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When Demi Stevens proposed an incentive to her writing class, she never thought that in two years, she'd be in charge of one of the nation's biggest urban book festivals to focus on local and independent authors.

"I was the library director at Paul Smith Library in Shrewsbury for about 10 years, and one of the programs for lifelong learning was a writers group," said Stevens, CEO of Year of the Book and self-described "book whisperer."

"In 2012 I sort of dangled this carrot, that for anyone who finishes their book, we'll have a book gala," she said.

By the end of the yearlong challenge, a full 35 participants completed their books, and 25 were able to present them at the first gala in October 2013.

After the small library event, Stevens continued her efforts to put local writers in the spotlight.

She soon left her position as a librarian, and by January of 2014, Year of the Book press was born.

"(We've) published books by more than 100 authors — I've met a lot of independent authors, and I feel very strongly about the message they have to send through their works," she said.

"This sort of grew out of that ... I help people accomplish a dream."

New titles and pets: The first York Book Expo will take place 1-5 p.m. Saturday at Memorial Hall East at York Expo Center. Admission is free.

The event is organized by Year of the Book press and will exhibit the work of 85 independent authors and illustrators.

"This is all new titles, published in the last couple of years," Stevens said.

"In addition to children's authors, there are also memoir titles, books on hypnosis, books on 100 things Orioles fans should do before they die, thriller and mysteries, inspirational and religious titles ... there'll be some significant romance writers there that day and also some Native American writers."

Two other local publishers will be on hand to speak with interested readers or aspiring writers, she said.

Children's activities include face-painting, make-and-take crafts, a chance to create their own books with children's authors Lyndsay Barrett George and Anthony Fredericks, and a visit from Clifford the Big Red Dog.

Clifford won't be the only dog at the event — the York SPCA will have handlers walking adoptable dogs and cats around the room, and proceeds from the expo will benefit York County libraries and the York County SPCA.

"Saturday's fundraiser is a great family event ... it would be a great opportunity for anyone considering adopting a pet to come meet some of the dogs that we have available," said Melissa Smith, executive director of the York County SPCA.

"We specialize in adoption counseling and matching the right pet with the right family so everyone has a good experience."

Keynote speaker: New York Times best-selling author David Rosenfelt will give a keynote presentation at 11:30 a.m. Saturday in Memorial Hall East.

The creator of the Andy Carpenter series and noted dog lover will speak about his experiences at the ticketed event and will sign books from 1-5 p.m.

"I do benefits for dog rescue events around the country — I'll talk about my time when I was president of a motion picture studio, the president of marketing ... I'll talk about my time writing screenplays and TV movies, and of course my time as a novelist," Rosenfelt said.

Having worked with lawyers during his time as the marketing president for Tri-Star Pictures, Rosenfelt doesn't have to look far for inspiration — his popular Andy Carpenter character is a dog-loving attorney with a knack for solving mysteries.

"The Andy Carpenter books are told mostly in first-person present tense — Andy's talking and you're in his head, so I'm sort of self-influenced," he said.

Rosenfelt is currently working on the latest installment in the series, due out in July.

Although he generally shies away from too much publicity, Rosenfelt has been using his Facebook account to post humorous updates and connect with his fans.

"When I first started writing the books, I put my email in the books to get feedback and I'd get literally thousands of people who read the book ... they're always nice. I'd experience waking up in the morning to strangers telling me how great I am — I'd wake up at 3 a.m. to get on the computer," he joked.

"I've always been kind of a hermit, (social media) is not my inclination, but my publisher really wants me to do it, so I put my own humor on it."

Attendees can count on hearing some of Rosenfelt's comical stories, including the story of how he transported himself, his family and 25 geriatric golden retrievers across the country in a caravan of RVs.

Tickets to the presentation are $10 in advance and $15 at the door and are available at any York County library, at the SPCA or by calling Demi Stevens at (717) 781-4972.

For more information, visit www.yorkbookexpo.org or facebook.com/yorkbookexpo.

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