Having brunch with Ann Leary & Alice Hoffman, sharing drinks in the company of Elin Hilderbrand & Nathaniel Philbrick, sitting on a bench at the beach with Josephine Angelini...these are my Oscar moments. Authors are my movie stars. My friend, Lori, and I jokingly call ourselves "author stalkers". I often attend events where authors discuss their writing process, the inspiration for their books, and how they conduct their research. I love hearing the backstory. On the island of Nantucket, MA, 30 miles out to sea, is a lovely book festival held each June. Now in its 4th year, it just keeps getting better and better.
Nantucket is a magical island that attracts vast numbers in the summer to enjoy the beautiful beaches, the 5-star restaurants, the elegant shops and more. Festivals abound on the island. There is a film festival, a wine tasting festival, a cranberry festival, a musical festival—you get the idea. I love Nantucket for its quieter, simpler charms—Surfside Beach in the off-season, coffee at The Green, morning buns at the Wicked Island Bakery, sitting & knitting at the Flock Yarn Shop, puttering at the Nantucket Cottage Hospital Thrift Shop, getting free mulch at the Nantucket Environmental & Recycle Park, and walking the various trails in the Middle Moors. However, as a lifelong reader and a high school reading specialist, I was delighted to attend the inaugural Nantucket Book Festival in June 2012. Attending alone, I had no idea what to expect. In fact, the weekend exceeded my expectations; from the opening cocktail party held at the Nantucket Whaling Museum where festival guests shared drinks with authors while listening to Coq au Vin, the island's wildly talented gypsy band; to the Cisco Brewery Pig Roast & Wrap Party.
The festival runs Friday through Sunday. There are concurrent events going on at various locations around town, and frankly the offerings are so good that I wish I had Hermione's time turner so I could attend them all. The events are held at beautiful venues such as the Unitarian Universalist Meeting House, the Dreamland Studio Theater, the Nantucket Atheneum, and restaurants such as Brant Point Grill,Dune Restaurant, and CRU Oyster Bar.
In 2012, I heard a panel of women authors discuss their writing life. Some of the authors included Lisa Genova (Still Alice, Left Neglected), J. Courtney Sullivan (Commencement, Maine), Nantucket's own Nancy Thayer (Summer Breeze), and Nicole Bernier (The Unfinished Business of Elizabeth D). This event was hosted by the delightful former CNN correspondent, Kitty Pilgrim, who herself is an author of children's books. A little later in the day I had the opportunity to meet the YA author, Josephine Angelini of the Starcrossed Trilogy who I bumped into the next day at 'Sconset Beach, where we talked about adolescent literature for a half hour. (After hearing her speak, I actually had stayed up very late the previous night to read her book and loved it!) There were many other authors that weekend, including Pam Belluck who wrote Island Practice about Dr. Lepore and Nantucket's year-round community, and well-known Nantucket islander Nathaniel Philbrick, author of In the Heart of the Sea: the Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex.
For the 2013 Nantucket Book Festival I invited a teaching colleague/dear friend to go with me. She shared my excitement at the thrill of meeting so many renowned authors. We had the privilege to hear Dennis Lehane, author of many scintillating thrillers such as Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone, and Shutter Island. At the opening kickoff, Lehane captivated the audience with stories of growing up in a large Catholic family in Boston. On Saturday morning, we had a lovely breakfast at the Dreamland Harborview Room overlooking the bay. We then listened to Amy Brill discuss her book, The Movement of Stars, a story set on Nantucket, inspired by Maria Mitchell, the first female professional astronomer. Later in the day, we sat in a packed room to hear children's book author, Lois Lowry, speak about some of her famous books such as The Giver and Number the Stars. We missed seeing Rosie Schaap, author of Drinking with Men, but were deeply moved by Will Scwalbe's discussion about writing The End of Your Life Book Club, a loving memoir about the books he read and discussed with his mother as she battled pancreatic cancer.
On Sunday, we heard the gifted writer, Alice Hoffman, speak about her poignant book The Dovekeepers. Initially, Lori and I were disappointed that we had not been able to hear author, Ann O'Leary speak on Friday, but by coincidence, we sat next to her at brunch. Another highlight was attending a discussion with a varied panel of authors who had just published their first novels.
For the 2014 Nantucket Book Festival, it was a girls' weekend. I invited four friends from my book club. Our first event was held at the majestic Nantucket Atheneum, where we heard two authors, Anthony Marra and George Pelecanos. (Marra's A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, about the devastation of the Chechen wars, was by far one of the best books that I read in 2014.)
Next we went to the Dune Restaurant and listened to Nantucket author, Elin Hilderbrand, her agent, publicist, and publisher in a talk entitled "The Matchmaker: From Manuscript to Bestseller".
We finished off our evening listening to Gabrielle Zevin discuss The Storied Life of A.J. Fikery, a story about a quirky, island book shop owner.
Again, there were so many authors to see and so little time. The next afternoon, we heard foreign correspondent Evan Osnos talk about his interesting experiences living in China for eight years. Read his insights in his book, Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the New China. In the early evening, we went to 'Books, Bubbles, & Bites' mingling with John Mariani, an award-winning food and travel author. I can't really say that one event was better than the other; however, Sunday's brunch listening to Jodi Piccoult talk about her research for three of her novels, including The Storyteller, was a brilliant way to end a perfect weekend.
The 2015 Nantucket Book Festival will be held June 19-21. If you miss it, but happen to be on the island, a visit to both of the island's phenomenal bookstores, Nantucket Bookworks and Mitchell's Book Corner, is a must!