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10/6/09

BILLIE LETTS TO BE KEYNOTE SPEAKER AT RED DIRT BOOK FESTIVAL

The Red Dirt Book Festival in Shawnee , Okla. on Nov. 6 and 7 will be a multi-faceted event, with author-presented programs and workshops, panel discussions and a banquet. But one particularly special event of this year’s Red Dirt will be author Billie Letts’ keynote address on Saturday, Nov. 7, 11 a.m. in the Raley Chapel on the campus of Oklahoma Baptist University .

Billie Letts is a native Oklahoman, born in Tulsa . Letts discovered the joys of reading and writing at a young age, but it wasn’t until she was 55 that Letts tentatively showed a literary agent some of her work. At the time, Letts had three full grown sons with husband Dennis and was teaching at Southeastern Oklahoma State University . Letts sent the agent a short story that grew into her first novel, Where the Heart Is, which was published in 1995.

Where the Heart Is tells the story of Novalee Nation, a pregnant 17-year-old girl who was abandoned by her boyfriend at a Wal-Mart store. Novalee lives in the store for several months and eventually even gives birth there. The book takes places in the small town of Sequoyah , Okla.

In 1998, Where the Heart Is was chosen as an Oprah’s Book Club selection, changing Letts’ life and career forever. The book went on to sell more than 3 million copies and in 2000, it became a major motion picture starring Natalie Portman and Ashley Judd.

Letts’ second novel, The Honk and Holler Opening Soon, was published in 1998 and was chosen by Oklahomans as the first Oklahoma Reads Oklahoma selection in 2004. Oklahoma Reads Oklahoma was a statewide program that was held for several years leading up to the state’s centennial. The Honk and Holler Opening Soon also took place in Sequoyah. Shoot the Moon was published in 2004, a novel that takes place in the fictional Oklahoma small town DeClare. Featuring the Oklahoma town of Hugo , Made in the U.S.A. was released in 2008, and both of these titles became New York Times bestsellers.

Join Letts and other Red Dirt Book Festival authors in the OBU Geiger Center at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 7 for photos and book signings. Books will also be available for purchase at this time.
Program times, descriptions and locations and author biographies are available on the Red Dirt website at
http://reddirtbookfestival.org/.
Support for the festival is provided by the Pioneer Library System, the Oklahoma Humanities Council, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, as well as community support including the Shawnee Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, Oklahoma Baptist University and St. Gregory’s University and many local donors and volunteers