Rosemary Sekora holds a Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She has been publicity manager at the University of Nebraska Press since 2014 and Nebraska Book Festival coordinator since 2016. This fall, she will begin her graduate career in UNL’s Creative Writing Program. Follow her on Twitter at @rasekora.
Rosemary, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Could you offer a brief history of your event and what led to its creation? How is your event experience unique to others like it?
The Nebraska Book Festival was actually started in 1991 and has a rich history of offering writing workshops, author presentations, and book signings to Nebraskans. The festival has undergone various managements leading the festival around the state of Nebraska but for the past two years, we’ve held the festival in the capital city. The festival is held to celebrate Nebraska’s literary heritage and contemporary authors and to stimulate public interest in books, reading, and the written word. It’s a free event and open to the public.
With the popularity of events growing worldwide, event organizers are challenged on many levels, including competitive marketing strategies, maintaining the safety of guests and attendees, offering a multi-faced agenda to meet multiple interests, and so forth. What have been some of your hurdles and how did you overcome them?
The first year I coordinated the festival, we marketed it as a one-day outdoor festival. The location was perfect – a new city park at the suggestion of U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser – but of course the weather was not on our side. It ended up being the hottest day of the summer (at least that’s what it felt like). We’ve since moved indoors to a university campus but I learned the most from the first year: city permits, street blockades, vendor permits, city recreation permits, city approval meetings, and the first time (hopefully the last) in my career that I rented portable toilets.
Book festivals, conventions, etc. can often be intimidating for unseasoned authors. What advice would you offer to help them have a positive experience at your event? Do you offer panels or other special activities for them to interact directly with their readers?
Be kind. Be supportive. Be thankful. You’re not the only author with projects to discuss and books to promote. We want to create an environment that is welcoming for readers and writers alike, but sometimes that means sitting back and letting another author take the spotlight. Attend the presentations, ask questions, and connect with local booksellers and literary organizations. Oh – and be sure to check out our new festival book sale, Overlooked Books: $10 and under!
We’re looking for literary-minded organizations or publishers that have a wide appeal to an array of audiences. We have a separate children’s event in the works, so groups who cater to young adult and older demographics are preferred. We are also working on an author application for self-published authors to be represented at the festival.
When is your next scheduled event and where can interested parties find more information? Anything more you would like to add?
It has been a pleasure, Rosemary!