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National Book Fest, Saturday, September 1, 2018







A later than planned departure from home kept me from making it to Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s session, but that allowed me to attend all of Tayari Jones’s talk, which was awesome.

Tayari Jones Highlights:

  • ·         She’s a strong advocate for supporting the National Endowment for the Arts.
  • ·         Her ultimate message today remains the same as it was 7 years ago: Follow your dreams with the expectation that the universe will rise to meet you.
  • ·         Glowing remarks about a mentor who has helped her in countless ways. That mentor was also being featured at #NatBookFest, possibly speaking at the same time in a different ballroom.
  • ·         Her thoughts on being raised in a society where girls were either good or not good. T.J. read a lot and spent substantial time in the library, making her a good girl because “no one gets pregnant in the library.” Librarians told her that’s not true. (Hank-panky in the stacks? Oh, my.)
  • ·         T.J.’s brief flirtation with fraudulent activities—in order to get into Pearl Cleage’s “no freshmen allowed” class
  • ·         Being counseled to pursue a full-time academic career while writing fiction on the weekends

 T.J.: “I was a bird and I felt like they wanted me to be a birdwatcher.”
  • ·         Do not ask her about Book Scan! J
  • ·         Judy Blume(!) as her publishing guardian angel
  • ·         Another memorable T.J. quote: “Southern writing is all about women who don’t do what they’re told.”


Scooted out of T.J.’s talk just as the Q&A started in order to hot-step it up to the Main Stage for Amy Tan. At first, everything was calm as the line snaked back and forth in the area at the base of the escalators as we waited to ascend. Here’s where it went wrong: when security tried to shout instructions to us without using a bullhorn or a microphone system. The organized line disintegrated as people moved closer to hear, then everyone surged toward the escalators en masse. (Think doors opening first thing on Black Friday at a big box store.) Pandemonium.

It seemed like the perfect time for me to step back and find a peaceful corner for eating my lunch, which put me in the path of a family friend who recognized me with my back turned and head down while sitting on the floor. We had a brief lovely chat before she headed off to begin her shift as a NatBookFest volunteer.

At 1:30, lunch eaten, equilibrium restored, my options were to get in line to see former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright a 2:15 or to go downstairs to the book signing, book sales, children’s, and financial institutions area to visit a childhood friend who was volunteering at a booth. Sorry/not sorry, M.A.! Friendship won over politics.

After some hugs, introductions, laughs, and more laughs during my friend’s lunch break, it was back upstairs to wait in line for the session featuring Doris Kearns Goodwin. (political history geek butterflies)

Doris Kearns Goodwin Highlights:

·         Her need to keep all four of “my guys” together motivated her to write Leadership: In Turbulent Times.
For each president she examines their educational challenges, challenges related to the circumstances of their lives, and their presidential leadership challenges.
·         Writing Leadership… took her 5 years.
·         Funny anecdotes about her time as a White House Fellow for L.B.J. during which the New Republic published her anti-Vietnam War article “How to Remove Lyndon Johnson from Office” two days after he’d asked her to work for him full-time. Awkward.

Ducked away from D.K.G. at 4:05 with the unrealistic hope of squeezing in to see Roxane Gay from 4:10 – 4:40 discuss her Wakanda graphic novel (series?) for Marvel. Sadly, at 4:10 the room was full and there were approximately 400 people in line in front of me. [pouty sad face]

Thirty minutes is not enough time for R.G. (Unless she requested the shorter time period in order to preserve her physical and emotional health, which is understandable. Although still disappointing!)

By 4:20 it was time to skedaddle, which had me sitting outside waiting for my ride. During which time a lovely, sophisticated woman with a boot on her left leg from knee to toes sat near me. We exchanged smiles and greetings. She was also waiting for a ride. Our spontaneous chat added Ghost Boys by Jewel Parker Rhodes (sophisticated woman’s sister) to my TBR list and incentive to check out the Go On Girl! Book club. Plus, she took my business card when I expressed interest in reviewing future children’s books by her sister. (This was before s.w. revealed her prestigious author sister’s name.) [sheepish laugh]

Full circle moment: Dr. Jewel Parker Rhodes is the mentor Tayari Jones mentioned with such affection and respect during her noon session.

Standing-In-Line Friends made:

·         Liz, whose friend wrote The Half-Drowned King (Golden Wolf Saga), now added to my TBR list
·         Lisa, who complimented my geeky homemade I <3 books T-shirt, which led to a chat about the best bookstores in the DMV. She mentioned McKay’s (or Prospero’s?). I asked her if she’d been to the incomparable remainders store Daedalus Books & Music in Columbia before they closed their doors this summer. She hadn’t.

She also shared amusing tidbits about being a food runner for her husband and math-loving daughter earlier in the day.


authors + books + booklovers = nirvana 

Thanks, Library of Congress, CSPAN, Library of Congress Federal Credit Union, and all of the many other event sponsors!

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