Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Newbie’s Guide to the Virginia Festival of the Book

By guest blogger Alma Katsu

This past Saturday, March 19, was my first time attending the Virginia Festival of the Book, the week-long love letter to writing in all its forms, held primarily in Charlottesville. Doubtless many members of The Writer’s Center are regular attendees of the Virginia festival, so my post is not directed at them but instead at the tiny percentage who haven’t yet attended. Make your resolution now to attend next year. It will be so worth it; not only will there be tons of TWC members, you’ll be able to take in historic sites and – if you’re like me – sample a lot of gelato. The organizers pull together big panels with lots of authors, none of these skimpy offerings you get at some festivals, so you’re exposed to new writers whose works you might enjoy and have the opportunity to network.

I went to see two friends (and TWC members) present. Alan Orloff, mystery novelist, appeared on a panel Saturday morning, “Death: Another Time, Another Place.” Alan’s panel was part of the “Crime Wave” series of presentations by mystery and thriller writers, a recurring (and popular) feature of the festival.

(l-r) moderator Clifford Garstang, Alan Orloff, Deanna Raybourn, Paul Robertson and John Connolly.

In addition to Alan, I’d gone to see Valerie Patterson, YA novelist and one of the organizers of TWC’s Leesburg chapter. Val spoke on a panel addressing the appeal of YA books to adult readers, a timely topic. The panel spoke to a room filled with attendees, including many young readers.

Valerie Patterson

In addition to the packed sessions, wide range of topics (from every type of literature to an agents’ discussion and more) and book fair, another draw is the setting itself. While anchored at the Omni hotel, events are spread all over the historic downtown, giving attendees the opportunity to visit the pedestrian mall with its numerous restaurants, coffee shops, stores and sidewalk vendors. Smack in the middle of it all is New Dominion Bookshop, a must-see, something of a cathedral of books. The city is also home to numerous purveyors of used and rare books, so between all the stores and the book fair, there is not a chance you’ll get out of town without a few new tomes tucked in your suitcase.

For aspiring presenters, Festival Program Director Nancy Damon told me they take applications from May to October, and forms are available on their Web site.

Member Alma Katsu is the author of The Taker, due to be released in the UK in April 2011 and in the U.S. in July 2011. Learn more about her at her Web site.

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