Book festival promises \Wicked fun

As a kid growing up in Albany, Gregory Maguire spent countless hours at the Pine Hills library. Without access to TV shows and movies (he said his parents were unsually strict for the '60s), he would get lost in the stacks at the library.

It just seemed a treasure trove of adventure, Maguire said.

Maguire's early love of the written word translated into a career, He published his first book, the children's story "The Lightning Time," in 1978, and today, he is best known as the author of the "Wicked" series, which focuses on the Wicked Witch of the West from the "Wizard of Oz." The first book in the series has sold more than 1 million copies and been turned into a Tony-award winning Broadway musical.

Maguire will to be the keynote speaker at the inaugural Empire State Book Festival, being held Saturday, April 10, from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at Empire State Plaza. The workshop will feature author talks, panel discussions, storytelling and writing workshops.

Maguire has plenty of praise for the festival, but noted he most likely wouldn't have signed on if it were being held in, say, Buffalo or Rochester.

"Albany is dear to me," he said. "The Albany library and schools gave me the skills and background to succeed as a writer. I love to be able to pay it back."

Festival organizers, meanwhile, hope the event will help point aspiring writers on that same path to success, as well as enable people of all ages to meet and greet some of their favorite authors.

"We're turning the base of the Egg into a literary salon," festival chairman Rocco Staino said.

The idea is to make the Empire State Plaza reminiscent of well-known book festivals in other parts of the country, such as "New York is Book Country" in New York City. Held annually on Fifth Avenue, that event inspired New York Library Association Executive Director Mike Borges to put together the Empire State Book Festival.

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