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Rex Ruthman is an attorney and founder of the Spinney Group property development and management company. 

"I am a book landfill. Science fiction; biographies in general; some poems of Dickinson, Yeats, and Frost; Marvel Comics; pulp.

Among so many great writers and styles, I would mention Dickens, Conrad, Shakespeare, Nietzsche, Jack London, Henry Miller, and Tennessee Williams. For me their writings generate particularly expansive and compelling forces. They write, surpassing words."

Rex Ruthman

A festive day

By Rex Ruthman

At the SUNY campus center I plunged into the assembled energy  of visitors, book laden tables, authors, friends and helpers. I was done, right there. There they were! Writers, believers passionate enough to hitch their figments to a pen and write them to the indifferent wind, to the unmoving stars, making out of babble, nothing and mind, real and meaningful testimony about being here, being human. Gee.

I never really left the midway once I found it except for a momentary step into a big top where, standing from the back of a packed thrall, I could see Walter Mosely's hat. That was just too little,  too far. On the midway I bounced with curious and happy anticipation among the books and conversations with their creators, dabbling in history,  mystery writing, poetry,  biography, children's books and more. In the end I had flown with the eagles, I had run with the bulls, I had an afternoon to remember.

So, a festive day! But, wait until next year. 


The Mary Valentis "On Getting Published" workshop moved outdoors to accommodate an overflow crowd. (Patrick Dodson / UAlbany)

Book festivals, film festivals and circuses share a common quality: wonder. Our ordinary elements expand to soar with the girl on the flying trapeze, to thunder around the Circus Maximus with Ben Hur, or join in conversation with Sigmund Freud, pondering the interior recesses of human reality.

All these festivals have their whales to fill their big tops and their working artists, craftsmen and special attractions to excite and fill their midways. When done right the big tops overflow, the midways become electric with life and you have a happening. The Writers Institute first annual book festival was all of that.

Book festivals are the heavyweights. They are serious, but the human story is largely farce and confusion, shaped as well as followed by endless debate and analysis. And it is written accordingly. Writers, the bookworms of human civilization, burrow into this vast disorder and mine for material to build the fictions, histories, and dreams by which we come to know ourselves. Book festivals celebrate this turning of old ideas into new ideas and -- there's the wonder -- in words, just words, show us who we are in ways we had never seen. 
When Elisabeth told me we were going to the NYS Writers Institute “first” annual book festival at the University at Albany campus, I wondered: a 'first" annual? What if it’s a dud? “Only annual?”

We had friends going, I was told; one friend was going to explain how to get published, and Paul Grondahl had puffed that over 100 writers and contributors were coming. Well, OK.

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