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Sonoma County Book Festival's new venue

  • Santa Rosa residents Judy Hadley, left and Colleen Ferguson search for the perfect book at last year's book festival. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat, file photo 2012)

Every fall, local literature lovers look forward to the Sonoma County Book Festival. But for this year's event, running most of the day Saturday, they'll need to look for it in a new location.

Now in its 14th year, the free festival has moved from its old site at downtown Santa Rosa's Old Courthouse Square to the Santa Rosa Junior College campus.

Organizers plan a full program of author appearances, panel discussions, poetry readings and more, in the college's Doyle Library and Bertolini Student Center, and outdoors on the quad next to them.

Teachers and students, with their mutual focus on reading, form a significant part of the festival's fan base, said Karen Petersen, president of the board of directors of Sonoma County's Literary Arts Guild, which sponsors the festival.

“Linking with the junior college seemed to make wonderful sense,” she said.

The festival has lined up a full roster of authors, most notably Dorothy Allison of Guerneville, whose novel, “Bastard Out of Carolina,” was hailed for its honest and graphic depiction of Southern poverty when published in 1992, and inspired a film version in 1996. Allison's 1998 novel, “Cavedweller,” also became a movie, in 2004.

“Dorothy Allison is local, and well-known as a very powerful speaker,” Petersen said. “'Bastard Out of Carolina' has been an incredibly important book to people. It's read very widely, and taught in colleges throughout the country.”

The day's lineup also features new author Helene Wecker of San Francisco, who is getting national attention for her debut novel, “The Golem and the Jinni,” which sets an encounter between two supernatural creatures against the background of New York City in 1899.

This year's book festival places a special emphasis on programming for young readers, Petersen said.

“We have a children's area with storytelling and children's authors, a young-adult panel with graphic novelists and a poetry slam,” in which young poets can compete, she said.

And if the intellectual enticements aren't enough, this year's Sonoma County Book Festival offers a special attraction the old downtown site couldn't match: Free parking as well as free admission.

You can reach Staff Writer Dan Taylor at 521-5243 or dan.taylor@pressdemocrat.com. See his ARTS blog at arts.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.

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