What A Fabulous Day For A Book Festival!

Saturday I attended the 2nd Annual Gaithersburg Book Festival in Gaithersburg, MD.  The weather was picture perfect and excitement was in the air.  Stories were everywhere you looked but the stories I was there to hear were being told by Paula McLain, Rachel Machacek, Meg Waite Clayton, Caroline Leavitt, Eleanor Brown (for the second time in three days!) and Katharine Weber.  What a well run, smooth and seamless event!

I had a whole personal schedule put together of authors I wanted to see and you know what?  I listened to all of them speak and read plus one that was unplanned and received their signatures while enjoying short conversations with each lovely lady in the signature tents!  This was truly and bookish event. 

I started the morning with the long drive from my home in Northern Virginia to Gaithersburg, MD.  Actually it didn’t take that long because of the light, swiftly moving traffic (47 miles in 50 minutes) but my excitement for what the day had in store for me kept me anxious the whole way.  I drove past the pink Marriott Hotel where Hubby and I got married and felt a sense of happiness and excitement.  I didn’t know what to expect since this was only the second book festival the city of Gaithersburg had held but I did have faith because the organizers had been communicating so well on the social networks and in the local news media as well as through their website http://www.gaithersburgbookfestival.org/.  The date was May 21st, the supposed end of the world and Rapture.  So, I took it as a good sign that things weren’t as serious as some were trying to lead others to believe when I parked at a church a block from the event and asked a priest who was passing by if I could park there for the book festival.  He said, “Sure!” and continued leisurely on his way.  LOL!
 
I was meeting a couple of friends, Diane & Beastmomma, but as usual was the first to arrive.  Nothing on my friends!  I’m just always early or on time and can count on one hand when I have been late.  I made my way onto the festival grounds and looked around.  I checked out the tent where most of the authors I wanted to see were going to present later that day.  After getting a water and scone from a vendor I ran into Eleanor Brown, the author of The Weird Sisters.  We had met two days prior at her event at One More Page Books and had hit it off.  We caught up, compared schedules and began walking.  Eleanor was looking for the VIP tent since she was one of the featured authors of the festival.  We parted ways but continued to bump into each other throughout the day.  What a lovely and fun woman she is!  I found the signing tents and the B&N book sales tent which I entered to check things out.  I was pleased with how nicely all the books by the featured authors were displayed.  Tables and tables of books, some familiar and most not.   I had already brought some books I bought especially to be signed at the event but I discovered some by authors I was seeing that I ended up buying.  Let’s just say my bag was very heavy.  I know you know what I’m talking about!
  
Time was moving so I made my way towards the F. Scott Fiztgerald tent for the first event I was attending.  Paula McLain would be discussing her debut novel The Paris Wife.  Ms. McLain was just darling!  She was passionate in discussing the background of her main character Hadley Richardson, Ernest Hemingway’s first wife.  She told us how Hadley and Hemingway had met and then a bit of their lives together, their adventures and misadventures in Paris and she set the scene for her book.  Then she read, really I should say recited passages, from her book.  During the reading my friends arrived.  After her presentation we met Paula McLain in the signing tents where I chatted quickly with her while she graciously signed my copy of The Paris Wife.  One down, five books to go!
 
 
The day continued without a hitch under picturesque blue skies and light breezes.  I had to make a choice about which author to see in one time slot so I missed listening to Katharine Weber, author of The Music Lesson, True Confections, Triangle, The Little Women and Objects In Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear but I did get to meet her in the signing tents where she signed my copy of The Music Lesson
 
Next was my unexpected addition to my schedule.  Per Eleanor Brown’s recommendation my friends and I went to the H.L. Mencken Pavillion to listen to Rachel Machecek talk about her book The Science of Single: One Woman’s Grand Experiment in Modern Dating, Creating Chemistry, and Finding Love.  What a good idea that turned out to be seeing her!  Rachel was HILARIOUS and gave a great talk!  She was self-depreciating enough and very likeable.  Funny and thoughtful and critical but not mean.  My friends and I were cracking up and as soon as the event was over we bought her book and met her over at the signing tents.  Rachel asked me if I was single and I told her that I had been out of the dating scene for a decade now.  I shared with her my story of meeting Hubby in D.C. and I told her that I was proof that dating in D.C. isn’t hopeless by any means.  She was very interested in the details and was kind and signed my book. 
 
After grabbing a quick bite one of my friends and I headed back to the F. Scott Fitzgerald tent and listened to Caroline Leavitt and Meg Waite Clayton.  Caroline’s book Pictures of You has been heating up the book blogs this year so I was very curious about her.  Also Meg Waite Clayton has some very popular books under her belt.  The Wednesday Sisters, The Language Of Light and her newest novel, The Four Ms. Bradwells.  I felt that pairing the two authors together on stage was a bit awkward but the let us know that they were happiest not being alone on stage.  Authors aren’t performers.  They’re creativity flows from solitude and quietness so sometimes the stage is not the most comfortable place authors.  Caroline talked about her book Pictures of You and gave us some background on where she was coming from when writing it.  Having not read it yet I had to go on the things bloggers have been saying about the book to follow but she made me even more excited to read it.  Meg Waite Clayton was a force to be reckoned with in her presentation.  She used to be a lawyer and it showed!  She talked about living in Maryland’s horse country and the time there raising her young children and really starting to write.  After their event my friend and I met them in the signing tents.  I enjoyed the conversations I had with both and even got a hug from Meg because I had bought two of her books.  She was very grateful and it was very sweet.
 
 
The last event on my list was Eleanor Brown being interviewed by The Washington Post’s Ron Charles.  What an energy filled, funny and enjoyable event that was!  Eleanor was star struck by the famed Post fiction critic and he was in awe of Eleanor and her creation, The Weird Sisters.  Eleanor had told me earlier that she was going to have the same stories and jokes as the other day but this event was made even better because of Ron Charles’ questions and interest in getting to the heart of Eleanor’s writing. 
 
What an inspirational and wonderful day!  I think what made it even better was the fact that it wasn’t over attended.  The Annual National Book Festival that is held on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. is so massive, crowded and manic at times that in comparison the Gaithersburg Book Festival was a joy in every moment.  I know that will change as the festival grows in popularity over the coming years but I’m glad to have attended this year when calm and order was the name of the game.  I was happy to learn that for the first time this year the National Book Festival will be expanded to two days from the one day it’s been for the last decade.  Hopefully that will alleviate some of the crowd problems it faces. 
 
I hope that if your local area hosts a book festival in the future that you will take advantage and attend.  The authors I saw were so happy to talk about their pride and joys.  They lit up when fans presented them with blank title pages of their books to be signed.  Happy reading!
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