I can’t believe it’s been two weeks already since our grand and exciting trip to Manchester, VT to participate in the annual Booktopia program. An offshoot of the great “Books on the Nightstand” blog by Ann Kingman and Michael Kindness, like-minded and passionate readers gather with noted authors and talk books, reading, and writing (and a whole bunch of other cool stuff). It all began with an amazing drive through the Green Mountains, reservations at an almost scary motel that Wendy muttered something like Bates Motel under her breath, and culminating in literary trivia night which was incredibly difficult albeit great fun. This was just Thursday.
We survived night one and went to our first of many sessions in which we met amazing authors who were willing to share everything from the writing process to editor and publishing angst. I felt like I was among the privileged few who had landed in book heaven. Many of the sessions were held at the famous Northshire Bookstore which is a vibrant independent which has the richest selection of books and gifts imaginable. The nooks and crannies of genres and subjects are so appealing that you are hard pressed to not spend a ton of money on something wonderful.
Some of my personal highlights were meeting a pantheon of greats. Matthew Dicks had an amazing take on writing. I was truly inspired and his book “Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend” will be my summer reading choice for my students and my book group choice for July. I Listened to Paula McLean talk about her journey of research and reading the letters from Ernest Hemingway to his first wife Hadley that would evolve into the book “The Paris Wife.” She made you fall in love with both of them and yearn to revisit his novels. What a smoky sultry time Hadley and Ernest lived and reading about them was almost like a drug. I met Will Schwalbe author of “The End ofYour Life Book Club” at one of the talks and I had a chance to speak one-on-one about what his wonderful book meant to me. Having lost my grandmother to pancreatic cancer, I especially appreciated his tender memoir of the time spent with his mother while she battled that same type of cancer. But I was happy to tell him how his book was so much more to me, and that family and a passion for reading, sharing, and ideas just reached my soul. I listened to Chris Pavone speak about writing “The Expats.” He is a handsome charming man who spoke in an endearing way about moving his own family to Europe and living a little bit like the characters that he wrote about. Being a huge fan of the novel it was fascinating to listen to his stories about being a stay-at-home dad in a foreign country among expats and deciding to write that book that he always wanted to write. For the people who went to Booktopia and heard him speak about raising his boys while writing a spy novel will forever remember the words “more guns less poop.” Or the other way around, but you get the point and even more funny for those of us that were there. We had the chance to meet Sara J. Henry and hear about her recent book “A Cold and Lonely Place,” book two in the Troy Chance saga in a panel discussion with Elizabeth Kelly, author of the upcoming “The Last Summer of the Camperdowns.” Two authors with a real divergent point of view made for a lively discussion on the significant of place and setting in a novel. But their creative clash only made the session more fun and a point and counter point on the topic endearing and often very funny. Chatting with Sara after meeting at last year’s Booktopia was a thrill to renew that acquaintance and see her blossom among her awards and acclaim.
Later in the day, I had signed up for a talk by author SteveYarbrough, who I will admit that I had neither read his books nor was I familiar with him before arriving in VT. Born in Mississippi, Mr. Yarbrough balked at being labeled a ‘southern writer’ exclusively admitting that he had not actually lived in the south for over 25 years. With soft spoken southern accent and almost shy speaking style, I was drawn easily into his world. His body of work and life experiences reflected in those works was captivating. I hung on every word and came out of the book store with three of his books and I can’t wait to dive into them. Now a professor at Emerson, I envy the young college student with emerging talents that will get to be mentored by such a gifted author.
As the weekend wrapped and just not enough time to meet everyone, I was able to hear brief talks from Nichole Bernier, whose book “The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D.” I had read and loved. The book was amazing and the perfect book club choice. Bernier is friendly and just a great person to know. Thanks for being willing to friend me on FB. That was a thrill. Listening to Amy Brill speak about her new book “The Movement of Stars,” had me riveted to the process that led to the writing of the story and my immediate march back into the store to buy her book so I could get it signed. It’s one of the lead picks at Oprah reads page and I was at the place where they went on sale first. One author that totally got by me was Jon Clinch. I did not get to meet you Mr. Clinch but I look forward to checking out your body of work. He is a great and funny storyteller.
It was amazing to talk about books and reading in such a pure literary and happy grouping. There was no “my Kindle is better than your Nook...” There was a lot and I mean a lot of personal as well as social networking. There was only murmuring about the future of reading and books and all of us concur that books in all forms aren't going anywhere. We were a group of all ages, backgrounds, occupations, and walks of life. We came from far and wide with a common purpose to share our love of reading and ideas. I am blessed to have renewed acquaintances from the previous year and added a whole bunch of new friends. Our bonds are growing tighter as we follow each other on Goodreads and FB and like what each other are up to and sending personal messages along the way.
Special thanks to Michael and Ann for keeping this going and providing such an incredible experience. I know behind the scenes it’s a noble task to get the authors and all of us coordinated. You both deserve a raise! Already we have mental plans for our trip in 2014 and yearn for the step out of New England to one of the regional sites. Who know what is in the cards for us. But, all I can say is that this experience was so huge for me and so reaffirmed a lifelong passion for reading that I won’t soon forget. So a note to my patient husband Doug, those book piles aren’t going away anytime soon. All the best!