Sunshine State Book Festival Brings Readers and Writers Together

With the debut of the Sunshine State Book Festival, January 24 – 26, 2020, the cultural landscape of north central Florida will become fuller, richer, more complete and more interesting.

The Sunshine State Book Festival is a much needed and long-overdue event offering three days of FREE literary action-packed enrichment for readers of all genres and all ages.

A kick-off public reception is Friday afternoon January 24 at the Matheson Historical Museum on East University Avenue, from 5 – 7 p.m. This is an opportunity to mix and mingle with authors, guests and dignitaries, notables and VIPs.  

At the Fine Arts Hall at Santa Fe College on Saturday, January 25, hosts and showcases the centerpiece of the festival with 75 area authors from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Readers have an opportunity to visit with authors they know and read, also the opportunity of discovering authors new to them. Authors are happy to sign copies of books.  

On Saturday, notable Gainesville area authors will give hourly presentations on topics such as, Gainesville’s literary heritage, the University of Florida sports heroes and history, Florida’s natural beauty, and more. Hemingway fans will want to hear the talk by special festival guest, artist Hilary Hemingway, author of “Remembering Uncle Ernest.” Following each literary presentation, a drawing will be held for prizes and participating authors will be signing books.books by participating authors. 

Participating festival author, Kassandra Lamb says, “One of the most fun things as an author is meeting readers at festivals and book signings. Interacting with readers is what keeps me going as a writer.”

The dedicated Children’s Corner will attract little readers for oral storytelling and activities. There will also be  several children’s authors at the festival. The Sante Fe College food court will be open for attendees. 

The Literary Heritage Tour on Sunday, January 26th, is a special feature of the festival. Reenactors will educate and entertain attendees about the imprint and importance great authors had on Gainesville’s literary landscape including poet, Robert Frost, naturalist William Bartram and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.

Lamb believes a literary festival complements the many rich cultural offerings of the greater Gainesville area.

Over the decades, Gainesville has grown from a sleepy little college town into a thriving and vibrant center of international higher education and a medical mecca with three major medical complexes. 

Some of the areas “ole timers” will remember when there was no Oaks Mall, no interstate highway system, US 441 was a two-lane road, the Hippodrome State Theater was the US Post Office, the Thomas Center was the Thomas Hotel, and Gainesville High School was on West University Avenue prior to 1956.

For a city the size of Gainesville, residents enjoy a smorgasbord of cultural offerings: multiple stages for the performing arts, including the UF Phillips Center, three visual fine-arts festivals, a variety of musical groups and ensembles in an array of musical styles, a professional dance troupe, and choral groups. 

So, what was missing? A literary festival to showcase the many published authors living and writing among us as our family, neighbors, friends, and associates. With an estimated 200 published authors living in our midst, it was time to “Bring Readers and Writers Together,” for the mutual benefit of the community.

Yes, books are business. The estimated $40 billion-dollar plus publishing and retail book business; whether hard copy, paperback or e-books, gives incalculable hours of reading pleasure.

Talented and creative wordsmiths have created colorful characters, frolicking about in their heads begging to be written into captivating and intriguing, page-turning stories for us to read and enjoy. Books are the “magic carpets” that transport readers to another time, another place and another situation we would not otherwise visit. 


Writers Alliance of Gainesville, a 501(C)(3) non-profit, produces the Sunshine State Book Festival which is slated to become an annual literary event adding to the cultural richness of north central Florida. For complete information visit:

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Sidebar: Schedule of festival activities

Friday, January 24, 2020 

Kick-Off Public Reception at the Matheson History Museum –from 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm – welcomes authors, dignitaries, guests, and readers

Saturday, January 25, 2020 


Santa Fe College – Fine Arts Hall – 10:00 am to 5:00 pm –Showcasing 75 area authors and 

Hourly presentations: 

11:00 am – Hilary Hemingway – ‘Remembering Uncle Ernest’

12:00 pm – Kevin McCarthy – Retired UF ProfessorGainesville’s Literary Heritage

1:00 p – Joe Haldeman, Nebula Award winner – An Interview: Books, Movies and War with

2:00 pm – Steve Noll, UF Professor – Florida Sports History: it’s More than just Fun and Games

3:00 pm – John Dunn – Drying Up: The Fresh Water Crisis in Florida

4:00 pm – Lola Haskins, Heeding Florida’s Past – Natural Beauty That Survived It Can Change Our Future


Children’s Corner – 10:00 am to 5:00 pm – a dedicated area for oral storytelling and children’s activities 

SFC – Food Court open from 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.


Sunday, January 26, 2020


Literary Heritage Tour – hear from reenactors of:

10:00 – 10:45 a.m. – Robert Frost – Thomas Center

Lunch Break

1:30 – 2:30 p.m. – William Bartram – Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park

3:15 – 4:15 p.m. – Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings – Cross Creek State Park

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