Virtual 2020 S.D. Festival of Books begins Thursday

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BROOKINGS – The first-ever all-virtual South Dakota Festival of Books starts this week.

The 2020 Festival will kick off with a virtual welcome Thursday and continue with events throughout the weekend and into late October. Find event information at

“We’re all about bringing readers and writers together, no matter where they are,” said Jennifer Widman, Festival of Books director. “This year, readers can meet their favorite authors online at our Virtual 2020 Festival.”

The festival, in its 18th year of bringing readers and writers together, typically includes more than 100 public presentations. In lieu of in-person events, the 60-plus authors on the 2020 roster will discuss books, teach workshops, and interact with fans via Zoom and Facebook Live. The lineup includes local favorites and perennial bestsellers.

Tickets are available free at A single general festival admission ticket provides access to free sessions. There are three workshops that cost $20 each, denoted as separate events on the ticket form. A full event schedule can be found at Users will find tech support options to facilitate any issues they might have with logging in.

“We know this is a new experience for many loyal festivalgoers, so we want to help them navigate the technology to make sure they have a great time and don’t miss any of the authors and events they love,” Widman said.

Readers in South Dakota and elsewhere have had several months to adjust to watching author presentations on their computers, as book festivals around the world have moved to virtual formats in 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Safety is the first priority,” said Ann Volin, director of the South Dakota Humanities Council, which hosts the annual event. “We will dearly miss our personal interactions with fans, volunteers, sponsors, authors, and everyone else who has made this event so special during the past 17 years, but we will host a robust virtual event and hope to be back in person in 2021.”

Featured at the 2020 festival are local and regional authors as well as nationally recognized writers such as Max Brooks, Angelica Shirley Carpenter, Robert Dugoni, Karl Marlantes, Sally Roesch Wagner and more.

Still growing after 17 years, the festival brings together readers and writers for workshops, lectures, panel discussions and book signings. In typical years, South Dakota’s premier literary event draws thousands of attendees, including approximately 5,000 students who meet children’s/YA authors and illustrators at both the Festival itself and via school visits.

Each year, the Festival of Books features a common read for children and adults via the One Book South Dakota program. The 2020 One Book is “Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church” by Megan Phelps-Roper. Meanwhile, past Festival presenter Alison McGhee returns to the Festival of Books in 2020 with two adorable – and famous – characters in tow. The 2020 Young Readers One Book “Bink & Gollie: Three for One” stars the irrepressible and precocious Bink and Gollie, created by McGhee and Kate DiCamillo, a Newbery medalist and past Festival presenter.


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