WAUSAU – It’s only fitting that Jill Stukenberg opens the Central Wisconsin Book Festival with a reading of his first novel.
The book is called “News of the Air,” and it’s been a work of faith and resilience for nearly a decade.
“I started writing this novel when my son was 6 months old. And he’s 9 now,” Stukenberg said. “I think it took so long because…I wanted it to be about something.”
And she wanted to make sure it was good. It gained confidence in the work and in her own abilities, she said. It took resilience to keep going, to work on the revisions and then persist in sending the work to the editors.
That’s where, to some extent, the Central Wisconsin Book Festival comes in. She’s been part of a core group of volunteer organizers of the annual event since its inception in 2017. Meeting authors and readers who care about books and writing inspired her and pushed her to persevere.
“I found real people writing books, and how it’s a community of people supporting each other too,” Stukenberg said.
This year, she will read excerpts from her own book at the festival, at an event on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Whitewater Music Hall, 130 First St., Wausau.
“News of the Air” is about a couple and their daughter who fled the city after a wave of eco-terrorism broke out. They move to a fishing resort in Northwoods Wisconsin, where they live in peace until two stranger children arrive in a canoe.
“It’s set in the near future and contains dystopian elements,” Stukenberg said. “Some call it eco-novel, eco-fiction or cli-fi.”
Stukenberg, who grew up in Sturgeon Bay and is an associate professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in Wausau, wrote the book before the COVID-19 pandemic changed the world.
At first, she worried that the theme of the book wouldn’t fit with the societal reset that happened during the pandemic. But climate change has continued to grab headlines, and aspects of the book resonate more deeply because of the pandemic.
The book was published by Black Lawrence Press of upstate New York, after the novel won the publisher’s The Big Moose award. Stukenberg said she had entered the book into the competition twice before, and after each defeat she came back and refined and revised the book.
All of this made a call from an editor informing her that she had won the competition and that “News of the Air” would be published particularly pleasing.
“It was really fun and amazing,” Stukenberg said.
Central Wisconsin Book Festival Details
The festival, an initiative of the Marathon County Public Library in Wausau with participation from Portage County Public Library in Stevens Point and McMillan Memorial Library in Wisconsin Rapids, will kick off Wednesday and run through September 25.
The festival features over 25 sessions with multiple authors and poets held at a variety of locations in Stevens Point, Wisconsin Rapids, and Wausau. For a full list of events, log on to www.mcpl.us/cwbf.
How to Buy ‘News from the Air’
Audio versions of the book, as well as digital and paperback versions, are also available at barnesandnoble.com.
Contact Keith Uhlig at 715-845-0651 or [email protected] Follow him @UhligK on Twitter and Instagram or on Facebook.