Tuesday, April 24, 2007


I am so excited to introduce my very first guest blogger, Ron Block. Ron works for the Jacksonville Public Library but prior to that, he was my boss (poor guy - but he did survive and he's all the stronger for it!) I miss him dearly, and was supposed to go visit last weekend and attend Jacksonville's famed book fair, Much Ado About Books, but I had to cancel at the last minute. Ron was kind enough to write about his day at the book fair. Great job, Ron, and thanks!

Much Ado About Books
Prime Osborn Convention Center
Jacksonville, Florida
April 21, 2007


I had the privilege to be able to attend the 11th annual book festival in Jacksonville. Viewing the line up of authors and programs, I thought this would prove to be a great event.

As a fan and friend of Stacy Alesi, (www.bookbitch.com), I was especially excited to have her join me to show off the Jacksonville literary community and also to use her to brush closer to the authors I knew she has already befriended(Ok, I am a celebrity hound and never miss an opportunity to get near them, while still trying to look cool and unfazed).

Unfortunately, Stacy was unable to attend, so I had to put my dark glasses and hat away and attend the festival as a normal booklover.

When I arrived, I was surprised to find so many people attending. I quickly checked out the location board and planned my attack. First up was a trip to the author tables. They were laid out in a huge rectangle and I decided to just scout out the talent. There were authors signing their book in abundance! They included authors works in Chick Lit, Florida travel and history, Children’s Literature, Romance, Fiction, Thrillers and Mysteries. As I walked toward the back the names got bigger and bigger…Steve Berry, Sandra Brown, Alex Kava, Tim Dorsey, James Grippando, Joseph (Call me “Joe”) Finder, Lee Child, Luanne Rice and Brad Meltzer. If only Stacy were with me, I would have jumped behind the tables and had my picture taken with them, helped them sell books and protect them from other stalkers!

After I began to breathe again, I went to a panel discussion featuring Alex Kava, Joe Finder and David Hagberg. This seemed an odd grouping, but the moderator started things off on a light note by injecting a lot of humor into the introductions and as the time passed the authors shared a wealth of information about their research methods, writing style, backgrounds and convinced me that I should begin that long awaited novel writing career right away. This panel easily could have been the featured panel of the day. When it was time to wrap it up, neither the standing-room only audience (including Lee Child and Steve Berry-how psyched was I???) nor the panel wanted to leave the room.

My only complaint about the day thus far was the luncheon that was served in the main room ahead of the featured panel. It was a lame attempt at a chicken salad already set up on every table and a dessert. There was no telling how long it had been there-but it was easily pushed aside to focus on the main event. The stage was huge with dual rock concert sized screens on either side so even the little people in the back could get a close look. I was expecting Barry Manilow to come out!

The program began with speeches from representatives of the Library Foundation and Local Government, followed by a charming presentation to local students who had entered an won a “Young Writer’s Award” presented in several different categories.

When the Young Writer’s had received their award and had their picture taken, Pat Yack, the Editor of the Florida Times-Union, took to the podium and introduced the featured author panel of Luanne Rice, Sandra Brown and Brad Meltzer. He did a bang up job interjecting his laid back North Florida/South Georgia style to really make the panel feel at home and make the setting feel very intimate.

After a few microphone mishaps, the panel got to answer some prepared questions from Pat. These included many standards such as what clothes they wear while writing, how much time do they write each day, etc. There were later a few very pointed questions as well that I took special notice of.

Luanne Rice relayed a wonderful story about her father’s contributions during WWII and while researching it for her new book, got to feel closer than ever to her father who had died not long ago. Sandra Brown (who is even more beautiful than her book covers suggest) displays an easy laid back Texan charm sure to win her instant friends and fans told a great story about cooking chili (the only thing she knows how to cook) for famous southern author Pat Conroy-I can’t imagine how interesting and amazing that pairing must have been!

If Brad Meltzer ever wants to take on another career, he can easily slide into stand up comedy. His quick wit and self deprecating delivery made him a huge crowd pleaser. When the moderator had to step away to check on additional microphone problems, Brad decided to interview himself to fill the gap:

“Brad, how DID you get to be so handsome?”

“Well, Brad, it’s all in the genes.”

The crowd of over 600 ate it up. He then went on to describe how his largest demographic sales turn out to be in Boca Raton, Florida - his mother. He credits her with single handedly getting him on the map down there and being his biggest fan. How else could someone edge out sales in huge cities like New York and Los Angeles!

Following the panel, the authors signed copies of their books and took a lot of time talking to attendees. The afternoon was full of writing workshops which generated a lot of positive feedback and buzz for next year, but I could not go. I was in greater need of a Bombay Sapphire Martini…

All in all, this event has gotten better and better each year. The caliber of authors has steadily grown as well as overall attendance. At this rate Much Ado About Books will soon sit alongside it’s bigger siblings in New York and Miami, but with a more laidback style.

Great Job, Jacksonville Public Library Foundation!

Ron Block

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