Category Archives: Authors

Louise Penny in Pittsburgh


lousie penny pittsburgh

Louise Penny is one of my favorite authors and my mom and I were thrilled to see her speak in Pittsburgh last week. She was there as part of Authors on Tour, a collaborative effort between the Pittsburgh Arts and Lectures series and the Carnegie Library.

Penny spoke for about 40 minutes and then did a question and answer session. She was funny and charming and really has a great stage presence. She talked about what made her want to write and about how long it took to put away her fear and just do it. And then the job of actually finishing the book and getting it published. She also mentioned that the “kernel” of each is a poem that she keeps on a sticky at her writing area. I haven’t read The Nature of the Beast, her newest, yet, but the poem that goes along with it is from Yeats: “And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, / Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”

louise penny group

Her Gamache mysteries are wonderful, and like she said, they’re not really about murder. She listed a whole batch of things they are about, but I didn’t get out my notebook and I’m not very quick at taking notes on my phone. Some of those I caught were friendship, fear, sorrow, bravery, redemption. She stressed the duality present in her stories; good and evil, people’s true selves and what they show the world, the beauty of nature and the fact that it can kill you.

We got a signed copy of the book with the ticket and for those who waited in the signing line after the talk, she personalized each one. She also spent a minute talking to every single person. Really, really an enjoyable evening.

nature of the beast

Interestingly, some of Ruth Zardo’s poems are actually by Margaret Atwood, most from Morning in the Burned House, which I need to get a copy of. Then, I need to figure out a way to get the evening off to see Atwood, who is coming to Pittsburgh next month.

Erik Larson Lecture


Erik Larson

Last night my mom and I went to a “Literary Evening” at the Carnegie Music Hall in Pittsburgh. It was the first of the 2012-13 Literary Evening Monday Night Lecture Series and the speaker was Erik Larson, one of my favorite authors. I absolutely loved his The Devil in the White City and enjoyed Thunderstruck, so I was so happy to get to see him speak. He was intelligent and funny. He talked about how he comes up with book ideas and his research process. He gave a bit of information for writers – read voraciously and promiscuously – and mentioned that two of his books are currently, hopefully, on the way to becoming movies.

This is the first of these Literary Evenings I’ve been to, and I have to admit I was suprised by how packed the hall was. It has a seating capacity of 1,950 and it was probably 95% filled. We were at the back of the second balcony, and all I had was my phone, so forgive the poor quality photo. The format for the evening was good. First he gave his lecture then it was opened to questions from the audience. After that, Larson was available in the foyer to sign books, but we left because the hour drive home on a school night  makes it a late evening. It was interesting to that at the begining of the Q and A portion, Larson asked the audience how many of us read solely on e-readers, solely traditional books, or a combination. I would say a large majority said they only read paperbacks or hardbacks, and very few, if any, said they only use e-readers.

Larson is currently promoting his new book, In the Garden of Beasts. I just started reading it, but here’s the blurb:

The time is 1933, the place, Berlin, when William E. Dodd becomes America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s Germany in a year that proved to be a turning point in history.

A mild-mannered professor from Chicago, Dodd brings along his wife, son, and flamboyant daughter, Martha. At first Martha is entranced by the parties and pomp, and the handsome young men of the Third Reich with their infectious enthusiasm for restoring Germany to a position of world prominence. Enamored of the “New Germany,” she has one affair after another, including with the suprisingly honorable first chief of the Gestapo, Rudolf Diels. But as evidence of Jewish persecution mounts, confirmed by chilling first-person testimony, her father telegraphs his concerns to a largely indifferent State Department back home. Dodd watches with alarm as Jews are attacked, the press is censored, and drafts of frightening new laws begin to circulate. As that first year unfolds and the shadows deepen, the Dodds experience days full of excitement, intrigue, romance—and ultimately, horror, when a climactic spasm of violence and murder reveals Hitler’s true character and ruthless ambition.

Suffused with the tense atmosphere of the period, and with unforgettable portraits of the bizarre Göring and the expectedly charming–yet wholly sinister–Goebbels, In the Garden of Beasts lends a stunning, eyewitness perspective on events as they unfold in real time, revealing an era of surprising nuance and complexity. The result is a dazzling, addictively readable work that speaks volumes about why the world did not recognize the grave threat posed by Hitler until Berlin, and Europe, were awash in blood and terror.

The line-up for the remainder of the lecture series is a great list. If you’re near the Pittsburgh area, check out the schedule at the Pittsburgh Arts and Lectures website.

O is for Ohioana

letter O

The Ohioana Book Festival is an event I look forward to every year. I have a blast, and my family kindly goes too, although I don’t think they are as excited about it as I am.

From the press release:

Live music, food carts, exhibits, fun-loving crowds and….books—lots and lots of books! The Ohioana Library’s goal, as it prepares to present the 6th annual Ohioana Book Festival, is creating a festival that brings readers, writers and books together for an inspiring, fun learning experience.

Activities during the May 12th festival will include more than 20 panel discussions on a varietyof topics. The 10 featured authors will appear in a track of five panels, including conversations about their own literary influences, the writing life and the creative process. Additional panel dialogue will explore children’s literature and poetry, along with several “behind-the-scenes” opportunities for new writers to find out more about how to get published. Author roundtables will be devoted to popular genres such as mystery, romance and science fiction.

The panels I’ve attended in the past have been insightful, inspiring, full of information. I’m already planning which ones to attend this year. I’m thinking Fiction by Women: A Writer’s Roundtable with Julie Drew, Mary Ellis, Sherri Hayes, Susan Gee Heino, Donna MacMeans. And definitely Literary Fiction: The Story Behind the Story with: Donald Ray Pollock and Robin Yocum. Maybe Novel Ideas with Karen Harper and Robin Yocum and How We Write What We Write with Tom Batiuk, Casey Daniels. Or maybe the one focussing on short stories. There are just too many choices, from panels focusing on genres, like fantasy and mystery, to the writing life, to non-fiction topics, like food.

And I have to admit that I’m a little excited that there will be food trucks there during the lunch break. Last year, for lunch David and I ate chips and pop out of the vending machines. The rest of our group went out to lunch, but it took them forever and I didn’t want to miss anything. And I’ve never eaten at/from a food truck before. We just don’t have them in our town.

Of course, we’ll also probably come back with a bag of books. With so many authors talking, signing, reading, it’s hard not to buy one or several.

For more information, visit their website or check out this year’s program. Maybe I’ll see you there.

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