convene with like-minded creators.
“(At festivals) you remember what you were trying to do in the first place – I’m not just writing in a journal, I’m writing to get something out into the world and into someone else’s mind,” said workshop leader Ramona Ausubel. “We meet up and remember that this magic trick is occurring.”
Ausubel is a Boulder-based writer and Colorado State University creative writing professor whose recent book, “Awayland,” was named a best book of 2018 by The San Francisco Chronicle, Lit Hub and Real Simple. She’ll join Poet Laureate of San Antonio Octavio Quintanilla and award-winning poet Adam Dickinson for an “all-star” reading event kicking off the festival Friday night, and she’s also leading a writing workshop on building multi-dimensional characters Saturday.
She says her goal as a festival instructor is to offer a fun, hands-on workshop that will teach writers of all backgrounds and skill levels the exercises she uses to develop her characters.
“We are all a character, so it should be accessible,” she said. “I’ve done a workshop like this and what I love is that everybody ends up with something different – they bring their own background and ideas and (we) end up with so many different characters.”
She’s looking forward to seeing what her participants come up with, and she’s also particularly looking forward to convening with fellow professionals who she can relate to.
“In some ways it’s just encouragement to keep going,” she said. “You’re not alone – it’s nice to remember there are other people trying to make art and struggling to do it too.”
Keetje Kuipers, the Washington-based author of three books of poems, completely agrees. The fellow festival participant said she was inspired to write the book she’s currently working on – a novel set in Wyoming – after a dinner table conversation with fellow creators during an artist residency at Brush Creek Ranch in Saratoga.
“Things happen like that when we get together … it’s electric,” Kuipers said. “It’s really thrilling to be walking the halls with other writers and seeing the faces of writers you admire and seeing the work of writers you haven’t seen before. You get excited about pursuing your work.”
Kuipers runs a blog series called “Line Cook” during which she pairs an episode of her literary podcast with a recipe as part of her responsibilities as senior editor of Poetry Northwest.
During the festival, she’ll share selections from her latest work, “It’s All Charm,” during an author reading and moderate a panel discussion about the politics and ethics of food.
“Food and writing have always been entwined for me,” Kuipers said. “(They both offer) the opportunity to come together … I lived in Alabama for four years and our neighbors became good friends. They’re lifelong Alabamians and they brought us food we had never heard before like boiled peanuts and stuffing that was totally different from Northern stuffing. It created a place where we could meet and gather and get to know each other in a way that discussing the election cycle couldn’t.”
Her goal as a writer is always to write poems that welcome other people in, she said, and that’s also her goal with every meal she shares.
Jereme Zimmerman, a writer and traditional brewing revivalis who describes himself as a “peace-loving, green-living, Appalachian Yeti Viking” also believes in the unifying power of good food and drink, which is why he wrote his latest work, “Brew Beer Like a Yeti.”
He’s excited to give a book talk at the festival about his newest release, as well as participate in a panel discussion called “Beer Here! Current Trends and Craft Culture,” which will feature other beer-related authors and local brewers.
Zimmerman says he’s excited to not only learn from fellow writers at the festival but audience members at his book talk – he finds these events to be have more of a give-and-take feel rather than a straight lecture. And he enjoys hosting them way more than he ever expected.
“I’m fairly introverted but as soon as I get up on that stage, I feel comfortable because people are there to learn and interact,” he said. “I do tend to kind of become an extrovert briefly and enjoy the back and forth.”