Friday, March 11, 2005

Sunday, Jan. 23

I hit the first ever Palm Beach Poetry Festival featuring two of my favorite poets. Billy Collins, former U. S. Poet Laureate and the best selling poet since Walt Whitman, is my favorite reader - his poems are funny, especially when he reads them and tells his little anecdotes, and he is quite the charmer. Sharon Olds also read. Her poetry speaks to my heart, she writes my life. Her poems are about family and having children and love and sex and death. Billy makes me laugh, but Sharon makes me cry. Although in all fairness, she read some pretty funny poems too. I especially liked that she read some new stuff that she is working on, that was a real treat. All in all, an incredible, memorable evening. They had a wonderful turnout each of the three days of the festival, drawing close to 300 people each night, so hopefully they will do it again next year. My only suggestion would be to offer at least one free evening to all those who could not afford to go otherwise.

Saturday, Jan. 22

Martin County BOOKMANIA! Featuring talks by some of my favorite authors, and some that were new to me. The most exciting had to be the panel of women writers featuring one of my all time favorites, Adriana Trigiani, (BIG STONE GAP trilogy, LUCIA, LUCIA and QUEEN OF THE BIG TIME - and a new cookbook called COOKING WITH MY SISTERS) who is as funny and warm and wonderful in person as are her characters, along with Cassandra King (THE SUNDAY WIFE and THE SAME SWEET GIRLS), who confided her nickname had the same last part that mine does, but she couldn't quite bring herself to say it, much less write it, other than like this - King B----h. Also on the panel were Patricia Gaffney, Janis Owens and Nancy Thayer.

T. Jefferson Parker had an hour to himself after Sujata Massey had to cancel at the last minute. His latest, CALIFORNIA GIRL, sounds wonderful. He spoke about his background growing up in California and getting his English degree at the University of California, Irvine. He also spoke about how difficult it was for him to write the Merci Rayborn trilogy (BLUE HOUR, RED LIGHT, BLACK WATER) because it was written from the perspective of a woman cop - but he did a masterful job with it. There was a wonderful mystery panel discussion featuring Tim Dorsey (another favorite) touting his latest zany story, TORPEDO JUICE, James O. Born, author of the debut caper WALKING MONEY (a new favorite - what a cutie and he can write!), Bob Morris (BAHAMARAMA, on the top of my to-be-read pile) and the always terrific Jonathon King (SHADOW MEN).

I also learned a lot at the Discover Great New Writers panel, hosted by Jill Lamar of Barnes & Noble and featuring Ed Conlon (BLUE BLOOD), a fascinating look at the history of the NYC police force, Andrew Sean Greer (THE CONFESSIONS OF MAX TIVOLI) which has made several of the best books of the year lists for his intriguing novel of a baby born as an old man who ages backwards - I'm not explaining it well but it really sounded fabulous. And Robert Kurson, author of SHADOW DIVERS: The True Adventure of Two Americans Who Risked Everything to Solve One of the Last Mysteries of World War II, a completely entrancing story and a definite must read. If you enjoy compelling, adventurous nonfiction like PERFECT STORM or INTO THIN AIR, don't miss this one.

For pure entertainment, premier fashion designer Arnold Scaasi - WOMEN I HAVE DRESSED (AND UNDRESSED!) - told one anecdote after another, dropping names like Barbra Streisand, Eleanor Roosevelt, Jackie Kennedy, Princess Di, and the Bush first ladies. He was a charmer, and all the profits from the sales of his book are going to literacy charities.

The day ended on a more serious note with historical mystery writers David Liss (THE SPECTACLE OF CORRUPTION, THE COFFEE TRADER) and Steve Berry (THE ROMANOV PROPHECY, THE AMBER ROOM). One of the questions they were asked was if they had ever considered hiring someone to do their research and they both were emphatic in saying no. They both felt that they often found great ideas in doing research, little nuggets that a paid researcher may not mention but they are intrigued with and inspired by. All in all, a fabulous day at the beautiful Blake Library in Stuart, Florida.

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