Last weekend I participated in the 7th Annual Gaithersburg Book Festival, and I cannot praise it too highly. It had something for everyone! There were writing workshops for adults, teens, and children. The Children’s Village features storytellers, puppeteers, jugglers, authors, and magic, all encouraging reading, writing, and a love of books. There were exhibitor booths catering to adults and children, a variety of food vendors, and live performances by poets and singer-songwriters. And there were book sales!
The official bookseller for the even was Politics and Prose. They sold all of the books represented on the program. I bought two, having been captivated by the authors’ presentations I attended after finishing my own presentation and signing. Thomas Murphy by Roger Rosenblatt, who had an engaging conversation/interview with Alice McDermott.
The second book I bought was “Most Blessed of the Patriarchs” by Annette Gordon-Reed and Peter S. Onuf. They presented jointly. She is the author of The Hemingses of Monticello, and a professor at Harvard. He is the Thomas Jefferson Foundation professor of history at the University of Virginia. They were a dynamic duo, talking about what promises to be an atypical biography of Jefferson (e.g., covering music and religion), and answering questions clearly—and patiently!
There was also a used book sale by Friends of the Library Montgomery County, MD. I bought two books related to three of my passions: popular culture, old books, and dictionaries! For which I spent a total of $8.
Bartlett’s Dictionary of Americanisms was published in 1848! It explains what a chore is (the equivalent of char in England), and polk, meaning sack. Needless to say, it’s my oldest slang dictionary, and it nicely illustrates that what was slang 200 years ago has moved into—and sometimes through—mainstream English!
GBF drew participants from near and far. I met authors from New York, Texas, and London—to name a few. Some of the famous authors were highlighted on the festival poster, for example, Juan Williams.
Well-known or not, everyone was articulate and professional.
But enough about attending. As an author presenting there, I couldn’t have been treated better!
Before the event, my primary contact was Carolyn Crosby, the Senior Program Supervisor. She was not only friendly and gracious but well-organized and responsive. She made sure I had all the info I needed ahead of time, from hotel reservation to maps to advice on rain gear.
The festival hotel, Homewood Suites by Hilton, was spacious, comfortable, and provided shuttle service to all events. They gave us our GBF book bags, containing all the important stuff (program, shuttle schedule, maps) and no throw-away junk. It’s a classy bag, heavy canvas.
On Friday evening, there was a VIP Reception from 7:00 till 10:00. The food was great and plentiful, and there was an open bar. Presenters mingled with those involved in producing the event. I met Jud Ashman, Founder and Chair of GBH and currently mayor of Gaithersburg. He is articulate and humorous! He’s shown here with me and M.Tara Crowl, who writes fantasy fiction for middle-schoolers.
Gaithersburg Book Festival is a rain-or-shine event.
All of the programs are under tents—and this year it was rain, with temperatures in the low-50s. GBH is a class act, and they provided all the presenters with umbrellas.
The weather dampened people but not spirits. Attendees could choose among 10 presentations at a time, each in a tented pavilion: Dashiell Hammett, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Edgar Allan Poe, H.L. Mencken, James Michener, Gertrude Stein, Rachel Carson, Jim Henson, Willa Cather, Ogden Nash.
I was on at 10:00 a.m. in the Dashiell Hammett Pavilion. Debbiann Holmes and I talked about Making Fiction Real. We seem to make a great sister act. Maybe we should take it on the road.
Enthusiastic, upbeat volunteers were everywhere.They kept the presenters on time starting and ending. We were escorted to the pavilion for the presentation, then to the signing area after. People seemed okay waiting in the rain to get books signed.
By definition, presenters were VIPs. Besides umbrellas and book bags, we had reserved parking, special registration, and a VIP lounge with refreshments all day.
But perhaps the most striking aspect overall was the universal enthusiasm and the breadth of community support. Just look at the number of partners and sponsors they have!
I want to go again! And you should go, too. It might even be sunny!