Cincinnati Public Radio has helped spread the word about Books by the Banks Cincinnati Regional Book Festival as a media sponsor ever since the very first festival back in 2007. 10 years later, our partnership is still going strong. The station, and its team of book lovers, have never stopped supporting the festival and our push to celebrate the joy of reading. Kevin Reynolds, Community Relations Manager at 91.7 WVXU, and committee member on the festival’s marketing team, wrote this blog post.
I have the unique (dubious?) distinction of being the only member of the Books by the Banks marketing committee who has been around since before the very first festival in 2007. WVXU signed on as the radio partner early on, and I have enjoyed being part of this event as it has grown and established itself over the last decade.
Time has changed me, the radio station and Books by the Banks, all for the better I think. Recalling those early committee meetings, I realize how naïve I was about book festivals and the publishing industry in general. I assumed we’d bring in the likes of Stephen King and Sue Grafton, people would line up out the door…really, how hard is this? I learned quickly how challenging it is, that we were up against many established book festivals, and that often our budget felt like it had more numbers to the right of the decimal point than the left. The author committee has done a wonderful job bringing in great writers, some just before they broke out nationally, others who have a strong local following, and others who make this area their home and deserve to be celebrated for their work.
I went flipping through all the past programs, looking at the authors who have taken part in Books by the Banks. That first year (2007) was mostly local and regional authors, which makes sense. We were brand new, had no track record and, frankly, an odd name. (Remember, The Banks was theoretical back then – the groundbreaking of entertainment district we know as The Banks today, didn’t happen until April 2008 – so imagine trying to explain it to New York City-based publishers and publicists). But the support of local authors, many of whom have been in all or most of the festivals, gave us recognizable names and, thankfully, excellent spokespeople for the event. People like Will Hillenbrand, CF Payne, Mary Kay Carson, and the late, wonderful Andrea Cheng come to mind.
In year 2, two names jump out at me as the start of the festival’s real ascent – one, Anthony Swofford, had written his memoir Jarhead about his time in the Marines, and it had already been made into a movie – that was big time for us. The other, falling into the category of a break-out author, was Donald Ray Pollock. His book Knockemstiff had come out earlier that year to critical acclaim, but it wasn’t until early 2009 when it started earning national awards.
2009 was an exceptionally strong line-up of authors, including NPR’s religion reporter Barbara Bradley Haggerty, which was great for the station. Former Bengals head coach Forrest Gregg, Garth Stein, Jennifer Weiner, Tom Wilson (of Ziggy fame), Jeanette Walls, and Cincinnati Zoo director and our 90 Second Naturalist contributor Thane Maynard were all part of that year’s festival, and many of them appeared on our station.
Year 4 was the first appearance by our good friend and UC professor Leah Stewart. And though she no longer lives here, we’ll always claim her as our own, Curtis Sittenfeld was also there in 2010. That was also the first year I moderated one of the author sessions because my friend and former show contributor Betsy Ross had just released her book.
2011 was a thrill because one of my favorite musicians, Judy Collins, had released her memoir and came to Books by the Banks. I produced an interview that Mark Perzel did with her for our Cincinnati Edition program so it was a real rush to get to meet her and have her sign my copy of her book. That was also the year I met local radio icon Jim LaBarbara for the first time, and the supremely talented Dennis Lehane of Mystic River fame was there.
I will never, ever forget the 2012 festival for one image, etched forever in my mind (and made more surreal in light of what came later.) The marketing committee was told that an author who was new, but was going to be big, was booked – and that they had also secured this husband & wife blogger team who had just put out a book. You can imagine who we thought would garner the most attention and you should also now realize how wrong we were. Gillian Flynn had just released Gone Girl, and while folks did come to see and talk with her, John and Sherry Petersik (Young House Love) had people lined up through the entire pavilion and then some. I stood there, befuddled, and later, when the movie Gone Girl came out, I wondered how many people who saw it even realized Gillian was there that day. People simply love the Petersik.
2013 was another example of extraordinary work by the author committee. They brought in musician and novelist James McBride with his book The Good Lord Bird. He had several other books already published, but just a few months after that year’s festival, James McBride was awarded the National Book Award for Fiction from the National Book Foundation. He was a fascinating interview subject and a very sharp, smart human being. On a personal note, this was also the first year my friend and local celebrity mixologist Molly Wellmann appeared at the festival with her cocktail history/recipe book.
On Saturday, October 11, 2014, at 7 a.m. that morning, we debuted our brand new show, The Book Club @91.7. Mark Perzel was no longer hosting Cincinnati Edition so finally had the chance to do a full hour on books, one of his many passions. Mark is a voracious reader, great interviewer, and loved talking with authors, so it was a natural fit. I was proud to serve as his producer, lining up interviews and helping Mark define the show. Three authors appeared on that first show who were part of that day’s festival: John Scalzi (one of Mark’s favorites and he moderated John’s author session that day), local chef and restaurateur Daniel Wright, and Spring Grove Cemetery historian Phil Nuxhall.
That brings us to last year, and the amazing response to Rainbow Rowell. She was so appreciative to her fans that were lined up most of the day to see her, and apparently had a great time in her author session with fellow Nebraskan, our own Bill Rinehart, as moderator. Two other exceptional national authors were there as well, Anthony Marra and Kevin Kwan.
It really has been a fascinating journey with Books by the Banks, having the chance to feature many of the authors on our local shows, to talk with book fans when they stop by our table, to utilize new ways of promoting the event (social media didn’t really exist when we started), to now having live tweeting and Facebooking at the event. Working with folks from the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, Joseph Beth Booksellers, other regional libraries, CET, and others in the marketing effort is a true pleasure.
I regret that The Book Club @91.7 is currently on hiatus, but Mark Perzel has moved to North Carolina to be closer to his parents and his son who is in the military. I miss working with him and on the show, but our hope is to bring it back in some form down the road. So, as they say in this business, stay tuned.
Thanks for reading along and I hope some of these names or memories jogged some fond remembrances of yours. Please plan on coming to this year’s Books by the Banks on Saturday, October 15 for more great authors, panels, youth activities and, of course, stop by the WVXU table and say hi!
The mission of Books by the Banks is to entertain and enrich the lives of people in Southwest Ohio and Northern Kentucky. The organization works throughout the year to present and promote authors, while celebrating the joy of literacy and lifelong learning through reading and writing.
The premiere event is the Books by the Banks Cincinnati Regional Book Festival held annually in downtown Cincinnati. The day-long festival, which is free and open to the public, features national, regional, and local authors and illustrators; book signings; panel discussions; and activities for the entire family to enjoy.