May 2011 Issue
The Ohioana Book Festival celebrates our best authors.
To Martha Kinney Cooper, it was a novel idea that was long overdue: Create a library of books that were either written by Ohioans or about Ohioans and Ohio. Clearly, the wife of our 51st governor, Myers Y. Cooper, understood the power of the written word and how it could influence generations.
“When Martha moved into the governor’s residence [in 1929], she discovered that there were no books about Ohio or by Ohioans in the mansion,” explains Cincinnati resident Sarah Kinney Shell, Cooper’s great-granddaughter, “and it appalled her. She felt it was part of the job to promote Ohio products and businesses, and that arts and culture should be part of the mix.
“My great-grandmother,” Shell adds, “also felt that overnight visitors or those waiting to see the governor should be able to pick up a book on an end table, nightstand or bookshelf and have it be related in some way to our state.”
The first lady set about soliciting donations for the creation of a library. Throughout the decades that followed, Cooper’s legacy blossomed into the Ohioana Library Association, a collection of more than 45,000 books, 10,000 pieces of sheet music and 23,000 biographical files on Ohio writers, musicians, artists and other noteworthy natives. The compilation is housed in the State Library of Ohio building in Columbus.
“We’re all about commemorating the accomplishments of Ohioans,” says Linda Hengst, Ohioana’s executive director.
Which means there’s a lot to celebrate. Renowned authors James Thurber, Erma Bombeck, Toni Morrison and Rita Dove, as well as music legends Doris Day, Rosemary Clooney and Nancy Wilson are just a few of the famous Ohioans represented in the Ohioana collection.
Each year, the association hosts a variety of special events, including the Ohioana Book Festival, which will be held May 7 at the Fort Hayes Metropolitan Education Center in Columbus. More than 4,000 readers of all ages are expected to attend this fifth-annual fete, which features book signings by more than 100 authors, readings and panel discussions. Admission is free.
And, continuing the tradition set by Martha Kinney Cooper, Ohio’s first ladies help spread the nonpartisan word about Ohioana. Frances Strickland helped launch the first Book Festival, and Karen Kasich will officiate this year.
“I’ve always believed that books and communication through writing and pictures could be a person’s best friend,” Frances Strickland reflects. “The Ohioana Book Festival puts people in touch with those who have taken the time, the trouble and the courage to put the thoughts down on paper that can really change lives.”
For Hope Taft, who delivered books to Ohio classrooms during her time as the state’s first lady, the library is a jewel waiting to be explored.
“Ohioana is Ohio’s only true repository for our literary and musical manuscript heritage,” she says. “But it’s also about genealogy. The past comes alive there for everyone.”
When You Go
Ohioana Book Festival | May 7, 10 a.m.–4:30 p.m., free admission | Fort Hayes Metropolitan Education Center, 546 Jack Gibbs Blvd., Columbus 43215 | ohioanabookfestival.org
These writers from around the state will participate in Ohioana Book Festival panel discussions and read from their recent works.
Carrie Bebris, Montgomery County
The Intrigue at Highbury (Or, Emma’s Match)
Carrie Bebris grew up in Toledo before beginning her writing career. She made her mystery debut with Pride and Prescience
, which earned a place on the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association bestseller list and was named one of the five best mysteries of the year by Library Journal
. Successive books in the series have received starred reviews in Publisher’s Weekly
. Bebris holds a master’s degree in English literature, and is a life member of the Jane Austen Society of North America. She is on the faculty of the Antioch Writers Workshop in Yellow Springs.
Lisa Black, Cuyahoga County
Trail of Blood
Lisa Black has lectured at writers’ conventions and appeared on panels. In her life as a writer, she is a member of Sisters In Crime, Mystery Writers of America and International Thriller Writers. In the other half of her double life, as a forensic specialist, she is a member of the American Academy of Forensic Scientists, the International Association for Identification and the International Association of Bloodstain Pattern Analysts, and she is certified by the American Board of Criminalistics. Black has testified in more than 45 homicide trials.
Andrea Cheng, Hamilton County
Only One Year
The child of Hungarian immigrants, Andrea Cheng was raised in Cincinnati, in an extended family with three generations under one roof. She spoke both Hungarian and English at home. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in English from Cornell University, Cheng went to Switzerland, where she attended a school of bookbinding and learned French. She then returned to Cornell to study Chinese and got her master’s in linguistics. Cheng teaches English as a Second Language at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College and writes children’s books.
Robert Greer, Franklin County
First of State
Robert Greer has authored two medical thrillers, as well as the CJ Floyd mystery series. He has also published a short story collection, Isolation and Other Stories
. Greer’s award-winning short stories have appeared in numerous national literary magazines and two short story anthologies showcasing western fiction. In 1998, he received the Chester Himes Black Mystery Writers award for mystery fiction.
Ted Gup, Stark County
A Secret Gift: How One Man’s Kindness — And a Trove of Letters — Revealed the Hidden Story of the Great Depression
Ted Gup is the author of The Book of Honor
, winner of the Investigative Reporters and Editors Book-of-the-Year Award, and Nation of Secrets
, winner of the Shorenstein Book Prize. A former investigative reporter for The Washington Post
, where he was a Pulitzer Prize finalist, and Time
magazine, he has taught at Case Western Reserve University, Georgetown, Johns Hopkins and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing as a Fulbright Scholar.
J. Patrick Lewis (Franklin County) & Tim Bowers (Licking County)
First Dog’s White House Christmas
J. Patrick Lewis earned his Ph.D. in economics at The Ohio State University and taught at Otterbein College in Westerville. In 1991, he was awarded an Ohio Arts Council Individual Artist Grant for his adult poetry. Lewis writes full-time, visits elementary schools, keynotes at literature conferences and presents teachers’ workshops on introducing poetry in the classroom. He is the author of 60 books for children. First Dog
and First Dog’s White House Christma
s are the first books he’s written with daughter Beth Zappitello. Lewis lives in Westerville.
Tim Bowers was born in Troy. His career in illustration grew from his childhood interest in art and an active imagination. Bowers graduated from Columbus College of Art and Design with a bachelor of fine arts degree. He was soon recruited by Hallmark Cards in Kansas City, where he helped launch the popular Shoebox Greetings
line. Since then, Bowers and his family have moved back to Ohio, where he continues to illustrate children’s books. Each year, he travels to schools and libraries to share his artwork with students.
Sandy Plunkett, Athens County
The World of a Wayward Comic Book Artist
Sandy Plunkett, a self-taught illustrator and comic book artist, came of age in New York City during the ’60s and ’70s. He began drawing for Marvel Comics at age 18, and throughout his career, has drawn for several other major publishers, including DC. His trademark look can be seen on countless posters, album covers and political cartoons. He lives in Athens.
Bev Shaffer, Medina County
Cakes to Die For
Bev Shaffer is a chef and traveling culinary instructor and author, as well as the director of Mustard Seed Market and Café cooking schools in Akron and Solon. She has developed more than 9,000 recipes on a variety of subjects, including seafood, desserts, sides and grains, and was invited to teach at the James Beard House in New York City. Shaffer is a member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals and a founding member of Les Dames d’Escoffier, Northeast Ohio/Cleveland Chapter.
Maggie Smith, Franklin County
The List of Dangers
Maggie Smith was born in Columbus. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Ohio Wesleyan University and a master’s degree from The Ohio State University, where she won two Academy of American Poets Prizes. Smith’s poems have appeared in The Paris Review, The Gettysburg Review, The Iowa Review
and The Florida Review
. She is the recipient of a 2011 Literature Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Smith has also received three Individual Artist Awards from the Ohio Arts Council. She lives in Bexley.