The Aspen Historical Society’s annual Holiday Cookie Exchange and Book Signing, dubbed a gathering of sweet-tooths and local literati, has already become a bit of an annual tradition in Aspen.
But the idea of a cookie swap is certainly nothing new. It’s a festive — and practical — social get-together that has existed in both large and small communities for decades. The idea is simple: Bake a dozen (or more) of your favorite cookie, and leave with 12 different types. Time is often scarce around the holidays, and the event is designed to offer a little celebratory confectionery variety, without the hassle.
A little more than a decade ago, around the time when current Aspen Historical Society (AHS) President Georgia Hanson joined the nonprofit, she added the book-singing component to the event. Local writers were invited to the AHS grounds to sell and sign copies of their books, adding a uniquely local twist to an already popular party concept.
“A couple hundred people show up over just a few hours, and the holiday energy is just fantastic,” says AHS director of marketing Christine Benedetti. “It’s an intimate event, so don’t expect to wait in any long lines to talk to authors. There’s actually time to chat and engage with them.”
For the first time, the event, taking place on Tuesday, Dec. 4, from 4-7 p.m., is not happening at the Historical Society. Due to the current exhibit in the society’s gallery, “Seasons of the Nuche: Transitions of the Ute People,” which features artifacts borrowed from regional institutions, the event has been moved to the nearby Aspen Community Church. Because of the venue change, church representatives will also take the opportunity to sell African goods to support their charity efforts in Kenya.
Benedetti adds that the writers, illustrators and photographers represent a wide range of work, from coffee-table books to fiction, local history tomes to children’s books. And the scope of the various books extend far beyond Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley.
“We invite authors old and new, ones with one book and some with several,” says Benedetti. “So you’ll definitely see familiar faces like Mary Eshbaugh Hayes, but also a lot of newer ones.”
Two of the newer faces will be Maria Kernahan and Michael Schafbuch, the writer and illustrator, respectively, of “A is for Aspen.” The A to Z (or Aspen to ZG as it were) travel book “captures the spirit and flavor of Aspen with bright, clean graphics and fun and lyrical prose,” says Kernahan. And the book is nothing short of adorable, with iconic Aspen landmarks like the Hotel Jerome, the Aspen Music Festival and School and Winterskol, Aspen’s annual toast to winter, making appearances.
“Let’s just say we were very lucky that Aspen has the X Games,” Kernahan says of the task of finding an appropriate Aspen specific item for the A to Z book. “It’s a lot harder than it seems, and you want everyone who reads it to feel an attachment to it.”
Kernahan has an agent who works in New York City, and when she initially brought the idea to her, the response was that only Madonna can sell children’s books. But Kernahan still felt that was an unfilled niche in the market for children’s travel books, and sought out a printer to self-publish the book. The plan is for it to be one in a series, with books for other cities like Seattle, London and Chicago already in the works.
“We thought Aspen would be a really good incubator for this idea, and so far, we’ve been right,” Kernahan says.
Other participants in the book signing include: Paul Andersen, Amiee White Beazley, Douglas Beck, Bruce Berger, Martha Cochran, Angel Cusick, Art and Allison Daily, Karen Glenn, Charlotte Graham, Anne Gurchick, Lois Abel Harlamert, Valerie Haugen, Mary Eshbaugh Hayes, Jane Jenkins, Maria Kernahan, Linda Lafferty, Jim Markalunas, Sandy Munro, Darrell Munsell, Brooke Newman, Doug Rhinehart, Nancy Thomas, Anton Uhl, Daniel Watkins, David Wood and representatives from the “Thrift Shop Cook Book.”
“This is really a place for one-stop shopping for the book lover in your life,” Benedetti adds. “And even if you don’t make any cookies you can still come and enjoy the fun.”