For the first time in three years, the Des Moines Public Library’s signature event returns with in-person programming featuring novelists such as Brad Meltzer and Angeline Boulley.
The donor-funded Authors Visiting in Des Moines, better known as AViD, has invited authors to speak to area audiences since 2001.
“There’s something to be said about that live experience and after a few years of COVID, people are really clamoring for that again,” said Tim Paluch, marketing and communications supervisor for Des Moines Public Library. “We’ve talked to cardholders… they miss live events. They miss that interaction. You’re able to talk and get a book signed and chat with some of your favorite authors in person.”
The library canceled the 2020 version of the series due to COVID-19’s arrival in the United States around the time the event would have launched. When 2021 came around, event organizers were more accustomed to digital programming and the library offered a virtual version of AViD.
This year, organizers prepared for a world living with COVID-19, and while the library plans events as in-person affairs, the venue organized digital contingencies as well. Additionally, fans can opt for a digital viewing option for most of the guest authors this year.
“We can say for sure — the ones that are for sure at the Central Library will be virtual,” Paluch said. “The Book Festival (event) probably won’t be (available virtually). We’re still trying to figure out that setup tech-wise.”
All of this year’s events are free to the public.
More:Local favorite Beaverdale Books brings on a new co-owner to join founder Alice Meyer
Brad Meltzer, ‘The Escape Artist’
At 7 pm on March 17, the Des Moines Central Library — 1000 Grand Ave. — hosts Brad Meltzer, a television personality, historian and the bestselling author of the 2018 thriller novel “The Escape Artist.”
That mystery novel follows Jim “Zig” Zigarowski, a mortician at Dover Air Force Base, who discovers that Nola Brown is still alive, despite the US government confirming her death. The sequel to “The Escape Artist,” titled “The Lightning Rod,” comes out on March 8.
Meltzer is also a non-fiction writer who co-authored “The Lincoln Conspiracy” about a plot to assassinate Abraham Lincoln in 1861, four years before he was murdered.
Meltzer’s children’s book series “Ordinary People Change the World” has also been adapted as “Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum,” a PBS kids’ show following the headline, time-traveling Xavier Riddle and his friends as they visit various historical figures from abolitionist and political activist Harriet Tubman to former Supreme Court associate justice Thurgood Marshall to painter, art instructor and TV host Bob Ross.
Meltzer was among the authors originally scheduled to be part of the 2020 AViD event before its cancellation.
Angeline Boulley, ‘Firekeeper’s Daughter’
As part of this year’s Des Moines Book Festival, Angeline Boulley visits Des Moines at 5 pm on March 26. More specific information about her appearance will be available when the Book Festival is announced.
Boulley is a Chippewa author best known for her debut novel “Firekeeper’s Daughter,” which was named one of the Best 100 YA Books of All Time by Time Magazine last August.
The book follows Daunis Fontaine, an 18-year-old living near an Ojibwe reservation, who witnesses a murder and is subsequently thrust into an FBI investigation. Netflix plans to adapt the book into a show from “Reverie” and “Extant” creator Mickey Fisher through Higher Ground Productions from former President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama.
In Des Moines, the library found that readers requested “Firekeeper’s Daughter” second most in 2021, coming behind only Leigh Bardugo’s “Shadow and Bone” on the list of teen fiction books.
Boulley lives in Michigan and is an enrolled member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. Before publishing “Firekeeper’s Daughter,” Boulley served as the director for the Office of Indian Education at the US Department of Education.
Amanda Montell, ‘Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism’
If you’re wondering whether or not a loved one is in a cult, Amanda Montell is the AViD visitor most equipped to answer that question.
At 7 pm on April 21, Montell appears at the Central Library. Montell is an author and linguist from Baltimore most famous for “Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism” and “Wordslut: A Feminist Guide to Taking Back the English Language.”
“Cultish” appeared on NPR’s list of best books of 2021. The book analyzes the social science behind cult influence and the language used in instances like Jonestown or Heavens Gate to entice membership.
On the more lighthearted side, Montell also co-hosts the comedy podcast “Sounds Like a Cult,” which examines modern in-groups like the NFL or Trader Joe’s that feel as though they could be cults.
Lauren Groff, ‘The Matrix’
Lauren Groff appears in Des Moines on May 5, though a location and time are not confirmed.
A three-time finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction, Groff’s past work includes “The Monsters of Templeton,” “Fates and Furies” and “Arcadia.”
Groff’s latest novel, “Matrix,” is a piece of historical fiction following 17-year-old Marie de France, who is cast out of the royal court and sent to England to be the prioress of an impoverished abbey.
“Matrix” was also listed among the Des Moines Public Library’s most anticipated fall book releases of 2021. Among other accolades, the audiobook version of “Matrix” read by Adjoa Andoh is a finalist for an Audie Award.
Jason Mott, ‘Hell of a Book’
Jason Mott’s “Hell of a Book” won the author the 2021 National Book Award for Fiction. The book is a satirical, fictionalized take of Mott’s experiences on the road as part of a promotional tour, a scenario likely to be touched on again as Mott returns to the road when he heads for Des Moines this spring.
At 7 pm on May 25, Mott will appear at the Central Library as part of AViD. In addition to the National Book Award, “Hell of a Book” also received the 2021 Sir Walter Raleigh Award for Fiction and was an Ebony Magazine Book Club pick.
The author also wrote “The Crossing” and “The Wonder of All Things” as well as two collections of poetry.
ABC adapted Mott’s debut novel, “The Returned,” which depicts a world in which deceased friends and family members return to life at the age they died, into “Resurrection.”
Local author panel
The final AViD event brings an author’s panel featuring local writers including Dr. Richard Deming, Neil Hamilton and Jim Autry to the Central Library at 7 pm on June 7.
Deming is the medical director of MercyOne Richard Deming Cancer Center and a well-known Des Moines doctor who survived a bicycle crash that hospitalized him in 2018. He published his book “Above and Beyond Cancer” in 2020 and founded a charity of the same name to provide programs for cancer survivors.
Hamilton, the former director of the Agricultural Law Center at Drake University, is the author of “What Farmers Need to Know About Environmental Law.” His latest book, “The Land Remains,” comes out in April and is billed as one-part memoir, one-part look at Iowa’s history of land conservation.
Autry, to former president of the magazine division at Meredith, published more than a dozen books across three decades. His works by him include “The Servant Leader: How to Build a Creative Team, Develop Great Morale, and Improve Bottom-Line Performance” and “The Book of Hard Choices: How to Make the Right Decisions at Work and Keep Your Self-Respect .”
Autry’s latest book, the biography “The White Man Who Stayed: A Biography Remembered,” delves into the life of Douglas Autry, who returned to Mississippi after World War II, was elected county superintendent of education and began pushing for change that drew ire from friends and family.
The panel will discuss their books, their experiences in the area and how they got to where they are now.
More information about all these events can be found at dmpl.org.
Isaac Hamlet covers arts, entertainment and culture at the Des Moines Register. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 319-600-2124, or follow him on Twitter @IsaacHamlet.