Monday, March 10, 2008

The Shuttered Workshop

Aurora, Illinois, is a hard-scrabble sort of town. Part of the rust belt, it used to boast of a large population and plenty of heavy industry.

Heavy industry pulled out long ago. The population dropped, following the jobs.

How to generate taxes when the tax producers have gone? The city of Aurora started up a literary festival five years ago, to bring in the tourists and their tourist dollars. There's more to urban renewal than riverboat casinos and gamblers, after all.

There'll be no two-day Midwest Literary Festival this year. Too few people were coming, and the cost could no longer be justified by the diminishing returns.

Writers used to turn up at the one-day workshop, to mingle with published authors and the occasional literary agent. Well known novelists were brought in, to push their books and speak to those who would like to be in their place, but year after year, the numbers in the seats declined.

Rather than put together a festival, the city will spread things out and bring in whatever author happens to be on a book tour and is willing to stop in Aurora for a few hours. No more workshop for aspiring writers. The best they'll get is a chance to ask a question or two.

Local favorite Scott Turow is scheduled to appear on April 6, the first author of what is hoped to be a long series.

An expensive festival closes down, in favor of the more affordable collection of speaking engagements. Doesn't that prove that there's no money in writing?

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