Thursday, April 28, 2016

Unbound Book Festival: George Hodgman Discusses His Memoir BETTYVILLE

Over the next few weeks I’m going to share some notes I took during the Unbound Book Festival in Columbia, Missouri, on April 23.

The first event I attended, along with writing friends Dianna Graveman and Mary Horner, was George Hodgman’s candid and inspiring conversation about his memoir, Bettyville.

I read Bettyville a couple months ago and was captivated by Hodgman’s lovely writing, unvarnished honesty, and moments of grace and humor. So, I was excited when I read he was going to be one of the featured speakers at the festival. Bettyville is Hodgman’s award-winning book, which has been described as a “Love letter to small towns that are declining and to his mother who is in decline.

After sharing some background information and a few personal stories, Hodgman spoke about memoir writing.

Here are some highlights:

Memoir is a mixed state of knowing and admitting.

Memoir is about a relationship, a trusting relationship with the reader.

Give them (the reader) something so they know you trust them.

Storytelling is totally healing.

We connect and we learn.

Admit your reality.

Look for moments of recognition.

There is a relaxation in the “letting go” part of writing, solving problems.

You have to let go!

Place is a central character in memoir.

The richest (memoirs) always have a background of place.

He ended his writing day with a specific thing, e.g. revision of a scene.

That way he would start with a specific task the next day.

His writing process was self-punishing; he wrote at the card table at 4 a.m. until his mother awoke.

He also shared a few personal stories:

When he returned home to Paris, MO, to care for his mother Betty, a scene grew, a picture in his mind of his mother Betty driving a blue Impala taking him to kindergarten.

After returning home, he fell in love with Missouri again.

Most people don’t know Missouri: it’s beautiful, it’s cultural, people here are funny and smart.

He felt rooted in small towns and as a child was comfortable with adults.

He felt accepted here (in Columbia), in this cultural and artistic community.

He grew up around kindness, with community and church.

Moments of surprising kindness move him.

The most memorable moments during his conversation were when he read an excerpt from Bettyville and spoke lovingly about his mother Betty, who died last July 26. He said, he is “only now starting to grieve,” and “Spring flowers make me think of her.”

He also said he loves his dog (a black Lab). Of course, anyone who has ever had a black Lab (like our thirteen-year old Harley) knows how lovable they are.

If you haven’t read Bettyville, I recommend you pick up a copy, especially if you appreciate elegant writing, have an elderly parent, understand what it's like to be from Missouri, or grew up in a small town.

Next week I’ll post some notes I took during Senator Claire McCaskill’s conversation about Pretty Ladylike, the book she co-wrote with Terry Gainey.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Spring Cleaning for a Good Cause

I'm looking forward to this Saturday's free Unbound Book Festival in Columbia.

It's well worth the just-under 100-mile drive to the event on the campus of Stephens College.

The line up of events and speakers for the April 23 festival is impressive. What's more impressive is that the event is free.

Alex George, festival founder and director, and his volunteers have worked tirelessly to organize the event and obtain sponsors and write grants to put on the festival. Here's a link to his interview with Jane Henderson of the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

Although the event is free, festival organizers ask that attendees please donate gently-used books and deposit them in the  bins which will be placed outside the doors of the meeting rooms. The books will then be distributed throughout the Columbia area to people who love to read but might not be able to afford to buy books.

My bag of books is sitting next to my front door ready to be put in my car.

To me, it's a triple benefit. I get to do some spring cleaning, attend a free festival where I can learn from some amazing writers, and pass on some good books to other readers.

How great is that?

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Free Unbound Book Festival Features Author Events, Panels, Signings and More

If you're looking for an educational and inspirational writing event this month, the Unbound Book Festival should be on your list. Festival founder and director, author Alex George, has done a brilliant job planning and organizing this literary event, which celebrates literature of all kinds.

Note: While all events are free, festival organizers have requested that attendees bring gently used books to deposit in bins that will be placed outside the doors of the meeting rooms. These donated books will be distributed throughout the community after the event.

Friday evening, April 22, the Missouri Theater in Columbia will be the site for a conversation with internationally renowned bestselling author of The English Patient and many other exceptional novels, memoirs, and books of poetry -- Michael Ondaatje.

The main event will be Saturday April 23 on the campus of Stephens College in Columbia, MO. The schedule includes programs for Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Children's Events. Senator Claire McCaskill is among the score of top-notch speakers who will be featured during the day. You can find a complete list of speakers here.

A variety of panels will also be held during the day, including the First Page Rodeo, where an expert panel (New York literary agent Margaret Sutherland Brown, Unbridled Books senior editor Greg Michalson, and New York Times bestselling authors Eleanor Brown and George Hodgman) will share their thoughts on a selection of first pages of novels submitted in advance of the festival by the general public.

Five first pages have been selected, from authors as far away as Texas to Massachusetts. The panelists will discuss what works and what does not, as well as what will grab the attention of industry professionals.

Note: At least one of the first-page selectees is from Missouri, and she will be in the audience hoping the panel isn't too harsh on her one-page submission.

You can find a complete schedule, list of authors, and more details on the Unbound Book Festival site. Hope to see you there! And don't forget to bring your gently used books to donate.

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