It’s a summer evening at a library in Maine. The soft light streams through big windows, and the front door is open to welcome the breeze. Folding chairs are set up in the front room, with overflow seats tucked into the stacks. The librarians bustle about as the crowd filters in, greeting familiar faces and newcomers. It’s an author night, something that happens every month of the year, but is especially sweet during July and August, when the long evenings encourage people who might not usually attend such events to get out and about.
Last week I took part in a conversation with my friend Cheryl Head, whose powerful novel Time’s Undoing has garnered rave reviews since its release in February. Cheryl makes her home in Washington, DC, but in July, she and her partner spend time here on Allen Cove in Brooklin, so this was the perfect place for our July 25 discussion. We had a good crowd at the historic Friend Memorial Library, where Cheryl spoke about the genesis of Time’s Undoing, which is fiction, but based on her grandfather’s death in 1929 at the hands of police in Birmingham, Alabama.
Cheryl’s protagonist is a thirty-something newspaper reporter investigating the death of her great-grandfather, and it’s powerful to hear her talk about how the book echoes her own family history. In fact, her technical research turned up some details—including a brief newspaper article about her own grandfather’s killing—never before seen by her family. We also discussed the book’s emotional impact on Cheryl and her 95-year-old mother, who was a toddler when her father was murdered.
The crowd was engaged from start to finish, and had many thoughtful questions and comments. I was especially interested to learn later that some in attendance had never attended an author discussion before, despite being regular library patrons.
Friend Memorial will host other writers this summer, as will other libraries and literary organizations in this area, including Word, a Blue Hill-based group that organizes an autumn literary festival and other events throughout the year.
To give you a sense of the richness of the local offerings: tonight, Ann Patchett, author of Bel Canto and the just-launched Tom Lake, will be in conversation in Blue Hill with Lynn Boulger, director of the Authors Guild Foundation.
On August 3, former College of the Atlantic professor William Carpenter will speak at the Ellsworth Library about his new novel Silence, about a veteran of the Iraq war returning to his Maine hometown.
On August 6, Brooksville Library director Brook Minner will discuss efforts to combat book banning at the Good Life Center in Harborside. And all of that is just here in Hancock County, where I spend my summer vacation.
The calendars of libraries across Maine are chock full of similar events. I know a number of my MCW colleagues will be in Topsham tomorrow from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. for an author event featuring 50 Maine authors who write in various genres. More details here: https://topshamlibrary.org/
Live author events were one of the things I missed the most during the pandemic, and it’s wonderful to have them back.
I invite my colleagues here, as well as readers of this blog, to add in the comment section details of events where they will be speaking about their books this summer and early fall, or events they plan to attend to meet their favorite authors.
Brenda Buchanan brings years of experience as a journalist and a lawyer to her crime fiction. She’s published three books featuring Joe Gale, a newspaper reporter who covers the crime and courts beat. Her short story, MEANS, MOTIVE, AND OPPORTUNITY, which appeared in BLOODROOT: BEST NEW ENGLAND CRIME STORIES 2021, received an honorable mention in the 2022 edition of BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY AND SUSPENSE. Brenda’s hard at work on new projects. FMI, go to http://brendabuchananwrites.com