The first Newark Book Fest, set to take over the Canal Market District on Saturday, May 18, has been three years in the making. 

It all started when Steph Loughman, a local author who has self-published four novels, realized Licking County authors need a way to connect and support each other. 

“I remember when I wrote my first book,” Loughman recalled. “When I finished it, I closed the laptop and was like ‘Yes, I’m done! Now what?’’’

Loughman met John Wiley, her co-chair, at an event for authors, and they discovered they both had a shared interest in creating an author community in Newark. 

That community, Loughman said, has taken several years to get off the ground, but now includes dozens of local authors, thanks to the work of Licking County Writes!, a nonprofit writers’ organization she helped create. 

Now, the group is ready to celebrate their efforts at the book fest. This Saturday, the Book Fest will have tables for authors to showcase their work and sell their books, as well as network with other authors. 

The Licking County Library will also be there to provide writing and storytelling activities for children and adults. It will have its Mobile Library bus at the Book Fest so that people can check out books and get library cards. 

Classic storybook characters also will be making an appearance, courtesy of the Licking County Players. 

Heather Shaw, an author and editor who works for Columbus Publishing Lab, is one of the members of the board for the book fest. 

“I’ve just been blown away by how [Loughman] has just made this happen by the force of her will,” Shaw said. 

Diana Spain, owner of Kicks Mix, has done her part to advertise the book fest. Credit: Ellie Owen Credit: Ellie Owen

Another member of the board is Diana Spain, the owner of Kicks Mix, a bookstore on the corner of South 3rd Street and East Market Street in Downtown Newark. 

“The authors on the board primarily wanted to have a place to showcase their books,” Spain said. “The library had been doing an annual local authors event for several years, but they hadn’t received a lot of great response at the library, and they weren’t pulling in traffic.” 

Spain has helped out with general organization and planning, and she also has helped local authors get in touch with Loughman and Wiley. 

“Every author that comes in to solicit a book with me, I’ve been handing them the information about the Newark Book Fest,” she said. 

She also has been passing out Book Fest bookmarks to customers in her store to spread the word. 

And her marketing has worked well. Plenty of authors have reached out about being a part of the Book Fest. 

“I was going to be happy if we could get 40 authors [at the festival],” Loughman said. “We’ve got over 100!” 

The event is mostly geared toward local authors, but Loughman has coordinated with authors who are coming from as far as Pennsylvania, Georgia and Florida. 

Loughman’s main goal for this event is to create a support network for authors in the area. 

“We don’t just want to have the Book Fest; we want to have monthly gatherings and create an author community,” she said. 

The Newark Book Fest will take place on May 18 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Canal Market District on East Canal Street, just south of the Licking County Courthouse in Newark. Admission to the festival is free and open to the public. 

Ellie Owen writes for, the nonprofit news organization of Denison University’s Journalism program, which is supported by generous donations from readers. Sign up for The Reporting Project newsletter here.