where the writers are
Virginia Festival of Books

Soaring over lower Virginia and preparing to land.  A green, curving landscape, a few large homes here and there, winding rivers, some farms.  A local manager of Chore-Time, a Warren Buffet company tells me how they've redesigned their chicken facilities so there is the ability to free-range.  But oddly enough, it's so comfortable inside that the chickens don't want to leave.  I joke you need a rooster on steroids lifeguard outside by the pool to lure them out.  He sells in Canada a lot and their favorite American reality TV show is our politics.  They can't believe the stuff our media dredges out about politicians -- and what they fall down on - mostly sexual stunts.

Finally a landing so reluctant that the pilot must of  floated over the tarmac for 30 seconds before touching down.

Deborah picks me up at the small but very clean airport.  We wait for Rosemary Harris, a thriller writer from NYC to land.  Rosemary lives in Conn, has an apt. in Manhattan, and just flew back from El Salvador on a Habitat for Humanity project.  She's vacationed this way in Kunming, China, and Tanzania.  In Tanzania, she and her husband has taken on a library building project in the Habitat community and so they go back every year now.  More recently, with books in hand for the shelves.  I see her early next morning dressed in black long-sleeve T, black slacks, black rim glasses, and with her long black hair, I say she looks like a lower East Side despair poet from the early '60s.  She chuckles appreciatively --- was heading to the gym to work out.

Katherine Neveille, author of The Eighth and other intelligent thrillers (some call Dan Brown the male "Katherine Neveille) bumps into me just as I checked in yesterday evening.  Synchronicity goose bumps.  We both worked at Bank of America Cheque Corp., she as Chief Technology Officer and I as Chief Legal Officer.  Many hours whiled away talking lit, theater, art, and so on.  And yet, we were both so good at what we did without 25/7'ing it.

So here we are, a visiting writer and she a local organizer of the Virginia Festival of Books.   She invites me to lunch at wine store with a cafe restaurant in the back.  The crab croquet and asparagus with priscuitto are delicious.  Katherine's sliced duck breast over lentils and mueslin salad look equally good.  We end up sharing a 14-layer organic raspberry cake with a hot white chocolate sauce lightly spread around the slice.  

What do old friends and authors talk about -- well, our agents, and the importance of getting a publisher's commitment in writing to a marketing plan (with dates, places, etc. that they pay for).  Also, it's the 20th anniversary of Katherine's big book, The Eighth, and they should/might be putting out a special 20th anniversary edition.  In any event, it is reselling strong, strong, and strong without publicity.  She just put the finishing touches on the sequel and so hopefully, that'll come out next year. 

Charlottesville - quiet campus town with a nice student main street.  Red brick buildings with huge white neo-Classical columns fronting their portals. As Manhattan raised and jaded Rosemary put it -- something mythical like "...out of a movie."  Rosemary took the bus uptown to attend college in Harlem.  I added that Berkeley was a bit like this place, but for the police swinging billy clubs, the National Guard, and tear gas clouds. 

Deborah who has lived here in Virginia for over 20 years informs us that when they first arrived, it was the "Old South" in every way and has only recently started to change.  Recently elected a Demo governor and US Senator, for example.  There's a horse raising set and huge estates hidden just off the main road.

Our hotel, Omni is set at the end of a pedestrian mall -- Charlotteville's historic downtown.  Nice walking with lots of restaurants, coffee houses, small retail stores, and lots of indie bookstores.  Surprisingly, there's three small movie houses and another one converted into live theater.

I like the location.  Hotel is comfy and two of the three maids on my floor are Mandarin speakers from Mainland China.  One of them compliment me on my Mandarin -- thank you daily lessons on ChinaPod.com.

Off to Cafe Cubano to meet my fellow panelists and moderator.  Then we carry forth at 6PM at the student bookstore.

(C) 2008. William Poy Lee