New York Times best-selling author Augusten Burroughs headlines this year's Mid-Columbia Literary Festival, and his speaking appearance Wednesday in Pasco is expected to generate the largest crowd in the event's eight-year history.
The buzz created by the author of Running With Scissors isn't lost upon festival co-founder Ed Frost, who recently was running errands in the Tri-Cities when he bumped into a Burroughs fan.
"In fact, he'd already recruited an entire car full of people to come, just because of Burroughs," Frost said, who also sits on LitFest's steering committee.
Next week, another New York Times best-selling author will be appearing at LitFest.
Seattle native Garth Stein, who also won an Academy Award as co-producer of a live-action short, is scheduled to make two presentations May 31 on the Columbia Basin College campus.
This won't be the first time LitFest has brought in award-winning and big-selling writers, organizers said, but some may consider this year's event as its most distinguished. And while the festival traditionally focuses on Pacific Northwest authors, Frost said bringing in Burroughs, who lives on the East Coast, was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
"We do try to put together a festival that appeals to a lot of different readers," he said.
Burroughs' first book, Sellevision, was published in 2000, and the piece of fiction reportedly has been in production at NBC as a pilot. Running With Scissors topped the New York Times list in 2002, and he followed that up with books that detail his unusual upbringing and his battle with alcoholism.
His most recent book, This Is How: Proven Aid in Overcoming Shyness, Molestation, Fatness, Spinsterhood, Grief, Disease, Lushery, Decrepitude & More. For Young and Old Alike, has been described by critics as Burroughs' twist on the self-help book.
Stein's appearance at the Gjerde Center will be centered on his 2008 novel, The Art of Racing In the Rain. It is about a race car driver and his dog, who believes will be reincarnated as a human if he is prepared.
Frost said LitFest has recruited a number of well-known and established writers from the beginning, including Sherman Alexie, who wrote The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. Alexie headlined the inaugural LitFest in 2005 and went on to win the 2010 PEN/Faulkner award for fiction.
Sandra Cisneros, David Guterson and George Saunders are among the other notable authors to have appeared at LitFest.
Gwen James, assistant professor of English at CBC, said the festival typically can't afford to bring famous authors from outside the Northwest. However, Burroughs' itinerary, the relationship LitFest organizers have with Burroughs' representatives and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities Washington combined to make it happen.
Burroughs' tour had him Monday at Powell's Books in Portland and takes him today to the University Bookstore in Seattle.
"It all just came together," James said.
James said she expects a standing-room-only crowd for Burroughs on Wednesday at the Gjerde Center, just as there was for Alexie in 2005. And while festival organizers want large audiences for every visiting writer, bringing in high-profile authors helps create widespread interest.
"Part of our mission is to expose people to things they aren't familiar with," she said.