In 2001, the late Don Parker and his wife Andrea, along with Joe and Joani Selement, had a genius idea. Why not combine the lure of books with Amelia Island’s spectacular location? As the idea caught on, they gathered supporters and founded a nonprofit organization to launch the first Amelia Book Island Festival. The festival has changed and grown throughout the years and is now called the Amelia Island Book Festival (AIBF).
Leveraging partnerships and community support through fundraising events, the Amelia Island Book Festival continues to promote and celebrate the wonder of books while promoting literacy throughout the region, especially through their popular Authors in Schools program in Nassau County.
The Covid-19 pandemic caused a pause in many of the festival’s events the last two years because of travel concerns, but due to the work of tireless volunteers, sponsors, and partners, the festival continued to provide books to local pupils. To date, the Amelia Island Book Festival has distributed over 100,000 books to Nassau County students.
“The Amelia Island Book Festival’s mission is to promote lifelong learning for people of all ages within Nassau County,” says Paige Foery, AIBF president. “We nurture an appreciation for literacy by providing quality events featuring local and New York Times best-selling authors, essay contests, scholarships, and much more. This year, we have a great line-up of events and celebrity authors!”
AIBF KICKS OFF WITH AUTHORS IN SCHOOLS PROGRAM ON FEBRUARY 17
The AIBF kicks off its special weekend with Authors in Schools on Friday, February 17. Authors selected for the program include New York Times-bestselling authors and award-winning authors of note, including Eileen Meyer, Ricky Roberts III, Susan and Lexi Haas, and many more. Each year, authors present to more than 13,000 students at Nassau County public schools, five volunteer pre-kindergarten programs, as well as local private schools.
To further encourage students, the Amelia Island Book Festival sponsors Scholarship and Short Story Writing contests for all Nassau County middle and high school students, offering them a chance to win creative writing awards, scholarships, and an opportunity to be published. This year’s short story theme is “I Have Super Powers!”
The 2023 Scholarship contest offers a $5,000 scholarship, provided by the AEL family. Nassau County high school seniors who are citizens of the United States, in good academic standing, and planning to attend college or university in Fall 2023 are eligible. Students are asked to create a 1,000- to 1,200-word essay and submit it by March 1. This year’s theme is, “What author or story has most inspired you and how?” Details about both the Short Story Writing contest and Scholarship contest can be found on the festival website.
CELEBRITY AUTHOR GALA RETURNS TO THE RITZ-CARLTON, AMELIA ISLAND
On Friday, February 17 at 6 p.m., the AIBF presents its 2023 Celebrity Author Gala at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, featuring New York Times-bestselling and award-winning authors. This year’s celebrity authors include David Baldacci, New York Times bestseller and AIBF Honorary Chair; Kate Quinn, New York Times bestseller known for her works of historical fiction: Scott Turow, New York Times bestseller, lawyer, and author of 14 bestselling works; and Jeannette Walls, New York Times bestseller, journalist, and author of The Glass Castle and other works.
David Baldacci published his first novel, Absolute Power, in 1996. The feature film adaptation followed, with Clint Eastwood as its director and star. In total, David has published 47 novels for adults; all have been national and international bestsellers, and several have been adapted for film and television. His novels are published in over 45 languages and in more than 80 countries, with 150 million copies sold worldwide. David has also published seven novels for young readers.
In addition to being a prolific writer, David is a devoted philanthropist, and his greatest efforts are dedicated to his family’s Wish You Well Foundation®. Established by David and his wife, Michelle, the Wish You Well Foundation supports family and adult literacy programs in the United States.
Scott Turow is the author of many bestselling works of fiction, including The Last Trial, Testimony, Identical, Innocent, Presumed Innocent, and The Burden of Proof, and two nonfiction books, including One L, which chronicles his experience as a law student. His books have been translated into more than forty languages, sold more than thirty million copies worldwide, and have been adapted into movies and television projects. He has frequently contributed essays and op-ed pieces to publications such as the New York Times, Washington Post, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, and The Atlantic.
Kate Quinn is the New York Times– and USA Today-bestselling author of historical fiction. A native of southern California, she attended Boston University, where she earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Classical Voice. She has written four novels in the Empress of Rome Saga, and two books set in the Italian Renaissance, before turning to the 20th century with The Alice Network, The Huntress, The Rose Code, and The Diamond Eye. All have been translated into multiple languages. Kate and her husband now live in San Diego with three rescue dogs.
Jeanette Walls graduated from Barnard College and was a journalist in New York. Her memoir, The Glass Castle, has been a New York Times bestseller for more than eight years. She is also the author of the instant New York Times bestsellers The Silver Star and Half Broke Horses, which was named one of the ten best books of 2009 by the editors of The New York Times Book Review. Walls lives in rural Virginia with her husband, the writer John Taylor.
The Celebrity Author Gala begins at 6 p.m. with a cocktail reception alongside celebrity authors, followed by dinner and a silent auction, then an author discussion with Scott Turow, and celebrity book signing. All proceeds benefit the Authors in Schools Literacy Program.
AUTHORS’ EXPO & READERS’ EXTRAVAGANZA AT FERNANDINA BEACH MIDDLE SCHOOL ON FEBRUARY 18
On Saturday, February 18, the festival presents its Authors’ Expo & Readers’ Extravaganza at Fernandina Beach Middle School beginning at 10 a.m. Multiple activities, book signings, and celebrity author breakout sessions are designed to keep visitors involved throughout the day. A Teen/Tween Scene offers young readers an opportunity to engage with authors in small groups. Participants are encouraged to meet their favorite authors, purchase books, and make connections with other readers.
In addition to the AIBF’s February weekend events, other programs that support the festival will be held throughout the year. The One Book, One Community reading project centers on the community-wide reading of a single book and is dedicated to creating a shared conversation along with a range of related events and activities. The AIBF, in partnership with the Nassau County Public Library and The Book Loft, will be presenting best-selling and award-winning author Katherine Reay on April 6, at 11:30 a.m. at The Golf Club of Amelia Island. Reay will discuss her book, The London House, and participate in a book signing. Tickets for this event will be available in the spring. Visit the AIBF’s website for more information.
The festival is partnered with Family Support Services of North Florida, Inc. (FSSNF), the Nassau Public Library System, and Nassau County School Board to promote literacy to its younger citizens through the Doggone Good Readers Program. FSSNF is the lead agency for foster care and adoptions in Northeast Florida. The agency’s mission is to be a leader in providing safety, stability, and quality of life for all children by working with the community to strengthen the family unit.
The Doggone Good Readers Program encourages young children to read and engages families in reading to strengthen the family bond. With a goal of increasing literacy and urging families to use the public library, FSSNF offers a reading program throughout Nassau County. Guest readers from the Amelia Island Book Festival go into Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten classes at all schools, public and private, where a book is read and the theme discussed. The guests then present the “wonderful world of public libraries” and encourage each child to visit the local library with his or her family to get a library card.
As an extra incentive, the children are shown a backpack containing books and educational materials provided by the AIBF. This backpack is given to the child when they receive their library card. The ultimate goal is to not only have the child become a regular visitor of the library, but the entire family.
AIBF ANNUAL CELEBRITY AUTHOR LUNCHEON COMING IN FALL 2023
In the Fall 2023, the AIBF will hold its annual Celebrity Author Luncheon. This event will be announced on the AIBF website, so be sure to check back for more information and how to purchase tickets. Last year’s Luncheon featured Kristin Harmel, the New York Times, USA Today, and number one bestselling author of The Book of Lost Names and The Winemaker’s Wife.
The Amelia Island Book Festival has had a major impact on Nassau County residents over the past 21 years. In addition to putting books into the hands of every student in Nassau County, the AIBF has brought over 1,500 authors and over 100 New York Times bestselling authors to the festival, reviewed over 1,200 student short story and scholarship submissions, published over 300 short stories, and awarded annual college scholarships. In total, AIBF has invested over $2 million in Nassau County literacy.
“The Amelia Island Book Festival is dedicated to improving literacy skills in children and adults throughout Nassau County,” says Foery. “It is said among educators that students first learn to read so they can later read to learn. Literacy opens doors for personal and academic success, and literacy impacts the social and economic success of our community, our county, and our nation.”
In January 2022, the Nassau County Economic Indicator Dashboard revealed that 32 percent of third graders are not reading at grade level. Academic success, as defined by high school graduation, can be predicted with reasonable accuracy by knowing someone’s reading skill at the end of the third grade. A person who is not at least a modestly skilled reader by that time is unlikely to graduate from high school. The programs and events hosted by Amelia Island Book Festival develop literacy skills in children and adults in Nassau County.
“We can all play a part in increasing literacy in our community,” says Foery. “Our role is to enhance the overall life skills of Nassau County children and adults by generating a lifelong love of books through an appreciation of reading, writing, and authors.”
“Volunteers are a vital part of the festival,” Foery continues. “Each year, we depend upon hundreds of dedicated people who come forward to play a major role in our organization and in putting on festival events. This cadre of giving minds, hearts, and hands makes the festival possible. When you sign up, we will make every effort to match your strengths and interests with the needs of the festival!”
For more information about the AIBF, or to volunteer, make a donation, or purchase tickets to special events, visit www.ameliaislandbookfestival.org.