UntitledTown turns a new page
The nonprofit book festival now offers more than the annual weekend reading events
By Rachel Sankey
UntitledTown Book and Author Festival stemmed from a series of conversations between Wendy Wimmer and Alex Galt at Kavarna Coffeehouse in 2016.
By 2017, the co-founders, along with board members, launched the first book festival in Green Bay, with big-name authors such as Margaret Atwood slated to speak at the event.
The festival was put on hold in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and hasn’t been unable to start up since. In the meantime, UntitledTown offered both virtual events with authors such as Lori Rader-Day and individual in-person events at the Brown County Public Library with authors such as Andrew Graff.
During its hiatus, the organization took the time to survey what the Green Bay community would like to see moving forward.
“I always had the vision to have UntitledTown be an all-the-time community,” Wimmer said. “It was just easier to do it as a single event for a kick off.”
When Wimmer went on sabbatical to earn her PhD in creative writing at the University of Las Vegas, she said the remaining board members gave UntitledTown to Friends of the Brown County Library, a fellow 501(c)3 that works with the Brown County Library to ensure the community has access to its resources.
“We’re very excited that we are a program of the Friends of the Brown County Library,” Wimmer said. “Having that resource, it’s not only really passionate and energized volunteers – now we also have that incredible community of Friends of the Brown County Library.”
Since the changes, UntitledTown has started up a book club called Page Turners. The first meeting is held on Wednesday, March 23 at the Brown County Library and will be led by board member and owner of Lion’s Mouth Bookstore, Amy Mazzariello. The discussion will be based on the book, The Sentence by Louise Erdrich, which is about a complicated marriage alongside a ghost story, centered around an independent bookstore in Minneapolis.
Mazzariello will share her thoughts on the book since it partially revolves around a bookstore, to which Mazzariello has personal experience, Wimmer said. The club will meet and discuss a new book every other month.
The now-ongoing literary organization isn’t stopping at Page Turners though. On March 28th, Wimmer will host an online workshop titled “How to Get an Editor to Read Past the First Page.” Wimmer, an editor in chief at a tech publishing house and author of Entry Level, said the workshop will be about writing a first page that will keep an editor reading the work. Wimmer said the workshop is an effort to start meeting more needs of the local literary community.
“One of the things we did early on with UntitledTown was a lot of market research. We asked people what they wanted and what they saw a need for,” Wimmer said. “Steve Herro and Jeanne Heuer, UntitledTown volunteers, said they were very interested in running a book club. They thought there was an opportunity or a need and to give people a chance to increase literacy in Green Bay, which is one of our missions.”
Wimmer also said when it comes down to ideas for the organization, they are looking at what makes people excited keeps them engaged.
UntitledTown is also working towards making all of the events accessible to everyone, something she said she feels very strongly about.
“One of the things we are investing big in is making sure that we can have hybrid events,” she said. “So that the attendees have the option of attending virtually without having any experience change, and in an instance where we need to convert an in person event to a virtual event we can do that. But also if people are housebound or ill, they still have the opportunity to enjoy the event.”
Wimmer said that the UntitledTown board is also working on bringing the annual weekend-long book festival back to Green Bay alongside the new regular events, hopefully within the next year.
Looking forward, Wimmer said that UntitledTown is looking for more volunteers to help out with tech and other opportunities within the organization. There is also a call for submissions to be a speaker, host a workshop, do a reading and more. Those interested are welcome to submit their ideas through a pitch document from UntitledTown. Reach out to Wimmer at [email protected]il.com for more information and inquiries.
Rachel Sankey is an Arts and Entertainment Reporter of City Pages. She can be reached via email at [email protected]