Alessia Guida, age 6 1/2, had just met her hero, Fancy Nancy creator Jane O’Connor. What was that like?
“Exquisite!” she said, with a smile as big as the Vail Mansion lawn.
That pretty much sums up the first Morristown of Festival of Books.
Twenty-one authors spoke at five venues, and sold and autographed their books from a tent outside the Vail on a radiantly sunny Saturday.
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There were talks about serial killers (Charles Graeber, The Good Nurse), and literary gardening (Marta McDowell, Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life). Morristown High graduate Allyson Hobbs’ talk about racial “passing,” A Chosen Exile, got a standing ovation.
A packed house at the Morristown & Township Library heard writers’ tips on cracking into the teen fiction market. Ishmael Beah (Radiance of Tomorrow and A Long Way Gone, Memoirs of a Boy Soldier) spoke of his frightful youth in war-torn Sierra Leone.
Martha Woodroof, an NPR correspondent, talked about her first novel, Small Blessings, and enjoyed being on the receiving end of the questions for a change.
“It was an engaged bunch of people that wanted to talk about books in general, and mine in particular,” she said.
The only things missing, by design, were electronic books. Daniella Carter, a 16-year-old volunteer from Roxbury, conceded that most of her friends read e-books. She’s more old-school.
“I like the hardcover actual book in my hands,” she said. “I like the smell of new books.”
PBS commentator Bill Moyers, who delivered an eloquent talk peppered with Morristown history over lunch with the authors, at the posh new Jockey Hollow Bar & Kitchen, said there is something magical about words on paper.
“To transfer something from one mind to another, that doesn’t happen when you read online,” he said. “The book has a future. What that future is, I don’t know.”
The festival kicked off on Friday night at the Mayo Performing Arts Center with a provocative talk by William Cohan, whose best-seller, The Price of Silence, examines the 2006 Duke lacrosse scandal.
The Duke alumnus spent much of the evening attacking the attackers of his book. He was especially critical of Amazon.com, contending the online giant allowed instant criticisms from people who could not possibly have had time to read the 600-pages they were lambasting.
Enthusiastic crowds, more than 100 volunteers and a handful of sponsors made the festival successful enough that another one will follow next year, said festival Chair Linda Hellstrom, who cooked up the original idea during a visit to a book festival in Savannah, Ga.
“I enjoyed working every minute of it,” Hellstrom said of Morristown’s inaugural book fest.
“It was unbelievably long hours. But the people working on this festival are probably the most talented group of people I have seen come together in my 43 years of living in Morristown.”
Stay tuned for more…