“Festing” in Savannah: My Weekend at the 2014 Savannah Book Festival

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Even though I blog, I don’t consider myself a “real” writer–just a decorator and DIY’er who happens to write to get the point across.  But, I am most definitely a reader.  Just ask the friends who have known me since elementary school, when I would regularly read through lunch and recess.  I even remember getting in trouble for reading during class–quite frequently–by hiding a book in my desk!  As an adult, one of my favorite guilty pleasures is to stay up all night reading (thank heavens for e-readers and book lights!), and my list of must-read books is lengthy and ever-growing.

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?

At the "Meet the Authors" reception. From L to R: Melanie Benjamin, Chris, me, Bill and Carol Megathlin

At the “Meet the Authors” reception. From L to R: Melanie Benjamin, Chris, me, Bill and Carol Megathlin

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!

Jepson Center Telfair Square Savannah

The Jepson Center on Telfair Square hosted many of the SBF’s author presentations

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.

Savannah Book Festival Telfair Square

Melanie’s book signing line was long but moved quickly.  Yes, I had her sign my books, too!

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:

Neices Auditorium Jepson Center

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.

Melanie Benjamin Leopold's Ice Cream Savannah Book Festival GA

Leopold’s Ice Cream renames their flavors for the authors during the Book Festival–any excuse to eat in Savannah!

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.

With Megan McArdle, the author of The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well is the Key to Success (my husband cornered her to tell her how much he enjoys her work on Bloomberg)

With Megan McArdle, the author of The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well is the Key to Success.  My husband cornered her to tell her how much he enjoys her work on Bloomberg.com.  Bless his heart.

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!

Dinner with (L to R) Jane Pressly, Carol Megathlin, Melanie Benjamin, me, Chris, Bill Megathlin, Linda Moore, Paul Pressly (author of On the Rim of the Caribbean)

Dinner at Savannah’s Firefly Café with (L to R) Jane Pressly, Carol Megathlin, Melanie Benjamin, me, Chris, Bill Megathlin, Linda Moore, Paul Pressly (author of On the Rim of the Caribbean: Colonial Georgia and the British Atlantic World), and Ted Moore

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~

 

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Comments

  1. Sounds so neat! I have added the book to my list; I’m also a historical fiction lover…any other favorite titles you care to share? I’m in a book club and always looking for suggestions. Thanks for all the info you provide on your blog.
    ps, I’m about to start my first Chalk Paint project : )

    • Hi, Anna–Sure. If you like that same era, try The Paris Wife by Paula McLain or Loving Frank by Nancy Horan. I also really enjoy Philippa Gregory (she writes about the Tudor era) and Alison Weir. Good luck on your chalk paint project–let us know how it turns out!

  2. Oh what fun you and your hubby must have had…and I am laughing at the “Bloomberg” comment!!! Looks and sounds like a wonderful event!

  3. Kathy Robinson says

    I was visiting with Christy, her husband (my son), and their children on the weekend of the Book Festival. Unfortunately, I did not get to attend and there is only ONE reason why I did not attend and that is because of my grandchildren. I spent all or most all of my time with them (I do have to sleep). I do not live in Savannah so my time with them supersedes most anything!
    That being said, I was the recipient regarding all the activities. I also received Paul M. Pressly’s book “On the Rim of the Caribbean”, from my wonderful son and daughter-in-law! I also went in and signed up for ongoing information about the Savannah Book Festival for next year.
    I am enthralled with Savannah and when not in the area, Christy keeps me posted either through 11 Magnolia Lane or Facebook etc etc
    Was this too long??? I LOVE ALL OF YOU SO MUCH!!!

  4. I read “The Aviator’s Wife” over the weekend and had a hard time putting it down. Thanks so much for the recommendation!

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