I had a very busy weekend, which you’ll hear all about over the course of this week, but it started with a trip to the First Annual Connecticut Book Festival in West Hartford on the UCONN campus. I headed over for the specific purpose of seeing Wally Lamb speak, and since it happened to be on the one nice day we’ve had in weeks I enjoyed a nice walk through campus. I’ve never been over there before, but I was surprised by how big of a campus it is.
Perhaps its size explains how empty the campus seemed. I mean, it was good and empty… or at least the parts of it I saw were.
My cousin was with me on this trek and when we showed up at the library auditorium, we found ourselves surrounded by blue hairs. As we waited for the doors to open, we worried about the age of our fellow Lamb-lovers, and what it could mean if their pacemakers went wonky mid-talk.
Finally we were let into the auditorium and got to hear Wally talk a bit about how he came to be a writer, the process, and Oprah. More importantly he talked about his new book, We Are Water. The book centers, in part, about the 1963 flood of Norwich. I didn’t know much about this flood, especially considering I was about 18 years from being born.
Long story short: I can’t wait for the new book. I like Wally’s books for a number of reasons, but one of them is the occasional mention of places I recognize.
But I’ve also been curious about something regarding this new book, and I’ve been trying to figure out how to contact Wally to ask. I heard him say on Colin’s show that his new book was inspired by a Patty Griffin song. I wanted to know which one. Patty’s “Long Ride Home” is intertwined, in my head, with Barbara Kingsolver’s Prodigal Summer. The book appears to be named after the song he was talking about, though, so I didn’t have to get up and ask the question — and confuse all the elderly folks with mention of popular music.
There were a few people under 70 there — including a few girls who looked like they may have been sent there as a high school English assignment — but I have to say, I was dismayed by how old, and sparse the crowd seemed to be. I figured a Wally Lamb talk would draw out the book nerds from miles around. One thing I did notice, though, was that there wasn’t much going on on the program. I spend a lot of time at conferences of various kinds, and will even be heading to BEA this week, and the agenda for the Book Festival just seemed…well…boring. There were a few talks and panels, but it was mostly just book signings. There are a lot of issues facing the book community today, none of which seemed represented here. Ebooks? What ebooks? And where were CT’s publishers? Let’s face it, you have a better chance of attracting wannabe writers than even the most avid readers to an event like this, so why not reach out to them — get a few book agents and maybe an editor or two to talk about what they’re looking for.
This was the festival’s first year, though, and so it’s still just picking up steam. I am, however, hoping they figure out a way to attract a more vibrant crowd next year, because its got a lot of potential.