An Untitledtown Book and Author Festival Journal

by Larry P. Madden untitled book fest

Friday, April 28th:
The Untitletown Celebration kicked off at 5:30 p.m. with keynote speaker Michael Perry at the Backstage of the Meyer Theater. This was followed by author readings by Kathy Gorgio and Benjamin Percy at the aforementioned venue. There was also an advice and instruction to put one on the road to publication offered by Melissa Gorzelanczyk and Sharon Verbetten at the Brown County Library’s lower level. In short, it was a well-planned three-day event with one-hour intervals that allowed for attendees like me to participate in more than one subject. This journal will tell you what I learned in case you’d missed it or would like to relive the festival that stirred the minds of so many literary minds in northeastern Wisconsin.

Story Catchers Live with a theme of Road Trip highlighted Friday evening at the Backstage at the Meyer Theater, and both practiced and raw storytellers rose to the stage to display their abilities. Real and imagined, the tales filled the spellbound room, resulting in the quiet only achieved at funerals. Ms. Tara Pohlkotte emceed the affair with wit and efficiency, as the first day of the festival marched into the books as a success.

Saturday, April 29th:
The first full day found me chomping at the bit to return to the buffet of literary conversations. With so many destinations, the organizers arranged for a trolley service to make pickups and drop-offs at activity sites. Reviewing the choices for venues that offered easy access for travel combined with my own particular interests, I started at the Titletown Brewery in the Larsen room in the beautifully revamped and repurposed Larsen Cannery building.

The session called the “Book Battle Podcast” gave us hands on experience and direct involvement with a podcast. Tom McAllister and Mike Ingram introduced the audience to the essence of a podcast and then proceeded to interview author Michael Morenci about his latest sci-fi novel, BLACK STAR RENEGADES, to be published in 2018.

With my schedule in hand, I had decided to stay for the next performance in the same room. I was looking forward to a renowned hip-hop artist by the name of Rob Franklin. Thinking I had mapped out the perfect coup, with his appearance in the same room, I picked a seat in the back row, a chair away from a young lady named Kim. In the interim between performances we exchanged pleasantries and had some small talk. She expressed a desire to write but, like many of us, she was her own worst critic.

When the facilitator, Renee, informed us that the guest speaker had just cancelled, we all wondered what to do and where to go. Ms. Renee is a spoken word artist that I had the luck to enjoy on Friday night at the Backstage at the Meyer Theater. Taking the reins, she proposed to do some of her work with audience volunteers to share between her polished and professional pieces. The first volunteer was a young man who shared his poetry with us all. Renee followed and then another storyteller shared an old Indian story. Renee pulled out the stops and treated us to a piece of work with a definite social message. I was then surprised and delighted to see my new acquaintance rise up to share a story. Kim entered into a poignant and personal tale of pain and redemption. Her tale drew a tear as it was truly coming from the heart. It was amazing to see the birth of a storyteller and writer. She created a cathartic moment for both herself and the audience. This impromptu session was my personal highlight of the weekend.

Next I scrambled across town to the Brown County Library to the Basics of Podcasting by Ms. Bonnie Groessel, author and podcast host, along with Ms. Tara Pohlkotte, from Friday nights STORYTELLERS LIVE. The “EXPAND YOUR REACH WITH PODCASTING” session would cover the gamut of podcasting questions from what is a podcast to equipment queries. The audience asked complex questions concerning subscriber and sponsors issues, and the time flew by as I tried to soak in all the information being exchanged.

After the high tech brain strain, I headed back across the river, for a pure fun approach to the Jeff Pearlman reading. Mr. Pearlman has written the GUNSLINGER: The remarkable, improbable, iconic life of Brett Favre. The Fort Howard Square had been the site of author readings and all-day book fair, and meeting the ylvoice editor, Ryan Winn, there made it all the better. Having a friend and colleague to talk with while we waited our turn to speak with Mr. Pearlman made the wait slip by. Mr. Pearlman was an excellent speaker and a pleasant man to talk with one-on-one, and I can see why my editor was singing his praises.

Sunday, April 30th:
I started the final day of the festival at the Brown County Auditorium with the WISCONSIN POET LAUREATES. In attendance were current and former Poet Laureates Karla Huston, Bruce Dethlefsen, and two White Earth Anishinnaabe tribal members—Denise Sweet, Kimberly Blaeser. Their powerful readings were followed by an informative question and answer session. It was a treat, to say the least.

Next I was across the river once more, this time, to explore the “MILWAUKEES POETRY OF RESISTANCE.” Readings from urban poets, Freesia McKee, Brenda Cardenas, Tobias Way, and Franklin K. R. Cline demonstrated a verbal form of protest. This was a power packed session that reviewed injustices and the ways some have responded to such actions as police brutality, racial disparities, and gender issues.

The time came to traverse the Fox one more time to the elegant K.I. Convention Center for the heavy hitters of the UNTITLETOWN CELEBRATION, where decorated authors Sherman Alexie and Margaret Attwood presented. The room was abuzz with people as the anticipation rose for Alexie’s performance, and waves and greetings from friends and acquaintances made it all the more exciting. As expected, Alexie delivered a performance that was a combination of lecture, storytelling, and stand-up comedy all rolled into one. Mr. Alexie’s ability to find the ins and outs of a story is truly an art.

Ms. Atwood from Canada followed, and her novel Handmaid’s Tale, written in the mid-eighties, was just adapted into a television series. Her message had coded and sometimes-cryptic references to the American political situation that she predicted in her novel. She then implored people to exercise their political clout to ensure the strength of government by voting.

On my drive back to Sturgeon Bay each night, I realized I had taken part in a very special event right here in northeastern Wisconsin. I felt proud to be part of it, and I thank all who organized, attended, and shared at this mentally invigorating event.

Larry P. Madden (Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Wisconsin) was born and raised in the Sturgeon Bay area. A recent graduate of CMN, he enjoys the Powwow trail and strives to maintain balance on the red road.