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Sunshine State Book Festival 2021

Bringing Readers and Writers Together – Digitally

Welcome to the Sunshine State Book Festival. The 2020 festival brought 75 authors and 3,000 readers together in the Santa Fe College Fine Arts Hall in Gainesville, Florida. Mindful of everyone’s safety, the 2021 Sunshine State Book Festival became 100% digital, yet retained popular aspects of our previous festival such as author booths and free presentations by noted authors. For 2022 we are planning to return to being an in-person event.

Before you start . . . Take a quick video tour of the site with festival Chair, Carol Richardson.

welcome video
Click on photo to watch the video.

Face-to-face in 2022

Next Festival
January 29 – 30, 2022

For info on the 2022 festival
check back September 2021

Current Festival site will remain online while we plan 2022


A celebration of learning and literacy

A book festival is a celebration of learning and literacy that should be fun as well as educational, bringing together people of all ages who share a love of reading and who will leave the event inspired by their experiences.

Florida has an amazing literary history dating back to William Bartram nearly 250 years ago. Today, Gainesville is a leading center of literary culture and home to hundreds of writers, novelists, playwrights, and poets. And holding the 2021 festival online allows participation from authors from as far away as Singapore and Qatar.

This year’s festival features nearly 100 authors writing in 17 genres. Over a third of them have won literary awards.


Pulitzer Prize for History: Jack Davis

Charles S. Sydnor Prize for the best book in southern history: Jack Davis

The Iowa Poetry Prize: Lola Haskins

Florida Book Award: Jack Davis, John Dunn, Veronica Helen Hart, Lola Haskins, Laura Lee Smith

Florida Historical Society’s Stetson Kennedy Award: John Dunn

Florida Authors and Publishers Association President’s Award: Nancy Blanton, John Hope, Harriet Hunter, Mallory M. O’Connor, N. L. Quatrano, Elizabeth Randall

Florida Outdoor Writers Association Award for Excellence-in-Craft: Bob H. Lee

Florida Writers Association Royal Palm Literary Award: Susie H. Baxter, Nancy Blanton, Bria Burton, Loren Colden, L. L. Eadie, Richard Gartee, Veronica Helen Hart, Arielle Haughee, Chris Holmes, John Hope, Elle Andrews Patt, N. L. Quatrano, Elizabeth Randall, LM Reynolds, JW Robitaille, Marie Q Rogers

African-American Literary Show Award: Lisa Washington

Author Elite Award: Lisa Washington

Best Medical Fiction: Joel Shulkin, MD

Book Excellence Award: Cheryl Denise Bannerman

Feathered Quill Book Award: Nancy Blanton

Gourmand World Cookbooks Award: Cynthia D. Bertelsen

L. Ronald Hubbard Writers of the Future: John Hope, Elle Andrews Patt

Literary Titan Silver Medal: Mallory M. O’Connor

MM Bennetts Award: Nancy Blanton

Moonbeam Children’s Book Award: John Hope

National Indie Excellence Award: John Hope, Elle Andrews Patt

Romantic Times Career Achievement Award for Series Romantic Adventure: Lacy Dancer (aka Sydney Clary)

Romantic Times Career Achievement Award for Series Romance Love and Laughter: Lacy Dancer (aka Sydney Clary)

SheWrites New Novelist competition: Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar

The Oshima International Hand-Made Picture Book Competition: Melinda Falgoust

Writers Unlimited Annual Literary Competition: Melinda Falgoust



There is a lot to see here, but you don't have to see it all in one sitting. The festival site will remain open while we plan our 2022 festival. So, bookmark this page, then take your time, visit the author booths, and come back often.

Note: Videos in the author booths range from 2–15 minutes. The guest speaker presentations on this page range from 24–54 minutes. When a video ends or you want to stop watching it, click on the word “Close” above the upper right corner of the video.

Help Spread the Word

We'd appreciate your help to get the word out. Please mention us to friends in your book club, on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media. Send them the link SunshineStateBookFestival.com.


Guest Speakers

The following five programs featuring noted authors will remain accessible for the duration of the festival:

Laura Lee Smith
Laura Lee Smith
Kim & Gilly
Kimberly Jones & Gilly Segal
E. Stanley Richardson
E. Stanley Richardson
Jack Davis
Jack Davis & Friends
Tom Wiggins
Dr. Tom A. Wiggins


Award-winning Novelist

Laura Lee Smith

Laura Lee Smith
Click on photo to watch her presentation (35 minutes)

“Storytelling is the thread that binds us together as humans,” suggests Laura Lee Smith, the author of novels—Heart of Palm and The Ice House—and numerous short stories.

Smith is a seasoned writer with a wealth of knowledge to share. Her second novel, The Ice House, won the Gold Medal Florida Book Award for Fiction, and Smith’s short stories have appeared inBest American Short Stories, New Stories from the South, The New York Times, New England Review, and other publications. She has been praised for “intelligence, heart, and wit” (Richard Russo, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Empire Falls), and her work has been translated into German and French.

Smith’s presentation discusses three questions most often asked in her fiction-writing classes: Where do you get your stories? What is your writing process? How do you get published? She offers a lot of simple advice on finding and creating characters, what to do with them to “keep them busy,” and catalysts for conflict. She also presents practices and exercises for budding writers.
Visit Laura Lee Smith’s booth.




NAACP Image Award Nominees

Kimberly Jones & Gilly Segal

Kim & Gilly
Click on photo to watch their presentation (47 minutes)

The Sunshine State Book Festival is proud to introduce Gilly Segal and Kimberly Jones, coauthors of the New York Times Best Seller, I’m Not Dying with You Tonight. Their book is an NAACP Image Award Honored Book for young adults. Segal and Jones discuss their inspiration for writing this work with its themes of trust, protection, misconceptions, jealousy, relationships, and the wealth divide. The authors share important messages about building community across our social and economic differences, explaining how no one group is a monolith. They delve into how these messages apply to current social issues including drug use, gun violence, protests, and race relations.

The audience will be touched by the authors’ insights and perspectives. The authors consider a rationale for understanding differences, a fresh perspective of how to view the world, and the value of friendship with those who are different from ourselves.

We are confident this presentation by two spirited, intelligent, and gifted writers will inspire you.
Visit Kimberly’s booth. Visit Gilly’s booth.



Alachua County Poet Laureate

E. Stanley Richardson

E. Stanley Richardson
Click on photo to watch his presentation (24 minutes)

In the way that a song can stick in your head, the power of E. Stanley Richardson’s word craft creates a kaleidoscope of mental images in the magical fashion of a true story-teller—images of love, ancestral struggle, violence, anger, resistance, and demands for social distance through voices and beat. He discusses the driving forces behind his book of poetry, Hip Hop Is Dead—Long Live Hip Hop: The Birth, Death and Resurrection of Hip Hop Activism. While one can read the individual poems out of order, the book is a story told in three acts and twelve chapters—an odyssey of a young seeker tracking a missing man named Hip Hop. As he travels the country, he learns of the birth, death, and resurrection of Hip Hop.

Aware that poetry can be so esoteric or personal that a reader feels confused or repelled, Richardson stresses the importance of making poetry accessible, particularly to young adults. Richardson has risen through the “rhyme scene” to be Alachua County Poet Laureate. His passion and intensity summon the voices of his family, friends, and community with the driving force of a James Brown funk song that gets into your head and soul. You will not want to miss this dynamic and melodic presentation.
Visit E. Stanley Richardson’s booth.


Pulitzer Prize-winner

Jack Davis & Friends

Jack Davis
Click on photo to watch their presentation (54 minutes)

Unique experiences of being a writer in Florida are shared by four authors as they sit on the banks of the 21,000-acre savanna that is Paynes Prairie State Park.

Professor Jack Davis, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Professor Leslie K. Poole, who has written about women in Florida’s environmental movement, Cynthia Barnett, an award-winning author, and Frances Nevill, a fiction writer and essayist, explore the reasons why the wildness of Florida should continue to be appreciated, revered, and protected. In the prairie environment noted for alligators, eagles, and bugs, the four authors also discuss the soon-to-be-published book, The Wilder Heart of Florida, a collaboration between the two speakers Jack Davis and Leslie Poole. They talk about their contributions to it and the contributions of thirty other writers who are writing about their home state and preparing to follow in the tradition of authors like Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Ernest Hemingway, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, and others.
Visit Jack Davis’s booth.




Dr. Tom A. Wiggins

Tom Wiggins
Click on photo to watch his presentation (46 minutes)

Dr. Tom Wiggins celebrates the joy of books on his Facebook page, TommysTales, with humorous and poignant posts. So you’d never guess that, as a boy, reading was “not his thing.” After an idyllic childhood on a farm in sleepy Hawthorne, Florida, he joined the Army. During basic training in Missouri, Wiggins experienced snow for the first time.

Fast forward to 2004 when, on his fifth tour of duty overseas, a rocket-propelled grenade struck him in the head. Severely injured and now completely deaf, Wiggins had to relearn motor coordination—how to walk and how to communicate. Television was useless without captions, so this non-reader was forced to embrace the written word.

Motivated by the stories of other disabled people he met in hospitals, Wiggins finished college and earned a master’s degree and a Ph.D. This was followed by an invitation to join a global aviation service linked with the CIA. The injured man who once thought he’d never leave home was now travelling the world.

To date Wiggins has written four novels, fiction and nonfiction, including the inspirational Disabled Leadership that advocates being empowered by, not marginalized or defeated by, a disability.

Dr. Wiggins’s warmth and positivity are infectious. Don’t miss the chance to watch his presentation.
Visit Tom Wiggins’ booth.


The Sunshine State Book Festival

is made possible with the assistance of these gracious sponsors:

Shea’s Glass and The Opinionated Ladies Book Club.

Please consider becoming one of our corporate sponsors. Download an information packet.

Make a Donation

Personal donations make a difference, too. Support the Sunshine State Book Festival by clicking the button below.


WAG is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and your donation is tax deductible.