FoCo Book Fest attracts Colorado Gov., award-winning authors and international beer expert

The FoCo Book Fest took place in Old Town over the weekend, attracting book and brew-lovers from all around the state.

Some of the festival’s biggest names included Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, New Belgium Brew Master Peter Bouckaert, international beer expert and author Horst Dornbusch and award-winning poet Katrina Roberts.

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The majority of the day’s speakers were CSU faculty members like Andrew Altschul or local writers like Sarah Hahn Campbell.

At stands across Old Town, Happy Lucky’s Teahouse served their unique brew “Free Verse Cinnaplum,” a plum oolong tea that cultivates the essence of harvest time and bonfires. Bean Cycle Roaster’s also created a festival drink called “Book Buzz 641.3373,” paying homage to the Dewey decimal classification for coffee. Fruity and nutty, this craft roast invoked the distinctive smell and feel of an old book.

One of the first events of the day was the panel called How Books are Brewed at the Downtown Artery, moderated by CSU Creative Writing Professor Camille Dungy and attended by Roberts and Eleni Sikelianos. The panelists read from some of their recent work while explaining their processes of putting ideas to paper.

Roberts described the technique of “found poetry,” where the entirety of a poem’s language is taken directly from another source, such as a New York Times article about squalor in Afghanistan.

“I wouldn’t be the poet I am without my family,” explained Sikelianos. Her mother, a rough and tumble rock hound in the Mojave dessert, and her great grandfather Angelos Sikelianos, twice nominated for the Nobel prize in Literature, are some of Sikelianos’ biggest influences.

At the New Brews panel, writers from CSU’s Creative Writing Department shared some of their tales of inspiration, humor and action.

Andrew Altschul, author of Deus Ex Machina, read from his short story “y=mx+b.” A unidentified man with a vague career tries to survive the day while undergoing a crippling existential crisis. The man tells himself “a beer, a cig, a ballgame will make you feel better,” but nothing can.

Assistant Professor Todd Mitchell read for the first time the first chapter of his newest book “The Last Panther,” a story about an 11-year-old Floridian on a brave mission to save her state’s last panther from poachers.

An impressive group of essayists, poets and fiction writers talked about the drinks that inspire their writing at the panel The Muses.

Richard Keller said he depends on coffee for his writing, not to inspire himself but to inspire others. His book “Coffee Cup Tales” is a collection of overheard conversations at coffee shops. Keller explained that coffee lets out people’s angst, revealing what they worry about most.

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Fiction writer Laura Resau uses hot chocolate to break through her writer’s block. She claimed that some of the chemicals in cocoa serve to boost creativity and awareness.

In between swigs form a hip flask, O. Henry said he uses alcohol in his writing, not to think up new ideas with but to cut himself off at the point when he becomes physically incapable of continuing. The famed short story writer actually died in 1910, and his appearance Saturday was a performance by O. Henry specialist Dennis Elkins.

At the event Beer & Politics, Hickenlooper gave a personal and interactive speech on his journey from being the owner of a Denver brewpub to becoming governor of Colorado. After his small business took off, Hickenlooper started having higher aspirations.

Hickenlooper said that when he looked at Denver, he thought that “the council members are bums, that congressional representative is a bum, every elected official is a bum,” and he could do a better job. And so he ran for mayor as a dark horse candidate and won against all odds.

The governor explained the title of his new book “The Opposite of Woe: My Life in Beer and Politics.” Hickenlooper was in a public speaking class at the University of Wyoming when his professor was giving a lecture on the importance of creating opposites. The professor asked “what is the opposite of despair?” A student responded with “joy.” Then the professor asked “what is the opposite of woe?” Someone way in the back yelled “giddy up!” Hickenlooper took this joke to be representative of his life. He finds purpose in hard work and determination.

Hickenlooper also read a few passages from “The Oppostie of Woe.” He had just gotten back form college and his mother was excited to spend the evening talking, but he had already made plans to see a movie with a friend. Realizing his mother’s disappointment, Hickenlooper offered to take her with him, not knowing what the movie was. As it turned out, it was the controversial X-rated film “Deep Throat,” now considered the most explicit movie to ever be played in conventional theaters. Too awkward to ask to leave or do anything else, they watched the entire thing in stunned silence.

Along with Tim Kaine, Hickenlooper was vetted to be Hillary Clinton’s running mate. When asked how he felt about the loss, the governor said “Luckily, I didn’t get chosen. I was blessed.”

Overall, the FoCo Book Fest was an entertaining success. Event Coordinator and Business Librarian at Poudre River Libraries Anne Macdonald said, “It really worked to have the mixture of literature and craft brewing.”

The festival’s organizing committee looks to growing it into a premier annual event in the future.