The Fabulous Gaithersburg Book Festival


Betty Hafner, Seema Reza and myself.

All I can say is, WOW!
I’m home and thrilled that I was chosen to participate in the 8th Annual Gaithersburg Book Festival.

Here in Charlottesville we have the annual Virginia Festival of the Book, a four-day program of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. It’s a lovely event that brings in book-people from all over the country, including authors, those in the process of writing a book, those who aspire to become writers, and those who  read voraciously. I attend every year and it’s where I first met the woman who became my publicist, Caitlin Hamilton Summie, who was here as part of a panel discussing the role of publicists in the book-marketing process.

Me, Mayor Jud Ashman, and Betty Hafner

But the Gaithersburg Book Festival is a celebration of a different stripe. Set up in tents in the park surrounding City Hall, it is a one day event run by the city of Gaithersburg, in Maryland, and a host of local volunteers of all ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds, from kids to elders. Mayor Jud Ashman, also the Founder and Chair of the festival, was there greeting and welcoming everyone. It was wonderful! I felt like I was part of a huge family celebration with attendees, authors, and those who did all of the work to bring the festival to fruition. It was an amazing event illustrating deep love and appreciation for books and those who write them

I wasn’t able to stay all day as we had to get back to C’ville for the show, Death of a Salesman, which Bill directed for Live Arts. My sweet man missed opening night on Friday to accompany me and lend me his support. What more can this woman ask for proof of true love?!?

Had I been able to stay around until the end of the day, one of things I would have loved to attend among many others, was a MULTILINGUAL STORY TIME, that ran all day long. For twenty minutes children of all ages could listen to stories read to them in Spanish, Portuguese, Farsi, Amharic, French, and English.

The panel that I participated in was moderated by Larry Matthews, also an author. It was a wonderful opportunity to sit with two other woman writers, Betty Hafner and Seema Reza, who have also written memoirs and to talk about the why, how, and importance of telling personal stories.

I’m told that last years festival was held on a day of torrential rain and was attended by 15,000 people. This years attendance on a gray, cool day, was expected to be between 22,000 to 25,000 with a rough guess of 23,000 people there at the time I was given these figures.

I’m thinking of going back next year just for the fun of it!!

Wonderland and Niagara-On-The-Lake

IMG_0309This summer I didn’t plan a long stretch of free time for a vacation because of the work involved in the start of marketing my book. And since Bill will be having a complete shoulder replacement on September 14th, our usual fall trip to the beach will most likely not happen. After surgery he will be in a sling for four to six weeks, and unable to drive for three months. Like every other person in this world, we get lovely stretches of peacefulness and then, WHAM, stuff hits the fan. His left shoulder has been painful for a long time, but this summer it has gotten worse and his range of motion has steadily decreased. Just as the arthritis kept his right knee from being usable, it’s now taken over his left shoulder (he is a leftie) and the bones are grinding against each other. Ouch!! His total knee replacement last January was hugely successful and it’s now time to fix the shoulder. His surgeon has a great reputation and gets rave reviews from many people including Bill’s friends who have had to use his services. And we are very grateful that the problem is arthritis and not some terminal illness that frequently hits older people. So for now we’re counting our lucky stars!

We’re also hugely grateful that we recently took a five day trip to one of our favorite places … Niagara-On-The-Lake. On the south shore of Lake Ontario in Ontario, Canada, it’s about 45 minutes north of Buffalo. We first went to this lovely little village four years ago to attend the Shaw Festival in late summer. It’s the third largest theatre festival in North America and includes plays by George Bernard Shaw himself, classical writers like Chekhov and Strindberg, and some contemporary playwrights as well. With Bill being the theatre man that he is and my love for the countryside, we both find it a fabulous summer destination, away from the theatre crowds in places like New York.

We have also attended the Stratford Theatre Festival in Stratford, Ontario which is also wonderful but it’s is much more touristy and glitzy. We love the country ambiance of Niagara-On-The-Lake, which is surrounded by fields of grape vines and wineries where you can spend days tasting the best of what this important wine region has to offer. Because of US tariffs on wine, the Canadians are unable to sell their products in our country, but many of the wines made in the region are exported to France.

Tourists from all over the world visit this picturesque town to attend the festival and sample the wines. I love thatIMG_0288 walking down the street, I often hear at least four  different languages being spoken around me. It’s also an extremely friendly place where you can share wine and theatre adventures over delicious food at the many great restaurants. On our last night we had an exquisite meal at the Trius Winery, and also purchased four bottles of wine to bring home with us.

Because of its location on Lake Ontario, and the escarpment that protects this region from the damaging winter storms that wipe out places like Buffalo, this area has a microclimate unto itself and it is temperate all year long. This time we missed the first week of the heat wave that saturated most of the US, instead enjoying sunny days in the seventies. In winter there is supposedly very little snow compared to what is happening all around them.

As at any theatre festival, some of the shows were fantastic, others not so good. My favorite this year was a one act play adapted for the stage by Canadian actress and writer, Lisa Codrington. Based on Bernard Shaw’s novella, The Adventures Of The Black Girl In Her Search For God, which he wrote in 1932, it is a forty-five minute whirlwind of laughter, song, and discussion about religion and the church. I wanted to go back and see it again as I’m sure I’d missed some important lines because I was laughing and clapping so hard.

Competing with The Black Girl, for my favorite, was Master Harold and The Boys, by Athol Fugard, a moving play set in 1950 during Apartheid, in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. It left me feeling bereft because of its timeliness and the very recent horrific shootings of African Americans here in our own country.  Will things ever change?

IMG_0312The play that really drew me to the Festival this time was, Alice in Wonderland, adapted for the stage by Peter Hinton. Although the costuming, special effects, and scenery were exquisite, I found Alice’s adventures and the actors all overshadowed by the technical artistry of the production, making the play itself rather boring. Basically an artist’s show, you can get an education in design by observing the costuming and how to make Alice appear larger and smaller on stage using video techniques. My least favorite plays, were August Strindberg’s, The Dance of Death, and Anton Chekhov’s, Uncle Vanya. Both theatre classics, most of my interest was lost in the contemporary translations and adaptations in each play.

All in all it was a wonderful get away. I finally came to grips with the idea that vacations are for leisure and gave up on the notion of doing some writing between shows. Instead, I napped every day, sat and read in the lovely garden at Brockamour Manor where we always stay, and came home fully rested. Why I’ve been using vacation time as work time all these years is beyond me, and I’m very happy to be breaking that habit.

Do you work when you’re on vacation or do truly let go and relax?

I hope you’ve had a lovely summer despite the intense heat
and are as ready as I am to greet the the cooler days of autumn.

Arctic Summer


I wrote the following poem after spending ten glorious days adrift
north of the Arctic Circle on a cruise in August of 2002.
I won’t be going that far north this time
but am taking a  break in Canada for the next five days.


Arctic Summer

No stars fill the night  only clouds gray on gray
soaking in yellow light that fills the sky

From the deck I ponder arctic terns black guillemots
the sea of ice we breach   the ship’s groan and lurch

Evidence of our push through time   the tumble
of white gray and blue we scatter in our wake

Off the bow a polar bear feeds on ring seal
his blood tinged face glows like the moon

As he shuffles and paws the broken body
ivory gulls flutter   wait for scraps of skin and blubber

I go below to my cabin   fall asleep like a bear
cradled in the rhythmic rise and fall of sea and ice

The cold sunlit night slowly slipping
toward dark frozen days


I’ll be back here on my blog on July 19th with a post about my worst addiction and two book reviews.
If you missed my July 1st newsletter with my Latest, Hottest, Book News, go here to catch up on what’s happening.
I hope you’re enjoying the summer as much as I am.


Kanuga Conference Center

Kanuga Conference Center

Every time I go away on a trip and then return I come home a new person.  This time is no exception.  Yesterday afternoon I returned from four nights at the Kanuga Conference Center in Hendersonville, North Carolina, and then a one night visit with my daughter, her partner, and my grandkids. It was intense.  All of it.

The conference was about journaling and I have not yet processed all that I learned and how it may effect how I move forward. But just let me say that I am full and must now slowly begin to digest the nourishment I received. I met wonderful people like Christina Baldwin, who wrote Story Catcher and whose quote you will find on the home page of my website. She has long been an inspiration to me and her words kept me working on my soon to be published book.

I discovered that both of my grandkids are taller than I am and that I don’t see them enough. They are growing toward adulthood and I can’t seem to keep up with them.  Zoe and I had a lovely afternoon together while the rest of the family  was otherwise engaged.  We walked around Lake Tomahawk, share delicious, chocolate salted-caramel ice-cream and listened to live blue-grass in downtown Black Mountain.  We made plans that once she has her drivers license next year, she is going to come up here to Charlottesville so we can go visiting places like Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home, and the many other historic sights we are home to.

Next week I’m taking a few days to go on retreat. No phone. No fixed schedule. No blog post. Just the sound of the Atlantic pounding on the shore, some good books to read, and taking in the natural world of gulls, dolphins, and shells that wash up on the shore. I’ll be back on the first of June with my newsletter and on June 7th I’ll be back here with a new blog post.

May Peace Be With You


Lake Tomahawk


from left to right: Annie Tucker, Brooke Warner, Katrina Anne Willis, and myself.

from left to right: My editor Annie Tucker, Brooke Warner, my publisher,  Katrina Anne Willis, and myself.

I Arrived in Chicago last Tuesday afternoon and spent the evening trying not to worry about the next day at BEA. I’m not a crowd person and dislike noisy places. I’d been told that Book Expo America was a bellybutton to bellybutton kind of event, so I lived with that expectation overnight and into Wednesday morning. Not being good enough to be there kinds of thoughts kicked the cement mixer in my gut up several levels the next morning as the cab I’d hailed drew closer to McCormick Place, the huge convention center where I would spend a good part of my day.

Up two flights of escalators the crowd seemed tiny. But BEA wasn’t open to the public yet. I breathed deeply and told myself, I can do this. After registering for my badge I set out to find the She Writes Press booth where I’d finally meet my publisher Brooke Warner, and the community of women authors I am now a part of. Brooke gave us some ideas on how we could welcome those who visit the booth, what to look for as we explored the convention floor looking for others whose services we might want to use, and how not to be overly pushy pitching our books. After a quick lunch with several of the other authors I arrived back at the booth ready to be available to those interested in She Writes Press and the books they publish, most especially mine. There was still not much of a crowd.

I sat at small round table with two other authors, Linda Kass and Jennifer Dwight. Linda’s book, Tasa’s Song, was inspired by her mother’s life, and describes Tasa Rosinski’s life and escape as a Jew from Eastern Poland in 1943. It was the recipient of the 2016 Bronze Medal for Historical Fiction at the Independent Publisher Book Awards. BookList says, it ”depicts a heartbreaking time with great sensitivity and detail.” It was published just weeks ago and is available wherever books are sold.

Jennifer Dwight’s book, The Tolling of Mercedes Bell, is a thriller that the San Francisco Book Review calls, “An unforgettable page-turner.” Suspense Magazine says it’s “Full of surprises with impressive twists.” It won two finalist medals at the 2016 Indie Next Generation Book Awards in the categories of Suspense and Thriller. Published on May 3rd, it also is available in bookstores and on line.

We spent an hour and half together welcoming those who showed interest in our books and She Writes Press. The crowd was still unimpressive at 2:30 when several other authors came to take our places at the table. I began wondering if my crowd phobia was a figment of my imagination and whether BEA was going to be what I had expected it to be.

I slept in on Wednesday morning and spent time with Bill. This was our first real trip together since his knee replacement this past January. We had several lovely meals with friends we hadn’t seen in some twenty years recalling what life was like back in the day. And while I was off having a ball at the publisher’s dinner on Thursday night, Bill took in a play he’d wanted to see for a long time. It was very relaxing to be away from home without the phone ringing and my endless to do list shouting at me in the background. I could hardly contain my excitement at being there amongst all those writers, publishers, and industry people. I finally felt like a real author.

Friday morning, the last day of BEA, I was back at the booth at 9 AM and spent two hours with author Katrina Anne Willis, as people came and went asking questions about our books. Katrina’s book, Parting Gifts, a novel, was published in April, and is the story of three sisters who pull their lives together through tragedy.  Karen Lynch, author of Good Cop, Bad Daughter: Memoirs of an Unlikely Police Officer, says “Parting Gifts is a rare treasure, the sort of book that leaves the reader attached to the characters long after finishing the final page.”

I was delighted by a visit from The Best Editor in the Whole World, Annie Tucker, with whom I loved working through the developmental and copy edits of my book. It was such a pleasure to finally meet her in-person. If there is another book in me, I’d hire her again in a heartbeat.

After my booth duty I took a walk around the convention floor and finally found the crowds as people lined up for books being signed by the likes of Jamie Lee Curtis, Richard Russo, and others. At other booths publishers and authors held up their books, approaching me as I passed by, wanting to give them away for free. I imagine it was not only about getting their books out to the public but also about not wanting to lug them home again. When my head began to pulse from the noise and crowds, I packed up and returned to my hotel for a late lunch and a nap.

It was truly a fabulous trip and I’m so glad I talked myself into taking the plunge. I’m still processing everything I learned about selling books, myself, and how I can operate in conditions I don’t normally seek out without making myself a basket case. It was an exciting hands-on learning experience that I’ll never forget. If God be willing and the creek don’t rise, I plan on being there again next year.

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