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Published: Tuesday, 11/16/2010

No river, but book fair flows on as Bedford library takes host duties for year

TEMPERANCE - They got the writers. They got the readers.

All that officials from the Monroe County Library System were missing from Sunday's 12th annual Writers on the River book fair was the river.

No worries. The fabulous waterway known as the River Raisin never left its familiar spot near the Ellis Reference & Information Center at 3700 South Custer Rd., Monroe.

The book fair, though, took a one-year hiatus from that facility because of the Ellis Center's $2 million renovation. The project, which began in July, is expected to be completed in the spring of 2011.

So, for the first time, Writers on the River - a book fair that typically draws 300 to 400 people - hit the road and didn't miss a beat at the Bedford Branch Library, 8575 Jackman Rd., Temperance.

Based on the scant number of open parking spots and the frequency of bodies turning sideways and politely squeezing past each other, the event seemed to draw as many people at the Bedford branch as it normally does in Monroe. It had 40 authors, double the number in its early days and about the same as attendance in recent years.

Nancy Colpaert, director of the Monroe County Library System, left, holds a signature board for author Michele Howe of La Salle, Mich., at the book fair. The library system collects the signatures of the authors who appear at the book fair. Forty participated this year. Nancy Colpaert, director of the Monroe County Library System, left, holds a signature board for author Michele Howe of La Salle, Mich., at the book fair. The library system collects the signatures of the authors who appear at the book fair. Forty participated this year.
JETTA FRASER / TOLEDO BLADE Enlarge

Most were from Michigan and Ohio.

One, Vernadine Merrick, came all the way from Atlanta.

Another, Jeff Schatzer, traveled a not-too-shabby distance of 315 miles from his house in Bellaire, Mich., near Traverse City. He said he's been coming since 2004, and that the book fair is one of his favorites because of organizers' attention to detail. "This one is just an absolute delight because of the people who've put their heart and soul into it," he said.

The offerings ran the gamut from recipe books to romance novels to accounts of Toledo-area murder and mayhem.

Gregg Tyler Milligan, 47, who hails from Ypsilanti, Mich., said he appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show last February to plug A Beautiful World, his firsthand account as a victim of sexual and physical abuse. He said the next installment comes out early next year.

Mr. Milligan said that for years, he couldn't talk about his trauma.

He said he has worked through a nervous breakdown and chronic nightmares, some of which came back as he started writing.

But he said he was driven to put his thoughts down in words, even though he learned from it that the "process of writing was hardly therapeutic" for him.

Wong Herbert Yee, a children's book author from Troy, Mich., said he enjoys seeing familiar faces at Writers on the River.

He said he has been going for six or seven years.

Like others, he said a library - river or not - is an ideal setting.

He and others said the fair gives authors a chance to mingle more casually with their audiences than high-pressure book signings after a lecture.

"It's a nice opportunity as an author to meet people," said Donald Lystra, author of Season of Water and Ice, which the Library of Michigan named a Michigan Notable Book for 2010.

Several authors said they are upbeat about the traditional publishing industry, despite the rising popularity of digital books.

"I think we'll always have books," Mr. Yee said. "I like the smell of paper, the feel and texture of it."

Contact Tom Henry at:

thenry@theblade.com

or 419-724-6079.



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