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 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.)


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.


Two Lines I Like from a Margaret Maron Novel

“Trees and thick shrubbery hid most of the track from view and muffled the noises in summer, but in winter, when Dwight was a boy and the wind was right, the train whistle could be heard at night all the way out to the farm. A lonesome sound, yet somehow, oddly comforting.” — From Long Upon the Land (A Deborah Knott Mystery), by Margaret Maron.

These two sentences make me smile. I took hearing the Southern Railway train whistles for granted all my life until last year when the at-grade rail crossings in our town were closed and replaced by bridges. This was done to make way for “the high-speed rail” between Charlotte and Raleigh. There is no longer a need for the train whistle in Harrisburg. Twenty-five trains now almost silently pass through the small town every day. I miss that whistle.

The North Carolina Railroad

The North Carolina Railroad first laid rail lines through Harrisburg in 1854. In fact, the town came into existence because a depot was built when the railroad came. Although I lived five miles from town, I could often hear the train whistle. I could lie in bed at night and hear it. It sounded particularly close if weather conditions were just right or there was snow on the ground.


Margaret Maron summed up my feelings about the train whistle. “A lonesome sound, yet somehow, oddly comforting.” I wish I’d written that sentence. Hearing a train whistle in the quiet wee hours of the night always made me feel that way. I would think about the passengers on the train. Was the train going north to Washington, DC and New York City, or was it going south to Atlanta and New Orleans? The trains were going somewhere and I wasn’t. Sometimes I envied the people on those trains, but mostly I just felt comfort in knowing that even though I was in my nice warm bed a few miles away life was moving on.

The Aberdeen Carolina & Western Railway

There is another rail line just a couple of miles in the other direction from my house. The Aberdeen Carolina & Western Railway operates one train per day on that line. For the near future, at least, I will be able to hear that train whistle because there is no bridge to carry vehicular traffic over the line. No doubt, that whistle will eventually become obsolete. Train whistles are going the way of the little red caboose.

I am privileged to live on land that has been in my family since the mid-1700s. I come from a long line of farmers. I wonder how my great-great-grandparents felt the first time they saw or heard a train go through Harrisburg in 1854. How exciting the advent of the locomotive in our community must have been for my eight-year-old great-grandfather!

Space Travel

Ironically, I was eight years old when the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) launched the first manned Mercury spacecraft in 1961. The 15-minute suborbital flight piloted by Alan B. Shepard, Jr. was a milestone for the United States. Although I didn’t see the launch in person, I loved seeing the pictures on TV and in newspapers and magazines. It was a great time to be a child!

Who knew a couple of sentences from Margaret Maron in Long Upon the Land would bring such thoughts to my mind? That’s the magic of fiction!

Your favorite line(s) from a novel

Do you have a favorite line or two from a novel? Feel free to share in the comments section.

Until the next time I blog

Until the next time I blog, I hope you have a good book to read. If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time. I invite you to share my blog post on social media by using the icons below or recommend it to your friends.