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Festival of Reading Draws Big Names

Janet Burroway is one of the authors who will present during the Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE

One piece of advice author Janet Burroway said she would give to current and aspiring writers comes from a speech given by poet and literary critic Richard Howard:

“Wherever you are in your life right now, the most important thing you can do is figure out how you are going to make writing a continuing part of your life.”

Burroway, who will be presenting at this year’s annual Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading, has found great success in multiple forms of writing, from novels to plays.  Her children’s book “The Giant Jam Sandwich” has been translated into 20 languages, though her textbooks “Imaginative Writing” and “Writing Fiction” have brought her the most success.

The novel to be presented at the event, her memoir “Losing Tim,” has touched many readers in multiple ways; it is an emotional, personal piece that delves into the loss of her son.

However, Burroway said she does not find the sense of vulnerability she offers through her writing to be frightening.

“I know that many people would – and I think for me, since writing and talking have always been the way I made sense of chaos, that it’s good for me,” Burroway said. “It was good for me to talk about Tim from the beginning.”

The only time she felt silenced was in social situations, which did not leave room for her to talk about her son when others were telling stories about their children.

Burroway is aware of the fact that she wrote a story of her son’s life that he might not tell in the same way.

This memoir, she said, has allowed her a space to keep a part of her son and their memories together alive.

When it comes to her presentation at the festival, Burroway said attendees can expect an intimate reading experience. She said she is looking forward to the event and being able to speak with other authors at the reception the night before.

Burroway is just one of the many authors who will be presenting at the festival,  which will begin at 10a.m. Saturday at the USF St. Pete campus.  
Joining her are other prominent authors and big names such as Carl Hiaasen, Debbie Macomber, R.L. Stine, Aasif Mandvi and Suzanne Brockman.

“By getting up-and-coming authors, as well as big authors that have new books out, that’s the thing that keeps on bringing readers back” said Leeana Russell, event coordinator for the festival. “We have brought a lot of good new authors this year.”

This free one-day event will consist of seven different venues within the USF St. Pete campus where authors’ talks, followed by signings, will occur. Book venders will be located in the events book market for those in attendance to visit and make purchases.  

The festival, which has transformed and grown over the years, began as a “natural event for the area.” Russell describes it as “a day of literacy and fun.”
The event, which strives to connect authors and readers from all genres, has drawn large crowds in recent years, including some who travel from hours away just to attend, Russell said.

In the future, the Times hopes the event can attract big name authors without having to seek them out.
For more information on the festival, including a schedule of where and when the authors will be presenting, as well as an event map, visit