Recently I was in a meeting and someone asked, “Who was the first author you heard speak in person?” Suddenly I was swept back to my junior high years and listening to Madeleine L’Engle. I know there were author readings before that (I grew up in Iowa City and we had the amazing experiences of authors visiting our schools) but it was my memory of listening to L’Engle speak that conjured such a strong memory for me. Not only was L’Engle the author of my favorite books (A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet) but she was an amazing speaker. I didn’t want the program to end, and really wished I could have found a rocking chair, curled my teenage body up in her lap, and had her read A Wrinkle in Time to me … cover to cover.
I’ve had strong reactions to listening to other authors read since then, but nothing as powerful for me as that experience. I love listening to authors because I always learn something new. A couple years ago, at the Iowa City Book Festival, I had the opportunity to ask Robert Goolrick why he chose a story theme for one of his characters in A Reliable Wife. His explanation was logical but sparked a reaction for me because I didn’t agree with him. At an outreach program for the Library, I saw a person with dementia brighten up and connect with author Carol Bodensteiner over a story from Bodensteiner’s childhood about ironing. Who would have guessed a story about ironing would awaken such a strong response?
Each year the Iowa City Book Festival brings an amazing group of authors to town and we have the opportunity to listen to them speak … and it’s free. I can’t guarantee the programs will be as transformational as my experience with Madeleine L’Engle, but you never know :) The Festival is a couple weeks away so there’s plenty of time to read a book or two written by one of the authors who will be speaking. Here’s the list to help you get started: 2014 FESTIVAL READING LIST.