The fair offers readers a chance to get to know more than 50 Northwest authors, many of them from the Rogue Valley.

The Southern Oregon Book Fair tradition continues this fall as book lovers get a chance to meet authors and buy books on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the ballroom of the Ashland Springs Hotel.

The fair offers readers a chance to get to know more than 50 Northwest authors, many of them from the Rogue Valley.

"This is the Big Top of literary events in the region," said book fair organizer Claire Krulikowski.

Indeed, the annual event has been gaining popularity since its beginnings in 2003. Since then, the event has grown from a handful of local authors tucked in a corner of Medford's Art in the Alley Fair, to a hotel ballroom full of authors representing an array of genres such as mystery, nonfiction, history romance, spirituality, self help and poetry.

While book signings are fairly common in the area, there was no forum for a large group of authors and readers to gather together at one time, Krulikowski said. "Our move to the Ashland Spring Hotel was a good one," Krulikowski said. "It's so convenient for both visitors and authors to have it downtown."

Now in its seventh year, the book fair remains the only event of its kind in the area.

"It's a good spot for holiday shopping, we have something for everyone. Also there are audio books available, and our children's books and parenting genre has really grown," Krulikowski said.

Each year, the book fair chooses a featured author from a different genre. This year's featured author will be Lorena McCourtney, who writes mysteries with a Christian theme.

Debra Black, who lives in Medford says she plans to visit the book fair, and she is excited to meet McCourtney and the other authors. "My mom likes Christian mysteries. I never knew there was such a category. I'm going to pick up a few of her books for Christmas presents," Black said. "The book fair is fun. You get to meet authors, but the best part is meeting the other people who attend."

Amy Miller, an Ashland poet and writer, has exhibited her work at the fair for the past two years and is pleased to participate again.

"I look forward to it all year," she said. "I love meeting other writers and seeing what creative things they've come up with. And the opportunity to actually talk to readers and see their reactions to my work is invaluable. I can tell whether a book was a good idea or a bomb simply by how many people pick it up and by the expressions on their faces. You can't get that kind of instant feedback anywhere else."

This year's fair will feature more authors from outside Southern Oregon than last year.

"Last year, extraordinarily high gas prices combined with the bleak economy made it very difficult for authors to commit to traveling any great distance for a one-day event," Krulikowski said. "This year, we have authors registered from Seattle, Portland, Salem, Eugene, and Roseburg, for example."

Still, she added, one very positive aspect of the fair is the many local writers who participate. "There are so many writers in our valley. It's a place where writers hunker down and live their lives quietly. They work, raise kids, and build their lives around their writing; they are our neighbors and we may not have heard of some of them because they aren't making a fuss."

The event is free. The Ashland Springs Hotel is located downtown at 212 E. Main St. For further information visit the book fair Web site at www.southernoregonbookfair.com.

Angela Howe-Decker is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Contact her at decker4@gmail.com.