Can you imagine how excited I was when a new friend in Savannah asked me to host one of the visiting authors at the 2014 Savannah Book Festival?
An author and tireless philanthropist herself, Carol Megathlin thought I’d be a good fit to host author Melanie Benjamin. Melanie’s most recent novel, the New York Times bestseller The Aviator’s Wife, is about Anne Morrow and Charles Lindbergh. Now, my dear husband is no Charles Lindbergh (he’s actually much handsomer), but he is an aviator; so it was a fun twist. And since my favorite genre is historical fiction, I had already read–and loved–The Aviator’s Wife when it was released last year. It took me approximately 0.23 seconds to say “Yes!” when Carol asked. Actually, I think I interrupted her to answer!
My “job” was to be Melanie’s contact in Savannah, transport her to Book Festival engagements, and ensure that the “Hostess City” lived up to its name. No, she didn’t stay with us at our house–the authors stay at wonderful boutique hotels downtown (like the beautiful Presidents’ Quarters Inn) so they can be close to the Book Festival venues and all the activity of historic Savannah. And remember, we are drowning in dogs, dog hair, cats, cat hair, and kids (kid hair?!) here, so we definitely would have given her a weekend to remember, but probably not in a good way.
The Savannah Book Festival is in its seventh year and draws an impressive lineup of bestselling, emerging, and local authors–over forty this year alone. Savannahians have a deep affinity for all things cultural and artistic, and we love our festivals. This was the best of both worlds. The downtown area was as busy as I’ve seen it in months, so clearly we were drawing in the crowds.
While the opening, keynote, and closing addresses (given this year by Scott Turow, Mitch Albom, and Eben Alexander, respectively) are ticketed events, the other activities are free and open to the public. Saturday was an embarrassment of riches, with each author giving a presentation and Q&A session. Melanie, not surprisingly, filled the auditorium to capacity during her Saturday afternoon session, and then they had to turn them away at the door:
I am NOT gloating (well, maybe a little) when I say that I was in the front row to hear her talk, but I’m so glad I had that opportunity. She was excellent–and funny. Don’t you love it when a speaker makes you laugh?
I think it must be very tough to mix the two sides of writing. When you’re writing a book, you’re in front of your computer and inside your own head, and then when you’re on tour, you have to be an extroverted public speaker and all-around gregarious advocate for your brainchild. The entire process sounds like such hard work, plus there are often years of writing books that never get to see the light of day. It certainly is a calling.
And thank you, Melanie, for being so gracious when I led you to a fire exit and then up three floors to get you from the auditorium to your book signing…it will be our secret.
As an aside, although I had already read The Aviator’s Wife prior to the festival, when I learned I’d be with Melanie throughout the weekend I read one of her earlier books, Alice I Have Been, and I’m currently reading The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb: A Novel. Alice was absolutely riveting–and haunting. It got me through the flu a few weeks ago when I was too tired to leave the couch, and I just loved it. Be sure to put it on your reading list if you haven’t read it already.
I so enjoyed the opportunity to learn a bit about what goes on behind the scenes in the publishing world, and it was absolutely fascinating. Melanie was gracious enough to answer my questions, even though they were probably all ones that she’s heard 10,000 times before.
Oh, and the story behind all the signs that say “We ♥ you, Jayne Anne” is that Carol and Bill were supposed to host author Jayne Anne Phillips (Quiet Dell) for the weekend, but she was trapped by snow in New Jersey and unable to make it to the festival. Carol took photos throughout the weekend and sent them to Jayne Anne so she would know that she was sorely missed.
Those of you who have been reading the blog for awhile will NOT be surprised to learn that I went to a very lovely dinner–with some venerable and august personages in attendance–with spray paint under my fingernails. Sigh. Some things never change!
If you have any intention of visiting Savannah next year, you should definitely come on Book Festival weekend. It’s a must for those of us who read during class, or after lights-out, while standing in line, or at stoplights…
Thanks for stopping by~