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Book Fair's Weird Florida Panel to Talk Mermaids, Ghost Stories, and Exotic Animals

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Florida's weirdness is hardly a secret. From Fark.com's Florida section to the popularity of "Why is Florida so weird?" as a Google query, the world is on to our state's many oddities.

But there's more to the Sunshine State's quirky character than dudes with half a head and alligator whisperers. The Miami Book Fair International's Weird Florida panel is bringing together six authors this Saturday to delve into the details of our state's eccentricities.

See also: Book Fair's Literary Death Match Pits Florida Writers Against Each Other in Battle Royale

The panel is taking place at the book fair's Florida-themed lounge, the Swamp. It'll be moderated by author Lynn Waddell, the woman behind the book Fringe Florida.

Waddell will lead a discussion with five notable Florida historians and authors, including Lola Haskins (writer of Fifteen Florida Cemeteries: Strange Tales Unearthed), Gary Monroe (photographer and writer of The Highwaymen: Florida's African-American Landscape Painters), Craig Pittman (Tampa Bay Times reporter and writer of the World's Most Beautiful Orchid), James C. Clark (author of six books on Florida history and literature) and Lu Vickers (publisher of Weeki Wachee Mermaids: Thirty Years of Underwater Photography).

All will talk about topics specific to their areas of expertise.

"Honestly, I think it's a really good panel -- it's myself and five other authors. Basically I'm going to be giving a brief overview, talking about some of the reasons why Florida is so Florida. Everyone is going to be speaking a lot in terms of more specific things," says Waddell.

In other words, Lu Vickers on mermaids, Gary Monroe on Cassadaga (Florida's spiritualist camp) and the highwaymen painters, Lola Haskins on cemeteries and the people buried there, Craig Pittman on orchid controversies and exotic animals, and so on -- all of it sure to be enthralling.

The authors will also be showcasing images to pair with their stories, so expect to see the weird and wacky.

"We have a very cool panel so it's going to be a lot to run through but I believe we're going to give people a sense of Florida's quirky side as well as some of the history behind that," Waddell adds.

"Weird Florida: From Hauntings to Mermaids" kicks off at 11 a.m. on Saturday, November 22, at the Swamp, at the southeast corner of NE Third Street and Second Avenue. Admission is free.

Follow Hannah on Twitter @hannahgetshappy.

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