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October 9, 2008

Baltimore Book Festival

Posted by carol
Last weekend Heather Johnson attended the Baltimore Book Festival and reports on her experiences there. To read more of Heather's commentary and to view video and pictures of the events, visit her blog, Age 30+...A Lifetime of Books.

'Tis the season for literary festivals, which would make a fun outing to attend with your reading group. Click here for a list of book festivals across the country, and check with your state arts and humanities council to find out about others in your area.

Fall seems to be the season for book festivals across the country. I'm lucky enough to live just 20 minutes from Baltimore, a city that dedicates an entire weekend to its book festival. Last year we had beautiful weather all weekend...this year, not so much. But despite the rain, people still turned out to meet the 200+ authors who were scheduled to appear.

The festival began on Friday evening with Ladies Night Out and Guys Night at the Grill. A gal from my book club came with me to the ladies event and we had a blast. Free wine and hors d'oeuvres were served while we heard from two consecutive author panels. Plus, the event was held inside an art museum so we felt quite ritzy.

The first panel included three authors: Kathleen McCleary (House and Home), Megan McCafferty (the Jessica Darling series) and Norma Jarrett (The Sunday Brunch books). I read and reviewed Kathleen's book on my blog, Age 30+...A Lifetime of Books, so I was really there to meet her. After the panel I had a chance to speak with her, and she even signed my book for me. The second panel featured Andrea Lavinthal and Jessica Rozler, co-authors of Friend or Frenemy?: A Guide to the Friends You Need and the Ones You Don't. That was an entertaining talk to say the least! The guys event was outside and involved a grill and a cookbook author; that's all I know about that.

Saturday's events began at 11 a.m. and didn't end until late in the evening, in spite of the drenching rain. There were author talks, panels on how to get your book published, and a wide variety of other bookish topics. My husband, Chris, and I attended cooking demonstrations by chefs and cookbook authors such as Martin Yan (his new cookbook is Martin Yan's China) and the Hearty Boys (their new cookbook is Talk with Your Mouth Full). Chris loves to cook and always buys cookbooks at the book festival because the authors are right there to sign them.

In between cooking demos I caught part of a talk by Susan Fraser King in which she read from her new book, Lady MacBeth. The most interesting part to me was when she explained the research she did, as I'm a stickler for facts in historical novels.

Sunday dawned bright and sunny --- a huge change from the rest of the weekend. Good for me, since my panel was set for 11 a.m.! I spoke along with two editors from The Baltimore Sun newspaper on the decline of book reviews in printed media and the rise of book blogs. There were lots of other events on Sunday, but by this time my crazy weekend was catching up with me and I was ready to head home.

Do you know the one thing missing from this wonderful weekend? Book clubs! There were no panels on how to start or improve a book club --- can you believe that? I'll have to talk to someone about that for next year's festival.

Are you planning to attend a book festival in your neck of the woods this year? Or maybe you have already? I'd love to hear about your experiences!

---Heather Johnson