Book fest back, a year overdue

Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly stated the time Spider-Man will appear at the San Luis Obispo City/County Library Community Room. The superhero will speak to children twice, at 1 and 3 p.m. Sunday.

In 1940s San Luis Obispo, Friedl E. Semans Bell was growing up on Benton Way, next door to an exiled princess.

“Don’t ever ask Frau Kelley how she got out of Russia,” Bell’s German immigrant mother would tell her.

So she never asked, and when the princess died in 1985, it seemed that her history had died with her.

But in 2005, Bell discovered documents that revealed the princess’s traumatic escape from the Bolsheviks after the 1917 Russian Revolution, and they sparked a tribute to her silent friend that mingles historical reconstruction with firsthand observations of immigrant life in San Luis Obispo.

Bell is just one of dozens of authors — new and celebrity, local and neighboring — to present their works at the ninth Central Coast Book and Author Festival from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday.

The festival, which is free, is returning to San Luis Obispo’s Mission Plaza after a one-year hiatus. The festival is an all-volunteer effort, and funds from exhibitors, a $500 cash prize raffle and a silent auction of Leigh Rubin cartoons will support the Foundation for San Luis Obispo Public Libraries’ countywide library programs and children’s book acquisitions.

When MaryEllen Simkins read in The Tribune that the yearly festival was canceled in 2008 due to lack of a volunteer chairperson, she went to foundation member and City/County Library Director Brian Reynolds to exhort: “I don’t understand how this can be?”

The 20-year Los Osos resident and retired law firm administrator said she got involved “to make sure it would never happen again.”

In the plaza, more than 50 authors, illustrators, publishers and nonprofit organizations will exhibit their works. Near the plaza, workshops and panel discussions will be held at the San Luis Obispo City/County Library and the San Luis Obispo County Historical Museum.

And to browse, there will be books of all genres.

Authors include Thomas B. Sawyer, an Emmy-nominated screenwriter and mastermind behind the popular series “Murder, She Wrote”; Roger Chiang, television producer for “America’s Most Wanted”; and Bud Mercer of the vaudeville duo The Mercer Brothers.

Local historians Mike Lucas and Lon Allan will present their comprehensive history of Atascadero, local landscape painter Ken Christensen will reveal his literary side and several children’s book authors, such as Erica Silverman, creator of the Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa series, will be on hand.

And for the first time, there will be a visit from Spider-Man and an exhibit and sale of book art and illustrations at the San Luis Obispo library.

“Books are a great equalizer,” said Simkins, who added the event would “absolutely” be around next year, and even better. “There will be something for everyone.”

Central Coast Writer’s Conference

Is your prose authentic, or your poetry compelling? Are you looking to glean tips and make connections with literary agents and published authors?

Aspiring writers are invited to register for the 25th annual Central Coast Writers Conference, scheduled for Friday and Saturday at Cuesta College.

More than 30 workshops addressing all writing genres from entertaining “Kid Lit” to the subtlest memoir will be offered over two days.

Keynote speaker Christian Moerk, former New York Times film critic and Warner Brothers executive turned novelist, will lead two workshops covering topics ranging from basic tools, such as creating a synopsis, to more delicate control of tone, dialogue and period style.

Enrollment is limited. For conference fees (starting at $40) and to register, call 546-3132 or visit www.communityprograms.net.

Visit from Spider-Man

The human arachnid comic book hero will talk to children “about the importance of reading and education” at 1 and 3 p.m. Sunday in the San Luis Obispo City/County Library Community Room. Spider-Man will also pose for photos. The event is free, but tickets are required. Visit www.ccbookfestival.org for a program and information.