Category Archives: Ideas for Book Clubs

Twin Cities Book Festival

I’m gearing up for the Twin Cities Book Festival on October 17, 10-5 at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds.  Free admission.book fest

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New Book Ideas from the Deep Valley Book Festival

One of my favorite authors, Faith Sullivan, and her husband Dan.
One of my favorite authors, Faith Sullivan, and her husband Dan (notice the book she just purchased).  Keep an eye out for her new book Goodnight, Mr. Wodehouse, coming out in fall.

Book festivals make great entertainment for readers.  You get to talk to authors, check out new books and strike up conversations with fellow book lovers.  I’ve found that there are little book festivals going on all the time, in addition to the big fests, such as the National Book Festival in Washington D.C. or the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville.

I spent much of yesterday at the Deep Valley Book Festival in Mankato, Minnesota which is part of the Betsy-Tacy Deep Valley Homecoming. I sold a truckload of books—-okay about ten and I swapped one of those with another author for her book.  However, I met a lot of local authors working on fascinating topics (fiction and non-fiction), swapped book promotion ideas, and gained lots of inspiration.  Best of all, I met one of my favorite local writers, Faith Sullivan, a generous, delightful person and great writer who enthusiastically purchased a copy of my book, Off The Beaten Page.  Keep an eye out for her new book, Goodnight, Mr. Wodehouse, coming out this fall from Milkweed Press.

I met a few other authors whose books I have to share with you.  Odds are, if you’re not too far away, they’d be happy to stop by your book group to talk about their book.  First on my list to read is Nancy Koester’s Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Spiritual Life.

Nancy Koester's book, Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Spiritual Life won the 2015 Minnesota Book Award.
Nancy Koester’s book, Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Spiritual Life won the 2015 Minnesota Book Award.

Allen Eskens‘s debut novel, The Life We Bury, is a story of suspense involving a University of Minnesota student, set against the harsh winter of Minnesota.  I’ll be settling in for that one this winter.

Allen Eskens's  and his debut novel, The Things We Bury
Allen Eskens’s and his debut novel, The Life We Bury

I also met the bubbly Anne B. Kerr, author of Fujiyama Trays and Oshibori Towels, a memoir of her experiences as a Northwest Orient Airlines stewardess in the 1950s.  I pickup of a copy to give to my mother-in-law who was also a flight attendant in that era.

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Anne B. Kerr (right) tells the tales of her days as a Northwest Airlines flight attendant in the 1950s.

And finally, if you’re a fan of young adult paranormal romance, a very specific category,  check out Unclaimed by Laurie Wentzel.  Laurie shared book promotion tips and also explained that my college dating life didn’t qualify as paranormal.

Laurie Wetzel
Laurie Wetzel is the author of the Unclaimed series of young adult novels.

Google Field Trip Now Features Travel Content From Off The Beaten Page Travel

This is what the information looks like the information from this blog looks like on the Google Field Trip app
This is what the information looks like the information from this blog looks like on the Google Field Trip app on your phone.

Everyone wants to get more out of their vacation dollar and their precious vacation time. And, more than ever, travelers are seeking meaningful experiences that elevate their vacations above the humdrum and typical. That’s why I’m delighted that people who designed Google Field Trip, an app for your smart phone, have chosen offthebeatenpagetravel.com as one of Field Trip’s content providers.

If you follow this blog or have read my book, Off The Beaten Page: The Best Trips for Lit Lovers, Book Clubs and Girls on Getaways, you know the goal is to bring travel and literature together in a way that enrichs both experiences. Now, as you travel you can obtain “hyper-local” information from the  offthebeatenpagetravel.com blog that applies to various points of interest wherever you happen to be on your trip.

Field Trip runs in the background on your smart phone, grabs your location (via cell tower, Wi-Fi or GPS) and shows you nearby points of interest. When you get close to something significant, it pops up a card with details about the location. Or, you can use the map to navigate to a specific location you’re planning to go and view cards that describe everything there from history to restaurants to bargains in local shops. Cards are grouped into categories and offthebeatenpagetravel.com information appears under “Cool and Unique.” If you have a headset or bluetooth connected, it can even read the information to you, which Slate writer Seth Stevenson said is like “having a museum audio guide for the entire world.”

So, for example, if you’re in Salem, Massachusetts, you’ll see a card linked to this blog with information about The House of Seven Gables, made famous by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Or, in Santa Monica, California, you can learn about how the famous noir crime writer Raymond Chandler gained inspiration in that town and how the famous pier is featured in his work.

I find myself more and more reliant on GPS and Google Maps as I travel because the technology makes it so much easier to find my way around new places, especially while I’m driving. Check out the Field Trip app to find another new way to make your travel easier and more interesting.

Check out the Field Trip video. You’ll want to take off.

Reading and Travel “Off The Beaten Page” at Inkslingers

SONY DSCI’m looking forward to Saturday…..

Saturday, November 15, 1:30 p.m.
“Inkslingers” writers series at Shakopee Public Library
235 Lewis St. S.
Shakopee, MN. 55379
952-233-9590

I’ll talk about my book, Off the Beaten Page: The Best Trips for Lit Lovers, Book Clubs and Girls on Getaways and a few of the “how-tos” of literary travel (especially with groups) and a bit about writing and blogging.

Finding “Gone Girl” in Cape Girardeau, Missouri

The bar, the courthouse, the house on the Mississippi river where “I could step right in the sucker, an easy three-foot drop, and be on my way to Tennessee.”  For authors such as Gillian Flynn in her huge fiction bestseller Gone Girl, the setting of a novel plays as crucial a role as the characters themselves.  It creates atmosphere, foreshadows what is to come, and sets the pace.  But when director David Fincher and his location scouts set out to make a movie based on the novel, it was a challenge to find real world places to match those of Flynn’s imagination. They found them in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.

The movie, released today, has received some pretty great reviews. So, between the book and the movie, I’m betting that plenty of Gone Girl fans will be looking for her in Cape Girardeau, a lovely river town in southeast Missouri, where the movie was filmed.

In case you’ve missed it all, in Gone Girl, Amy Dunne (played by imgresRosamund Pike) disappears from the North Carthage, Missouri, home she shares with her philandering husband Nick (Ben Affleck) on their fifth anniversary, leading him to be investigated for her (maybe) murder. “If there are married couples here, maybe you should change seats” rather than sit together, said Ann Tenenbaum, the chairman of the Film Society of Lincoln Center, when the film premiered in New York. “Abraham Lincoln said, ‘Marriage is neither heaven nor hell, it is simply purgatory.’ David Fincher will personally escort us there.” As the story progresses, we learn that this is one crazy couple and we find that the narrator isn’t necessarily giving us the straight story. (To see a fun discussion among readers of the book, see Book Journey‘s spoiler page.) The realistic setting adds to the tension.

"Gone Girl" director David Fincher said that the view from the Common Pleas Courthouse stairs overlooking the river is what sold him on Cape Girardeau, Missouri, as North Carthage in his movie.
“Gone Girl” director David Fincher said that the view from the Common Pleas Courthouse stairs overlooking the river is what sold him on Cape Girardeau, Missouri, as North Carthage in his movie.

Stacy Dohogne Lane of the Cape Girardeau Convention and Visitors Bureau told me, “North Carthage doesn’t actually exist, though there is a Carthage, Missouri.  The Mississippi River plays such a big part in the book that they wanted to capture a true Missouri river town. Steve Mapel, the film’s location scout, came to Cape Girardeau in the Spring of 2013 and spent quite a bit of time here doing a very intensive search for specific locations.  We had such a good time sitting around our conference table with Steve…he’d say ‘I’m looking for a place that has x, y and z’ and we’d all brainstorm a variety of places that fit within those parameters.”  David Fincher has said that the view from the Common Pleas Courthouse stairs overlooking the river is what sold him on Cape Girardeau as North Carthage.  Gillian Flynn later told Fincher that Cape Girardeau was the place she had in mind while she was writing the book, and he joked in an article that he wish she’d told him that sooner and saved him some time.

Alas, Gone Girl fans probably won’t find Ben Affleck or Rosmund Pike on the streets of Cape Girardeau but the river town makes a great weekend getaway (about two hours from St. Louis). The town offers a terrific map of Gone Girl sites that you can download for a driving tour.  It’s a lovely way to see the area even if you don’t care about Nick and Amy. Beyond Cape Girardeau’s movie role as North Carthage, you’ll find intriguing historic and outdoor sites, antiques and shopping, and it makes a great spot for a girls getaway weekend with wineries, spas and more.

Be a Rebel – Read Banned Books (They’re More Interesting)

I used to love to sneak into the adult section of the library when I

My Banned Books bracelet.
My Banned Books bracelet.

was in grade school.  I lived in a small Michigan town with a very loving yet stern librarian who I remember vividly, Miss Lillian Crawford.  She knew my my grandparents, my parents, and probably most of the parents of children who came to the library.  My mom dropped me off on Saturdays while she got her hair done, making the library both a source of child care and intellectual stimulation.

Occasionally I drifted from the sections that Miss Crawford deemed appropriate for my young mind into the adult fiction. Ohh, la, la–swearing, sex, and ideas I didn’t understand. Actually, I probably didn’t understand the sex, either. Miss Crawford ratted me out to my mother.  I was a super good girl and Mom, fortunately, thought it was amusing that I went astray in such a way. What  a rebel!

Forgive me, Miss Crawford

During this week’s discussion and celebration of banned books, I have to say both Mrs. Crawford and my mom were right.  There’s nothing wrong with guiding young people in their reading, getting them to read in the first place, and encouraging age-appropriate, quality literature. So, I have some sympathy for parents who worry about the books their children are exposed to in school. But, though it was probably benign neglect rather than liberal thinking, I’d err on my mother’s more permissive side every time. What is reading about if not about challenging old ideas, learning about other people, the wider world, and about ourselves?

One the the most frequently banned authors currently is Sherman 28c4d1f2e8d048f702c3dbf0990aca8cAlexie.  He grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Wellpinit, Washington.  His stories about life on the reservation are often far from the mainstream portrayal of Native Americans and consequently his book The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is regularly at the top of the most challenged list.  He says on his website, “It means I’m scaring the right people.  Hooray! I keep hoping somebody will organize a national boycott against me.”

Banning books is all about fear.  Fear of ideas that challenge our religious and world view.  Fear of children learning about sex and fear of people whose skin color is different.  In an article on Huffington Post, Bonnie Stiles, mother of four students in Meridian, Idaho schools where Alexie’s book was recently banned, said she pushed for its removal from the high school curriculum after reading the book and counting 133 profane or offensive words in its 230 pages. Really, if that’s your worry, you need to ban your children from riding the school bus where that language is freely shared.

Forgive me Mrs. Crawford! But, friends, I encourage you to be a rebel and let your freak flag fly.  Read those banned books yourself and, rather than counting swear words, discuss the books with your children. Encourage your book club to join you in reading banned books.  Take a look at the ideas and recommendations some of my favorite books bloggers are offering this week: Sheila at Book Journey, Epic Reads, and Banned Books Club.  You’ll also find lists of current and classic banned books  and this list of banned classics from the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom.

Finally, for inspiration, listen to what Bill Moyers said a couple of years ago.