Bookmarks Festival of Books and Authors

The 2017 Bookmarks Festival of Books and Authors in Winston-Salem, North Carolina on September 9, 2017 was fantastic! This free event included more than 45 authors. It was well-organized and supported by a large number of friendly and knowledgeable volunteers.

As is stated on the http://www.bookmarksnc.org website,

“Bookmarks is a literary arts organization that fosters a love of reading and writing in the community. Our programming connects readers and authors and includes:  an annual Festival of Books, an Authors in Schools program, and year-round events in our community gathering space and nonprofit independent bookstore.”

My sister and I have wanted to go to Bookmarks Festival of Books for years, but this was the first year it worked out for us to get there. The festival is held annually, usually on the second weekend in September. Make plans to attend Bookmarks next year!

We got to hear seven authors speak at Bookmarks! Seven authors in one day! Each one of them took questions from the audience after making their remarks.

Author events were going on throughout the day in six different venues within walking distance, so you could pick and choose which ones you wanted to attend.

Jamie Ford, author

Jamie Ford was the author we got to hear first. He was a very entertaining speaker. He regaled us with some of the comments teens have made on social media as they are required to read his novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet in the state of Washington.

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Author Jamie Ford @BookmarksNC. (Photo by Janet Morrison.)

Mr. Ford also talked about his new novel, Love and Other Consolation Prizes, and the true story that inspired it. He had arranged to autograph and have for sale copies of this new book even though the official release date wasn’t until September 12.

The book sales tent

After Jamie Ford’s presentation, we had time to visit the Bookmarks large book sales tent to purchase books by the authors participating in the festival.

Authors Kathleen Grissom, Lisa Wingate, & Patti Callahan Henry

I was especially excited about the opportunity to hear Kathleen Grissom speak. I wrote about her novels, The Kitchen House and Glory Over Everything in earlier blog posts –  What I read in October and What I read in January 2017.

Ms. Grissom, Lisa Wingate, and Patti Callahan Henry had a panel discussion about Southern Fiction. Although none of them were born in The South, that’s the genre they have written. When we arrived at their venue, it was almost standing room only.

We strained to hear the authors’ remarks and their answers to questions from the audience, but we enjoyed the bits and pieces of the panel discussion that we could hear. They each talked about some of their books and their works in progress. Be on the lookout for future novels by each of them!

Kathleen Grissom, Lisa Wingate, & Patti Callahan Henry – book signing

We split up to take advantage of the book signing by these three writers of Southern Fiction. Patti Callahan Henry was signing copies of her latest novel, The Bookshop at Water’s End. Marie was excited to meet Lisa Wingate and get her to autograph a copy of her new novel, Before We Were Yours, and I was thrilled to meet Kathleen Grissom and get her to autograph a copy of The Kitchen House.

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Janet getting Kathleen Grissom’s autograph @BookmarksNC. Author Patti Callahan Henry is seated to Ms. Grissom’s right, and author Lisa Wingate is seated to Ms. Henry’s right. (Photo by Marie Morrison.)

Lunch

A variety of food trucks were on hand to offer several options for lunch or snacks. My burger was delicious, but holding onto the Styrofoam tray it was served in was more than a challenge in the beautiful but blustery day.

Margaret Maron’s book signing

After lunch, we went to the Forsyth County Public Library booth for Margaret Maron’s book signing. She was very gracious. When she saw me taking a picture of Marie at her table, she asked if we were sisters and insisted that I come get in the picture, too. Marie is a big fan of Ms. Maron’s Deborah Knott series of mystery novels, so it was a thrill for her to get to meet the author.

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Author Margaret Maron @BookmarksNC. (Photo by Janet Morrison.)

It was a thrill for me, too! I’ve read Bootlegger’s Daughter, the first book in the Deborah Knott series, which means I have 19 more in the series to read.

Bookmarks – an independent bookstore

After getting Margaret Maron’s autograph, we visited the literary arts nonprofit and independent Bookmarks bookstore. It is located at 634 West Fourth Street #110 in Winston-Salem, so please make an effort to support it the next time you’re in that city.

Beverly Tatum and Marc Lamont Hill

Beverly Tatum and Marc Lamont Hill spoke about “The Race Divide: Then and Now” for an hour in the afternoon. This event was very well attended and enlightening. Those of us who are white have much to learn about “white privilege” and all it entails. The more I learn, the more I realize I have not really appreciated or understood in the past. I strive to be more cognizant of it and to do better.

Dr. Tatum and Dr. Hill’s remarks and discussion centered around race relations in the United States in the 1990s as compared to race relations in 2017. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the publication of Dr. Tatum’s nonfiction book, Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?: And Other Conversations About Race.

A new edition of this book has been published this year to include some updates and to cast more light on the fact that although Brown v Board of Education was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1954, little real racial integration takes place today in the lives of most Americans. Schools are racially-integrated, but churches, neighborhoods, and friendships are still very much one race or the other.

Margaret Maron, author

Hearing Margaret Maron speak late in the afternoon was a highlight among many highlights of the day, especially after meeting her and seeing how gracious and friendly she was when Marie got her to autograph Long Upon the Land: A Deborah Knott Mystery. Those of you who are Margaret Maron fans will be sad to learn that she does not plan to write any more novels. She said she might write some short stories. Her new novel, Take Out, marks the end of her nine-book Sigrid series.

Ms. Maron was an entertaining speaker. She talked about living in Johnston County, North Carolina and enjoying how her Deborah Knott series allowed her to travel around the state as Judge Knott was assigned to court cases in various locations.

Diana Gabaldon, ending keynote speaker

Unfortunately, I was unable to return to Winston-Salem on September 10 for Diana Gabaldon’s keynote address. I’m a big fan of her Outlander book series, so it would have been a wonderful to have heard her speak. Perhaps she’ll participate in the Bookmarks Festival of Books again in the future.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading The Light Between Oceans, by M.L. Stedman. Published in 2012, this was Ms. Stedman’s first novel. I’m also enjoying getting back into some quilting.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time.

Janet

Author Event by A.J. Hartley

It was my privilege on March 14, 2017, to hear author Dr. A.J. Hartley speak at the annual meeting of the Friends of the Harrisburg (NC) Library. Dr. Hartley is a man of many talents. He is the distinguished professor of Shakespeare in the Department of Theatre at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, which is just several miles up the road from Harrisburg.

Author Dr. A.J. Hartley, speaking at the annual meeting of the Friends of the Harrisburg Library, March 14, 2017

Dr. Hartley’s background

Dr. Hartley has published more than 20 books, ranging from academic to mysteries, thrillers, historical fiction, and fantasies for adults, young adults, and middle grades. He credits the book The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis, as being his passport out of his economically-depressed hometown of Preston, England. He read the book when he was 10 years old, and reading subsequently opened up the world to him.

His thoughts on Shakespeare

In his very entertaining and educational presentation at the library on Tuesday night, Dr. Hartley pointed out something about William Shakespeare that I had never considered before. Shakespeare lived and wrote at a time when live theatre was a big thing in London, a town then of approximately 100,000. Going to the theatre was a common activity for all spectrums of the population. Therefore, Shakespeare had to write in a way that would appeal to everyone from the illiterate to the highly educated, from the poorest to the richest in society.

His writing routine

Dr. Hartley welcomed questions from the audience. I noticed that the teens in attendance asked some of the most interesting and probing questions.  He spends a lot of time walking his dog six miles-a-day, and that is when he does most of his writing. When he gets home, he types what he “wrote” in his head while he was walking. He used to just wing it, or in the lingo of writers, he was a pantser. That means he wrote without an outline. He now writes short outlines. Every writer has to find what works for them.

My takeaways

As a writer, the main points I came away with were the following:

  1. “If you’re wondering if you’re a writer, try quitting. If you can, you’re not.” – A.J. Hartley
  2. “Words are free.” – A.J. Hartley
  3. Dr. Hartley wrote fiction for 20 years before his first novel was published. I don’t know whether to take encouragement from that or not. He started at a much earlier age than I did!

Dr. Hartley’s website

If you’re interested in reading any of Dr. Hartley’s books, check with your local public library and also online. His website is ajhartley.net.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time. Never pass up an opportunity to hear an author speak!

Janet

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Author Visit from Mark de Castrique

Author Mark de Castrique was the guest speaker last night at the February meeting of Rocky River Readers Book Club. He spoke to our group a couple of years ago, so we all looked forward to his return visit to talk about his two political thrillers, The 13th Target and The Singularity Race.

Mark de Castrique , speaking at Rocky River Readers Book Club, February 27, 2017
Mark de Castrique , speaking at Rocky River Readers Book Club, February 27, 2017

The 13th Target

Mark talked about how the economic recession of 2008 prompted him to write about the Federal Reserve in The 13th Target. For that novel, he created a protagonist named Rusty Mullins who was a former Secret Service agent.

 

 

 

The Singularity Race

Mark continued the Rusty Mullins character in The Singularity Race. That second thriller is about artificial intelligence. Mark pointed out the difference between the arms race in the 20th century (a race between nations) and the singularity race of the 21st century (a race between nations, organizations, corporations, universities, and possible a 17-year-old computer geek working at home.)

The book presents the conflict between the two opposing points of view by experts in the field as a backdrop for the story: (1) Ray Kurzweil, Director of Engineering, GOOGLE, says artificial intelligence will be “pivotal” in meeting the “grand challenges of humanity;” however, (2) Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking says, “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.” The book deals with the danger people who are working on artificial intelligence can be in as the race heats up. Rusty Mullins gets involved in trying to protect certain individuals who are in that race.

General remarks

In his planned topics and in answering questions from the audience, Mark talked about various aspects of writing fiction, including the following:

  • Beware of information dumps
  • When writing a series, it can be challenging to come up with fresh ways to describe location and a continuing character. You don’t want to bore the series reader, but the new reader needs to know some background from earlier books in the series.
  • The difference between a mystery and a thriller
  • If you create a world for a novel, you have to remember where everything is, whereas, if you set your story in a place that actually exists you can revisit the place to refresh your memory or even use Google Maps for details.

I have merely hit the highlights here. As I have said before, never pass up a chance to hear a writer speak.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time.

Janet

Diane Chamberlain Author Event

Hearing a published author speak is one of my favorite things to do. I had the opportunity to attend a presentation by Diane Chamberlain yesterday afternoon at the Ashe County Public Library in West Jefferson, North Carolina. Her appearance was part of the annual Ashe County Arts Council’s On the Same Page Book Festival.

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View of downtown West Jefferson, NC from the Ashe County Public Library in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains.

In her opening remarks, Ms. Chamberlain said that her books are “part suspense, part mystery, and 100% family drama.” She quoted a Japanese fan who wrote, “You make me believe life is beautiful even if it is full of pain and rage.”

As is the case with most authors, Ms. Chamberlain’s publishing journey was tough. She said that a writer needs three things in order to get published:  “talent, perseverance, and luck.” She started writing her first novel in 1981, but it was not published until 1989. She kept writing and finally got lucky in 2008. Her book, The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes, was chosen as the Target Book Club Book one month which meant it was prominently displayed in every Target store.

Also in 1981, the wife of a United Kingdom publisher visited Ms. Chamberlain’s publisher in the U.S. and requested a book to read on her flight back to England. The book she was handed was the CeeCee Wilkes book. After reading it on her way home, she told her husband that he had to publish it in the U.K. She has been published in the U.S. and the U.K. ever since.

Each of Ms. Chamberlain’s books is different. She enjoys finding the perfect setting for each of her novels and draws from her own life experiences, including her education and first career in the field of psychology. I found it interesting that she occasionally asks her fans on the Diane Chamberlain Readers Facebook page to suggest names for characters or locations. She related an amusing story about how for a while she got ideas for male characters by going on an online dating site.

I’ll save some of Ms. Chamberlain’s comments about her 2015 novel, Pretending to Dance, for my blog post in a couple of weeks after Rocky River Readers Book Club meets to discuss the book.

Until my next blog post, I hope you have a good book to read — perhaps one of Diane Chamberlain’s best-selling novels.

Janet

Disclaimer: I attended this event and wrote this blog post on my own volition and received no compensation for endorsing Diane Chamberlain’s books.

Angela Davis-Gardner, Author

I had the pleasure of hearing Angela Davis-Gardner, Author, speak at the 2015 Ashe County On the Same Page Book Festival in West Jefferson, NC on September 18, 2015. A Distinguished Professor Emerita at North Carolina State University, Ms. Davis-Gardner lives in Raleigh, NC. She spoke, took questions from the audience, and signed books at the Ashe County Public Library.

Author Angela Davis-Gardner, signing one of her novels for Marie Morrison
Author Angela Davis-Gardner, signing one of her novels for Marie Morrison

Ms. Davis-Gardner has won acclaim for her four novels. Butterfly’s Child is her imaginings about the life of the son of Madama Butterfly and Lt. Pinkerton after Madama Butterfly committed suicide.

Plum Wine, is set in 1960s Japan. Ms. Davis-Gardner drew heavily from her first-hand knowledge of that country in which she lived while in her twenties.

Forms of Shelter follows a piedmont North Carolina dysfunctional family.

Felice is the story of a girl who grew up in a convent in Nova Scotia in the 1920s after her parents drowned in a shipwreck.

Having written Plum Wine and Felice out of family stories with which she grew up, Ms. Davis-Gardner was shocked to recently learn that her family lore was not altogether true. It was fascinating to hear her tell those stories and then reveal the truth. Hers is quite an amazing story.

I look forward to reading all four of Angela Davis-Gardner’s novels!

Ann Weisgarber at Books on Main

On Tuesday, I had the privilege of meeting Ann Weisgarber at Books on Main in Davidson, North Carolina. She primarily talked about her second novel, The Promise, which takes place in Galveston during the 1900 hurricane. Happening long before the advent of weather radar, the people of Galveston had no advance warning that the hurricane was heading their way. At least 6,000 people were killed on the barrier island that day.

Although I had not yet read the book, I thoroughly enjoyed hearing about it, about Ms. Weisgarber’s first novel, and some of her writing experiences. I purchased a copy of The Promise that day and Ms. Weisgarber was kind enough to autograph it and write a note. When I told her that I am an aspiring novelist, she asked me some questions about my manuscript for The Spanish Coin and said, “It’s never too late!”

I’ve checked out her first novel, The Personal History of Rachel DuPree, from the public library. Since our kitchen and bathroom remodeling are scheduled to begin tomorrow morning, I haven’t had any time to read lately. I hope I’ll be able to shut out enough of the construction noise in the coming weeks to concentrate on reading.

Unthinkable Choice, by Sampson and Lee Ann Parker

Sampson and Lee Ann Parker, authors of Unthinkable Choice, were the guest speakers on Monday night at the monthly meeting of Rocky River Readers Book Club at Rocky River Presbyterian Church near Harrisburg and Concord, North Carolina. I think everyone in attendance felt blessed for having been there to hear the Parkers’ story.

I blogged about the release of the book on September 19, 2014, so please feel free to read my entry for that day.

Sampson was in a horrible farming accident in which he had to take a pocket knife and cut off his own arm in order to free himself from a single-row corn picker and save his life. The injuries he received from the machinery and fire were injuries he should not have survived. It was only by the grace of God that he survived to tell his story. Visit http://www.SampsonParker.com for more information.

If you have not read Unthinkable Choice, please look for it at your public library or local bookstore. If you cannot find it in a store, either ask that it be ordered for you or order it online. It is available at Second Look Books in Harrisburg, North Carolina.