Pulitzer winner, ‘Fancy Nancy,’ local authors on roster for first Morristown bookfest

Featured authors at the Morristown Festival of Books 2014
Some of the featured authors at the 2014 Morristown Festival of Books.


The first Morristown Festival of Books will include a freshly minted Pulitzer Prize winner, the best-selling author of the Fancy Nancy  children’s series and a human rights activist.

Visitors also can savor some home-grown talent — a graduate of Morristown High School and residents of Morristown and Chatham are among 20 authors to be featured on Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014.

Toms River by Dan Fagin“The Morristown area is a diverse community. We believe we have assembled a slate of authors that will offer something for everyone in our community,” Betsy Hollo, co-chair of the festival author committee, said in a statement this week.

The list includes 2014 Pulitzer Prize winner Dan Fagin, a former Newsday reporter whose book Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation  is a “complex tale of powerful industry, local politics, water rights, epidemiology, public health and cancer in a gripping, page-turning environmental thriller,” according to NPR.

Jane O’Connor is a rock star with the under-7 set — and the Kardashians — thanks to her New York Times best-selling Fancy Nancy picture-book series. She is coming to Morristown, and so is Ishmael Beah, author of the 2007 best-seller, A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier. 

'Fancy Nancy' author Jan O'Connor is coming to the first Morristown Festival of Books, in September 2014.Set in his native Sierra Leone, Beah’s debut novel, Radiance of Tomorrow, describes two teachers who return after the civil war to rebuild their village and protect it from a foreign mining company.

They join a roster led by William D. Cohan, author of The Price of Silence, an investigation of the Duke University lacrosse scandal. He will deliver the keynote speech at the Mayo Performing Arts Center on Friday, Sept. 26. Admission is $20; all other talks are free.

Also showcased: Flanders author Lisa Colozza Cocca, whose first novel, Providence, has been chosen for a campaign called One Community, One Book. People from across Morris County are invited to read this tale, about a runaway teen who finds an abandoned baby, and then join a discussion at the festival.


Venues include St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, the parish house at the Presbyterian Church in Morristown, the Morristown & Township Library and the Mayo Center Starlight Room. The Vail Mansion lawn will sprout a book-signing tent.

Michael Aaron Rockland signs a copy of his memoir. Marie Pfeifer photo
Morristown author Michael Aaron Rockland, shown in 2012, will speak at the first Morristown Festival of Books in September 2014.  Marie Pfeifer photo

These haunts should be familiar for MHS graduate Allyson Hobbs, a Stanford history professor and author of A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life.  

Likewise for Michael Aaron Rockland of Morristown. The Rutgers professor’s 14th book, Navy Crazy, is a memoir of his days as a medic in a psychiatric ward at a U.S. Naval base in Japan.

His book Looking for America on the New Jersey Turnpike was named by the state library as one of the 10 best books ever written about New Jersey.

Lisa Colozza Cocca, author of 'Providence,' signs a copy at Harding's Kemmerer Library. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Lisa Colozza Cocca, author of ‘Providence,’ signs a copy at Harding’s Kemmerer Library in June 2014. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Marta McDowell, author of Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life: The Plants and Places That Inspired the Classic Children’s Tales won’t have to travel far, either.

She lives and gardens in Chatham and teaches landscape history and preservation at Drew University in Madison. “I am, therefore, I dig,” is how her husband describes her.

The lineup also includes NPR contributor Martha Woodruff  (Small Blessings), former Comedy Central comic Emmy Laybourne (Monument 14 trilogy) and Common Good Chairman Philip K. Howard (The Rule of Nobody: Saving America from Dead Laws and Broken Government).

The Daily Show‘s  Jon Stewart wryly praised Howard as “an eminently reasonable, articulate advocate for commonsense solutions. No wonder nobody listens to him.”



  • Kathy Brennan and Caroline Campion (Keepers: Two Home Cooks Share Their Tried-and-True Weeknight Recipes and the Secrets to Happiness in the Kitchen)
  • William D. Cohan (The Price of Silence: The Duke Lacrosse Scandal, the Power of the Elite, and the Corruption of Our Great Universities)
  • Dan Fagin (Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation, winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction)
  • Allyson Hobbs (A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life)
  • Philip K. Howard (The Rule of Nobody: Saving America from Dead Laws and Broken Government)
  • Marta McDowell (Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life: The Plants and Places That Inspired the Classic Children’s Tales)
  • Michael Aaron Rockland (Navy Crazy; An American Diplomat in Franco Spain)

Contemporary fiction:

  • Ishmael Beah (Radiance of Tomorrow)
  • Dorothea Benton Frank (The Hurricane Sisters)
  • Miranda Beverly-Whittemore (Bittersweet)
  • Breena Clarke (Angels Make Their Hope Here)
  • Julia Fierro (Cutting Teeth)
  • Caroline Leavitt (Is This Tomorrow)
  • Celeste Ng (Everything I Never Told You)
  • Martha Woodroof (Small Blessings)

Childrens literature:

  • Nancy Krulik (Featuring Burp or Treat, Smell My Feet from the George Brown, Class Clown series, and Go Fetch from the Magic Bone series)
  • Jane OConnor (The Fancy Nancy series, with featured title Fancy Nancy and the Wedding of the Century)

Young Adult:

  • Lisa Colozza Cocca (Providence, featured title of the “One Community, One Book” initiative)
  • Elizabeth Eulberg (Better Off Friends)
  • Emmy Laybourne (Monument 14: Savage Drift)
  • Kieran Scott (Only Everything)



Morgan Stanley Private Wealth Management is sponsoring William D. Cohan’s talk. Saturday’s free events will be presented by the Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation and Towne Toyota and Hyundai.

morristown festival of books logoAuthors only will sign books purchased from The Bookworm in Bernardsville or [words] Bookstore of Maplewood, independent bookstore partners of the festival. They are donating a portion of these sales to the festival.

Chairwoman Linda Hellstrom patterned the event after the Savannah Book Festival.

I have been literally overwhelmed by the outpouring of enthusiasm and support for the [Morristown] festival,” Hellstrom said in the statement.

Among the enthusiastic supporters is PBS commentator Bill Moyers, who has a home in nearby Somerset County.

PBS commentator Bill Moyers and his wife, Judith Davidson Moyers, president of Public Affairs Television, at the Bernardsville Library. Photo by Marie Pfeifer
PBS commentator Bill Moyers with his wife, Judith Davidson Moyers, president of Public Affairs Television, at the Bernardsville Library. Photo by Marie Pfeifer

While he is a fan of the internet, Moyers asserted that “a book remains the greatest delight and I think always will be, for it is through a book that others truly talk to us, share their most precious thoughts and knowledge, and pour their souls into ours.

“Most of all,” Moyers continued in his statement, “books resemble us in their precarious hold on life, as the novelist Joseph Conrad once wrote.  ‘Alone with a book, we are never more alive — never more conscious of the thoughts, ambitions, secrets, illusions, hopes, dreams and fears of human experience.’

“A Festival of Books? You bet!  So bring it on, Morristown: You are opening us to the world of ideas and inviting us to celebrate life.”






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