The Beauty of Books, The Wisdom of Words: The Virginia Festival of the Book
Last weekend marked the 18th annual Virginia Festival of the Book, a lively assortment of panels, readings, and events meant to celebrate literacy and the magic of books. This year brought us an exciting checklist of writers, many of them U.Va. alumni and friends of Iris, including Eleanor Henderson, Emma Rathbone, Kimberly Dozier, and Iris' very own Ginger Moran. Opening ceremonies were last Wednesday afternoon at the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library downtown, featuring fantastic readings from Virginia contest winners. Virginia Poet Laureate Kelly Cherry then paid tribute to a long--and, as she said, yet incomplete--list of other skilled Virginia poets in her beautiful opening remarks. Thursday brought a visit from Kimberly Dozier--a correspondent for Associated Press, former CBS News foreign correspondent, and holder of a Master's in foreign affairs from U.Va. All in the same day, she gave a talk at the Women's Center, gave a reading for the Festival, and was awarded the U.Va. Distinguished Alumna award for her lauded journalism. Dozier inspired many at the Festival discussing the intense experiences that led to her memoir, Breathing the Fire, about her survival of a terrorist car bomb attack in Baghdad in 2006. Also on Thursday afternoon, Ginger Moran spoke at a panel on fiction, Conspiracies and Obsessions, during which she joined Alma Katsu, Amelia Gray, and Joe Lunievicz. The writers got to the heart of how details informed their work, and how their chosen realms interacted with the real world. Moran spoke about her forthcoming new novel, The Algebra of Snow. About a mathematician alone in the Adirondacks in the winter, the novel promises to be a spellbinding piece about loss--through what she loses, the protagonist explores her own inner landscape. Friday was rife with activity, the afternoon bringing multiple creative talks and readings by U.Va. writers, Lisa Russ Spaar and Eleanor Henderson included. Henderson joined Chad Harbach, Jazzy Danziger, Brittany Perham, and Mark Wagenaar at the U.Va. MFA Alumni Reading at the U.Va. Bookstore. Her novel, Ten Thousand Saints, and Harbach's The Art of Fielding, have done well to capture the nation's attention, and were included on the New York Times Top 10 list for 2011. The Festival, backed by U.Va. and populated with its students and faculty, solidified that Jefferson's culture of being unable to live without books is yet alive and well in Charlottesville.