I’ve already teased you with the fact I attended the UCF Book Festival this past Saturday. In one word, it was FABULOUS! I have to thank Susan Gregg Gilmore for telling me she was coming to the festival. I had just finished her second book The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove, and wrote to her praising the book. When she mentioned the festival I was ecstatic, honestly this university is 30 minutes from my house in East Orlando, of course I’d be there. Then Susan suggested meeting for coffee and I was sold.
We began our morning at Barnes & Noble, and had the best chat. Susan was so open and warm, while I was in awe of sitting with a published author she was just so kind. It was just like meeting any online friend whom you share a love of books and chat about them and your family and much more. I’m sure I was all gushy, asking about how Bezellia was born, and it is a great story. I showed her pictures of my kids and she never appeared bored..ha ha.
We went over to the UCF Arena and found the room where she was to have her first panel discussion and we tried to drop into the Bloggers Room, but it was empty. Can you imagine, there was a suite set up just for bloggers! I think the plan was to blog live and chat with authors, but the bloggers were doing what I was, sitting in on panel discussions and meeting authors.
The first panel topic was titled “Love, Life, and Laughter: Inspiring Women Writers” and the panel included Susan Gregg Gilmore, Marybeth Whalen(The Mailbox) and Shellie Tomlinson(Suck Your Stomach In and Put Some Color On). Immediately I could see these three women could dish about why they had written with a woman’s voice, and with passion. The topics ranged from what drove them to choose their main characters and what carried them through. I can’t wait to read Maribeth and Shellie’s books. Following the forum the ladies went to the main floor of the Festival and signed books and chatted with me.
I was fortunate that Shellie Tomlinson had a copy of her newest book with her and she was so generous to give it to me an sign it. Sue Ellen’s Girl Ain’t Fat, She Just Weighs Heavy…love that title. It’s a series of essays that a southern girl or a lover of the South can really relate to.
Susan just let me tag along with her to her next panel this one titled “Conflicting Loyalties:Cross-racial Relationships. Susan spoke along with Dolen Perkins-Valdez(Wench) and Nina Revoyr (Wingshooters) This discussion could have become very divided but the authors kept on track and discussed the topics of masters and their mistress slaves, the hired black help in 1950’s and 60’s Tennessee, and the mixed race child growing up for a time in the northern plains and the prejudice she endured. Id just recently heard of Dolen’s book from a friend and I’m now very anxious to read it.
Once again to the book signing, and I picked up a copy of Susan’s first book, Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen, and she graciously signed it. Susan and I talked a big more and we hugged and said goodbye with promises to keep in touch. She was off to catch her flight home to Chattanooga.
I went to one more panel discussion titled “Family Secrets”. I was a minute or two late, and as I located a seat, I was excited to see I was sitting by Shellie and Maribeth, it’s exciting to see authors supporting each other, as they too wanted to listen and learn. Now family secrets are so intriguing to me, I mean we all have them right? The authors on this panel were Lori Roy(Bent Road), Susan Hubbard(Walking on Ice) and Eleanor Brown(The Weird Sisters). I am currently listening to The Weird Sisters on audio,really great, so I was really interested in hearing her speak. This panel was relaxed and chatty and they each appreciated the others works very much. They spoke of their writing habits, long days, short bouts of energy etc, very interesting.Huge coincidence, after I got home I talked to one of my best friends Judy, she lives in NJ and has worked with an agent and pulled Lori Roy’s manuscript out of a slush pile and recommended it. Small world, I look forward to reading Bent Road. After the talk I chatted with Maribeth Whalen a bit more. She is a mom of 6 and was enjoying her weekend to herself. We talked about what we read, how we find books we love and more. We walked out onto the festival floor and I chatted with Eleanor Brown and Lori Roy a few minutes, Lori is also from Florida. I walked around a bit more and then sadly headed home….feeling a bit like Cinderella not wanting to leave the Ball. I love books and authors and those who support this art so very much, but my real word awaited…..
Next year I imagine the UCF Book Festival will be even bigger and better, I didn’t touch on half the speakers who were there. I am hoping to be more involved, and attend and find myself chatting with other authors and finding new books to read adding to my ever growing list. The date next year is April 21, and I have 2 extra beds in my house with the girls in college…..come on down dear friends, and we’ll have a blast!