Monday, May 21, 2012

Gaithersburg Book Festival

It was a wonderful Saturday in May. The sun was shining and I was surrounded by readers, writers, and their books My mother, two friends and I went to the Gaithersburg Book Festival, where we met with writers and small publishers, purchased books, ate and listened to writers speak.

The festival had tents for various genres, named after famous authors. Speakers and panel presentations were scheduled throughout the day in the pavilions. Among them was Jim Lehrer in the H. L. Mencken pavilion, Mary Downing Hahn in the Willa Cather Children’s/Young Adult pavilion, Larry Doyle (novelist and former writer for The Simpsons) in the Gertrude Stein Mixed Genre pavilion, Brad Parks in the Dashiell Hammett Mystery pavilion, and Dolly Yates in Rachel Carson Special Interest pavilion. So many other writers in these and other pavilions such as Edgar Allan Poe Fiction, F. Scott Fitzgerald Fiction, and James Michener Non-Fiction.
Betsy Riley and me at the Gaithersburg
Book Festival

What an opportunity to hear from some of your favorite writers and hear from others that peak your interest. Besides books I bought there, I now am going to look for books by writers I didn’t know about before this festival.

The Children’s Village included books, workshops and games for kids, an Imagination Station, a Jim Henson tent and even a pony. Edibles included crab cakes, hot dogs, pizza and wraps, as well as fruit, pastries and, my favorite, ice cream.

There was music and poetry readings at the Ogden Nash Coffee House. So much was going on, I didn’t realize until the next day, that there were areas I missed. I should have studied my program and map in more detail. I didn’t have time to attend any of the workshops and didn’t even get near the celebrity stage.

I noticed that at least six of the author pavilion names had some connection with Maryland, H. L. Mencken, Jim Henson, James Michener, Edgar Allan Poe, Dashiell Hammett, F. Scott Fitzgerald.  My curiosity was aroused, and I did some quick online research. I learned that Gertrude Stein and Rachel Carson also lived in Maryland for a period of time. I don’t know about Willa Cather, but did discover that she taught in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Since I am a member of the Maryland Writer’s Association, I helped Betsy Riley and Tia Silverthorne Bach at the Writer’s Association booth that included information about the organization and a number of books by member authors.  It was fun to talk to fellow writers and readers.

Betsy Riley chats about books at the CCMWA booth
This was only the third festival in Gaithersburg, Maryland, yet overall it seemed well-organized and offered a wide variety of activities for children and adults, locals and visitors. This was my first visit to Gaithersburg and I was impressed.

The volunteers at the festival were a friendly and helpful group, including those on the street giving directions, a gentleman at the handicapped parking lot, who showed us a shortcut into the festival, those at the information booth who answer our questions and one who moved chairs so I could push my mother’s wheelchair past a crowded area. Even near the end of a warm day, volunteers and sponsors were pleasant. We appreciate what you do.

Also the sponsors deserve recognition for supporting this type of event. Check them out on the festival website,  and think about going next year.I had studied the website briefly, but obviously not in enough detail and once at the festival I was too busy talking and looking around to spend time reading the program. I plan to go and spend much more time there next year and I will be better prepared.

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