Tag Archives: book club

Dear Committee Members – Funny Women Authors Get Recognition

dear-committee-membersIt’s not easy to find Julie Schumacher. Like the setting of her book, Dear Committee Members, winner of the James Thurber Prize for Humor, her office in the English Department at the University of Minnesota seems exiled to a warren of rooms deep in the bowels of Lind Hall on the East Bank campus. Go downstairs, through some doors, down a hall, through the door with the arrow on it and its on the right somewhere at the end of the hall. Leave a trail of breadcrumbs to find your way back.

Also, like her fictional protagonist, Jay Fitger, she’s a creative writing professor and pens scores of letters of reference for students who are applying for jobs and grad school. Dear Committee Members consists solely of such letters in which the arrogant and curmudgeonly Fitger reveals more about himself than his students.

Peppered with a hilariously snooty vocabulary (with phrases like “floculent curds”), his letters perpetually digress to lament his department’s lack of status in the University, the ongoing building repairs and the trials of having an office next to the bathroom. “…we are alternately frozen and nearly smoked, via pestilent fumes, out of our building,” says Fitger. “Between the construction dust and the radiators emitting erratic bursts of steam heat, the intrepid faculty members who have remained in their offices over the winter break are humid with sweat and dusted with ash and resemble two-legged cutlets dredged in flour.” He bemoans the lack of respect for the liberal arts and the struggle of dealing with office technology—topics dear to Schumacher’s heart. Clearly, she follows the old adage “write what you know.”

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Julie Schumacher in her University of Minnesota office.

Funny Women
Yet, when you do arrive at her office, it’s easy to see that Julie Schumacher is no Jay Fitger. She’s downright pleasant, enjoys her colleagues and proudly shows off her former students’ published novels. She swears her letters of reference never wander off, Fitger-like, into completely inappropriate discussions of sexual indiscretions around the department. Finally, unlike poor Jay, her work regularly receives recognition.

She was first woman to win the Thurber Prize in its 18-year history.The award is named for James Thurber, the author of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, the creator of numerous New Yorker magazine cover cartoons and one of the foremost American humorists of the 20th century. Previous Thurber Prize winners have included Jon Stewart, David Sedaris and Calvin Trillin.

So many women have written funny books—Tina Fey, Nora Ephron and Betty White to name a few—it’s surprising that a woman hasn’t won the Thurber prize before now. See my previous post about James Thurber. That changed last year when all three of the finalists were women including New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast for her memoir Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? and Annabelle Gurwitch for I See You Made an Effort: Compliments, Indignities, and Survival Stories from the Edge.

As the first woman to win, Schumacher recognizes the irony that her lead character is a man. “It never occurred to me to make him a female,” she says. “This character has certain expectations of power, a big ego and he’s crushed when things don’t turn out professionally and romantically. It had to be a guy.”

No Joke
Schumacher came to this place of distinction through long experience and serious practice of her craft. She grew up in Delaware, graduated from Oberlin College and from Cornell University with an MFA in fiction. She joined the University of Minnesota faculty after teaching as an adjunct at several Minnesota colleges in an effort to “keep an oar in the water” while raising her two daughters. Along the way she published books for young readers, a short story collection, and a critically acclaimed first novel, The Body of Water.

Of Dear Committee Members she says, “I didn’t start out to write a funny book. Actually, it’s a really a sad book. For Jay, things haven’t turned out like he expected, he’s besieged and disappointed. He’s a complicated character. I fell in love with him.”

Her sophisticated style of humor eschews the raunchy (no f-bombs here) in favor of writing that observes the funny in everyday life and in human nature. “The trick,” she says, “is to push the discomfort of a character’s behavior just to the edge, but not too far.” That makes it perfect for an award named after James Thurber. “Humor, he said, is “a kind of emotional chaos told about calmly and quietly in retrospect.”

Schumacher says life today requires humor. “Its a release, a catharsis.” Through her alter ego, Jay Fitger, humor also gives Schumacher a means of serious social commentary. He says, “…there are other faculty here on campus who are not disposed to see notable scholarship ignored; and let it be known that, in the darkened, blood-strewn caverns of our offices, we are hewing our textbooks and keyboards into spears.”

 

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.

Move over, Jack Kerouac. Five Books by Women to Inspire Your Next Trip

The most famous travel books have been written by men: Travels with Charley, On the Road, and Blue Highways, to name a few. But women have been “on the road,” too, and not just Route 66.

I love reading books about women’s adventures. I especially like funny stories, with plenty of travel mistakes, misadventures, mix-ups. And, I appreciate most the stories that weren’t inspired by trauma, bad boyfriends, dead or abusive husbands, or the authors’ search for new love. Eat…pray…you know what I’m talking about. Instead, I go for the stories that were simply rooted in a woman’s daring and love of adventure. Here are a few favorites.

A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains, Isabella BirdUnknown
The amazing Isabella Bird was an Englishwoman who lived a life of continual travel and was, as a result, the first woman to be elected the the Royal Geographic Society. She came to Colorado in 1873, three years before it became a state. She traveled solo through the wilderness and covered more than eight hundred miles during her journey around Colorado, which she described in letters that she wrote to her younger sister in Scotland. The letters were published in 1879 as A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains, part travelogue, part memoir, part character study of the people who settled on the frontier, especially “Mountain Jim,” a handsome trapper and desperado with whom she was fascinated. Bird was also one of the first of a genre that we now call “environmental writers.”

By Motor to the Golden Gate, Emily PostUnknown-7
Emily Post was a travel writer. Who knew? This book is a reprint of articles originally published on Colliers Magazine seven years before she became famous for her book on etiquette. In 1915, Post documented her New York-to-San Francisco road trip investigating whether it was possible to drive comfortably across the country an automobile. That was a valid question since few women of her Gilded Age background did such daring things and because she was driving on the Lincoln Highway, this country’s first transcontinental highway. 

The Wilder Life, Wendy McClurewilderlifecover-e1287450561388
Do you travel to visit places where you can pursue hobbies or a particular interest? Wendy McClure sets the bar high for anyone who travels in pursuit of a particular passion. In her case it’s Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie books and her effort to re-create “Laura World” for herself. She investigates the settings and activities that have made several generations of young readers flock to the Little House books and to the sites across the Midwest where they took place. See my article my previous post on this book and my article, Novel Destinations, for my own encounter with Laura World.

The Good Girls Guide to Getting Lost, Rachel FreidmanUnknown-8
We’ve read plenty about bad boys on the road; Jack Kerouac is the most famous.  That’s why it’s nice to learn that good girls like Rachel Friedman can take risks and open themselves to great new experiences. She goes to Ireland on a whim where she forms a friendship with a free-spirited Australian girl, a born adventurer, who spurs her on to a yearlong odyssey that takes her to Australia and South America, too, and learns to cultivate her love for adventure.

No Touch Monkey, Ayun Halliday
If you’ve ever made grievous errors in judgement while traveling, you’ll relate to Halliday’s experiences, which she doesn’t hesitate to share— from hygiene to intestinal problems to a collagen implant demonstration during Paris fashion week with her mother.Unknown-9I enjoyed her sarcastic writing style, her impressive globe-trotting, and her openness to adventures that wouldn’t even occur to me. She’s a witty observer of the details that most travelers see but forget about. For example, the title comes from a sign she saw in Bali with rules to assure “your enjoymen and safety” including: “Never grab a monkey. If a monkey gets on you, drop all your food and walk a way until it jumps off.”

 

 

How to Build a Better Book Club

S97heila DeChantal is a fellow book fanatic who lives in Brainerd, Minnesota.  She reviews books and frequently shares the antics of her book club on her blog, Book Journey.  It always looks like they’re having so much fun, I asked Sheila to share of a few of their activities, ideas for what makes a successful book club, and how to connect with books beyond the typical book club meeting.

Tell me a bit about your book club. Our book club, “The Bookies,” started in August of 2001.  I had worked with the same group of people for over 10 years and I thought it was sad that we hardly knew each other.  (Granted there were 300+ people working there and I did not want to know them all… ha ha!)  I put up a sign one day in July on the time clock with a book title – Dance Upon The Air by Nora Roberts, and invited people to join me at a local restaurant in four weeks to discuss this book.  Nobody said a word to me about it… I very well thought I would be at the restaurant alone but the day came, and two of my co-workers showed up and we discussed the book.  The next month, three came… and by the end of the year we had eight, currently we have 17 members.

When we first started the Bookies we had a few choice authors that we recycled through the group until finally we began to branch out… new authors… new genres….  Now we read all over the board, mostly fiction, but occasionally non-fiction and every October we read a classic.

What ways does your group get involved with books beyond the typical books- and-wine discussion? As the group became bigger I learned that the old ways no longer worked for us.  We were no longer at the size where casual book conversation at a restaurant table was going to work.  For one thing, it was harder to get everyone on topic. Also, in restaurants it became difficult to hear one another and I feared that our laughter or discussion might interfere with the other patrons’ experience.  We started meeting more at homes and only go to a restaurant occasionally.

It also became important to go beyond just the standard book discussion so we started cooking food that goes with the book.  At first we all brought something but, as you can imagine, it was way too much food.  Now we assign two people to main dishes, two people to sides, and one to dessert.  If we can make something that refers to the book, all the better.

Talk about getting into the spirit of a book!  The Bookies demonstrate their fashion sense and as well as their sense of humor by occasionally dressing up in era-appropriate clothing for their book club gathering.
Talk about getting into the spirit of a book! The Bookies demonstrate their fashion sense and as well as their sense of humor by occasionally dressing up in era-appropriate clothing for their book club gathering. In this case, it was in conjunction with their classic read Giants in the Earth (a prairie saga by Ole Rolvaag) and they met at an 1800s cabin owned by one of the members.

And, we dress up whenever we can.  The first time I mentioned dressing up I remember driving through town in a yellow taffeta prom dress afraid of being pulled over.  I was sure I would be the only one dressed up but when I arrived I was thrilled to see that most of us participated.  Last winter we read Garlic and Sapphires , about a food critic who dressed up differently to see how she was treated.  We also dress up frequently for the classic. When we reviewed Cleopatra, the Bookies were surprised to see their host dressed up as… well, Cleopatra.  Every July we have a Queen event where we dress up in formal wear, eat and compete for the royal throne (which is a toilet spray-painted gold and bedazzled).  You can find pictures for most of our crazy book club stuff on my blog under For Book Clubs Only.

We have had a few authors skype in and we have gone to movies together for books we have read.  Due to our busy schedules it is hard to get us all together to do anything that takes more than a few hours, although we try.

Is there an example of one trip or outing that you’ve done related to a book that you most enjoyed?  I am going to have to go with the “Wine and Words” event [a dinner and author event that raises funds for the Brainerd Public Library].  The Bookies filled two tables and had quite a presence at the event.  It was fun for us to dress up for real and not because we were imitating a book or era, although while I type this I think that could be interesting! It was fun to meet the authors.

Why do these extras? The extras have bonded us together as a group.  As the group became bigger I knew I had to do something to bring it above and beyond your average book club to hold their interest. Amazingly, it worked and it was not a one person thing; they all got into it!  We have had some very emotional reviews and by doing this, it does bring us deeper into the book.  Often I hear from people or receive comments on my blog that they are envious of our group and wish they could find such a group of book lovers.  As much as I love my group to my toes and think they are so AWESOME for what we do together – I think other groups could do this too.  Do not be afraid to add the little extras.  It may take a while to catch on but it is the extras that get people talking about the books outside of the group.  Start something new and I hope it catches like wild fire.

Any tips or examples for organizing book-related activities? Just go for it! My advice is think outside the box and pull in the extras that make the books come alive. If you can go somewhere as a group, even if it is a movie to expand the book, do it!  If you can actually visit a place mentioned in a book, don’t miss out! Last year we read a book centered around the Glensheen Mansion in Duluth, MN.  We are trying to find a time when we can all go tour it as a group. One of the girls in our group is taking a trip to Italy this fall with her husband because of what she read in an Adrianna Trigiani book.  The books make us want to fully experience the settings.

Anything else you want to add? Our group now has a wait list.  Last year we decided we were just getting too big so we capped it.  I hate doing that.  I wish we could accommodate all book lovers!  There are other book clubs in town, in fact there are many!  I think the difference is the extras.  Our group has so much fun together that others want in on that fun.

My advice?  Dig into those books.  Be The Book.

It’s Summer in My Mind: Dreaming of Cape Ann, Massachusetts

Sea breezes wafting over my bare skin, the smell of salt air, warm sun, gentle waves lapping on the shore….

In complete contrast to my last post on the Lake Superior ice caves,  I’m presently traveling to a warm weather spot, at least in my mind. I’m pondering plans for summer travel and looking fondly at my pix from last summer on Cape Ann, north of Boston, Mass.

Known as "Motif #1" to artists, this building is a Rockport icon.
Known as “Motif #1” to artists, this building is a Rockport icon.

Minnesota is beautiful in summer, but there’s just something captivating about New England that time of year and Cape Ann, known as Massachusetts’s “other cape” is a great place to experience it– in Gloucester, which is still a fishing town, and just to the north, the village of Rockport which has, for the most part, shifted from fishing to tourism.  Rockport is so darned adorable that on visits there my husband requires a periodic dose of ESPN to counteract the charm overload.

Everything in this part of the country is really old, like 1600s old, hence the charm, and the ocean has been the focus of life here for hundreds of years.  So before you go, you’ll want to break out a couple of classics of seafaring literature to enhance your appreciation of the area’s maritime traditon. They include Rudyard Unknown-3Kipling’s Captains Courageous, a story of  cod fishermen who work between Gloucester and Newfoundland;  Sebastian Junger’s The Perfect Storm Unknown-7about the ill-fated Gloucester fishermen of the Andrea Gail; and  Mark Kurlansky’s  The Last Fish Tale: The Fate of the Atlantic and Survival in Gloucester, America’s Oldest Fishing Port and Most Original Town. For more area literature, see my post about nearby Dogtown.

But put down your book.  There’s plenty to do on the water such as kayaking, stand-up paddling, and whale watching.  And, if you’re a imagesseafood lover, stroll down Bearskin Neck in Rockport to Roy Moore’s lobster shack. Eat it on the deck in back or take it out for a beach picnic.  Last year, there was a lobster surplus so we felt it our duty to help alleviate that problem. Also,  the Red Skiff gets my vote for the world’s best fish chowder.

Like any resort community, Rockport has its share of art galleries.  Some of the best are on Main Street where you’ll also find Toad Hall bookstore and another gem, The Shalin Liu Performance Center, where a giant window with a view of the harbor serves as a backdrop for the music.  As you can imagine, the area abounds with charming inns, B&Bs and homes for rental.

Cape Ann is one of the destinations in my book, Off The Beaten Page: The BeatenPage_12 4Best Trips for Lit Lovers, Book Clubs, and Girls on Getaways where you’ll find many other ideas for getaways year-round. 

Hydrangeas in Rockport.
Hydrangeas in Rockport.

Ten Literary Trips for You and Your Valentine

 

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Book + Trip = Happy Valentine

 

When it comes to Valentine’s Day, sometimes women just have to drop a few hints to help their sweeties kindle a little romance. Though well-intentioned, those boxes of chocolate you received mid-diet and the ill-fitting lingerie didn’t really cut it. If he wants to rack up the romance points this Valentine’s Day, tell him to to take a page from your book club and give you the gift of a literary adventure together: wrap up a book that you both will read with a romantic little note promising a trip related to the book. Now that football season is over, isn’t it time to do something you want to do?

 

The great thing about this is it means he’s venturing into your territory.  But, it might be a little scary for him. You’ve probably noticed that he makes a quick exit to the basement or runs off to the local sports bar whenever the book club meets at your house.  He scurries away to avoid all that talking, sharing of feelings, and general estrogen overload.  So how can he expose his sensitive literary side without having to turn in his “man card?”

 

Rest assured, these don’t have to be high-brow or girly outings. The secret is to find a book topic that interests both of you, then think of a place to go where you can experience the subject of the book in person. Books have the power to bring people together over common ideas. When you travel together, even to a destination in your own town, you also bond over new, shared experiences. Literary travel offers the best of both, with a chance for couples to talk, share ideas, and most importantly, laugh together.

 

Here are a few reading-and-travel pairings to inspire your Valentine getaway:

 

For Beach Lovers–Read: Skin TightBad Monkey or or any of Carl Hiassen’s zany 41S4vupcF7L._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_books about life in southern Florida. If you’re golf lovers, check out Hiaasen’s The Downhill Lie: A Hacker’s Return to a Ruinous Sport, his hilarious commentary on golf. Go: South Beach, Miami, Florida.

 

For Baseball Fans–Read: Bernard Malmud’s The Natural or Michael Lewis’s Moneyball Go: Take in a spring training game together.

 

For Those Interested in Native American Culture– Read: Laughing Boy: A Navaho Unknown-4Love Story by Oliver LaFarge Go: Santa Fe, New Mexico. It doesn’t get more interesting or romantic than Santa Fe.

 

For Music Lovers–Read: Cash: The Autobiography; Blues All Around Me by B.B. King; or Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon and the Journey of a Generation by Sheila Weller (or a biography of any favorite musician) Go: Mosey down to Austin, Texas.  SXSW (South by Southwest) Music, Film and Interactive Festival is March 7-16 this year, but music abounds in Austin any time of year.  Be sure to try a little two-steppin’.

 

For Wine Lovers–Read: M.F.K. Fisher, Musing on Wine and Other Libations Go: Explore the vineyards of California’s Napa and Sonoma counties. For fans of another type of grape, The Grapes of Wrath (which has absolutely nothing to do with wine), take a side trip to the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas.

 

But lit trips don’t need to be far from home.  Here are a few ideas to whip up a little romance with a book-based adventure no matter where you live.

 

For Art Lovers–Read: Dance Me to the End of Love, a “picture book for adults” that Unknown-3combines the poetry of Leonard Cohen with the art of Henri Matisse. Tres romantic. Go: Visit an art museum.  If you live in Minneapolis, the Minneapolis Institute of Art is featuring “Matisse: Masterworks from The Baltimore Museum of Art: February 23-May 18.

 

For history buffs–Read: Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell (or ask a librarian for tips on great books about your local history) Go: Visit a local historical society, battlefield or landmark

 

For Animal Lovers–Read:  Temple Grandin’s Animals Make us Human or Julie Klan’s Love at First Bark: How Saving a Dog Can Sometimes Help You Save Yourself  Go: Attend a dog or cat show, or volunteer together at an event for your local humane society or animal rescue group

 

For the Outdoors–Read: Cheryl Strayed’s memoir, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail Go: Take a hike

 

For people who love to cook–Read: My Life in France by Julia Child Go: Take a cooking class

 

Or wrap up a copy of Off The Beaten Page: The Best Trips for Lit Lovers, Book Clubs and Girls on Getaways with a note promising a trip to any of its 15 U.S. destinations.

 

Keep in mind, ladies, if he starts to feel a little panicky in this bookish territory, it’s okay for him to fortify himself with a quick dose of sports stats on his phone. Just don’t overdo it.

 

 

 

Great Books to Great Boots in Nashville, Tennessee

If you think reading is a solitary pursuit, you need to go to a book festival. 

Southern Festival of Books on the Leglislative Plaza in Nashville, Tennessee
Southern Festival of Books on the Leglislative Plaza in Nashville, Tennessee

I moseyed down south to the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville a couple of weeks ago and found myself amidst about 30,000 kindred spirits. I strolled among rows of tents full of books and publishers–like an art fair for book lovers–set up on the capitol city’s Legislative Plaza.  Program in hand, I had the difficult task of choosing among the 212 sessions, three performance stages, and 325 authors speaking and signing their books during the three-day event.

Sessions (usually about an hour) took place in Nashville’s gorgeous public library,

So many books and authors, so little time.
So many books and authors, so little time.

Legislative Plaza rooms, and in War Memorial Auditorium. Authors talked about their books, like a book club discussion.  In fact, book clubs showed up to ask questions and share their enthusiasm for books their groups had read. I especially enjoyed hearing William Landay talk about his experiences as a prosecutor and the ideas that went into writing his bestseller, Defending Jacob.  Another of my favorites, Meg Wolitzer, read from her book The Interestings and talked about how her own background influenced the story.  But, the fest offers something for lovers of every literary genre, a look at regional writers who you may not know, as well as appearances from big name writers who this year included  Bill Bryson, former Vice President Al Gore, Rick Bragg, Roy Blount, Clyde Edgerton, Chuck Palahniuk and others. It was a little slice of heaven for book enthusiasts and the throngs there offered clear proof that, though the publishing industry is changing dramatically, readers are more passionate than ever about books and relish the opportunity to connect with authors and with their fellow readers.

Encouraging the Readers (and Writers) of the Future

I was also impressed with the Festival’s efforts to boost childrens’ interest in literature.  It offered sessions for teachers, parents, and young readers from toddlers to YA.  Take for example, panels such as “Building Kids Imaginations through Picture Books: Museums, Libraries, Engineers, Mice and More” or “Zombie Tales of the Undead for Teens and Tweens,” or singer Janis Ian reading her book, The Tiny Mouse. In fact, about 60 of the featured authors this year write for children and teens. The biggest event:  kids screamed for Rick Riordan (author of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series) like he was a rock star.  Read more about the Festival in Publishers Weekly.

A Great Lit Trip

A trip to a book festival makes a great trip for a book club, a group of friends, or mother/daughter combos, especially if the festival takes place in exciting destinations such as those next on the calendar of book fairs–the Miami Book Fair International in November, The Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival in March, and the Los Angeles Time Festival of Books, in April. With all of the fun things to do in these cities–fun food, night life and beaches, they make terrific destinations, book festivals aside. To plan a trip, check out my book Off The Beaten Page: The Best Trips for Lit Lovers, Book Clubs, and Girls on Getaways. You’ll find essays, reading lists and itineraries for each of these cities. And, check out my other posts on book festivals.

Beyond the Books

Boots and music on Broadway, Nashville
Boots and music on Broadway, Nashville

If this sounds a little too book-obsessed, for a weekend in the Country Music Capitol, I want to assure you that we took advantage of the other great stuff to do in Nashville. Exhibit A, my new cowboy boots, perfect footwear to wander up and down Broadway, Nashville’s main music thoroughfare, where country tunes pour forth night and day.

You never know who you'll meet on the street in Nashville.
You never know who you’ll meet on the street in Nashville.

(For classic country music, be sure to make a stop at Roberts Western World and Tootsies Orchid Lounge.)  Right in the neighborhood, we found good eats at Merchants and The Southern Steak and Oyster.  For more Nashville ideas, take a look at this article on GoNomad.