Tag Archives: george

Fall for the Book….

Fall for the Book is not so much a writing conference but it is a kick-arse literary event hosted by George Mason University. It’s a chance to meet some amazing writers who will read from their works and talk about their writing journeys. And, by the by, it’s free. Yes, that’s fabulous!

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This year the festival will run September 11th thru 18th. Most of the events are held on George Mason’s campus, but pay careful attention to the schedule, some events are off-campus.

I really consider this more of a reader’s conference than a writer’s conference – but hey, if you are a writer, uhm, you should also be a reader.

The link to the festival’s website is here.

The schedule is here.

The list of presenters is here.

Two things you don’t want to miss:

  • Jodi Piccoult (the recipient of the Mason Award) will speak on Friday, September 12th.
  • Richard Russo (the recipient of the Fairfax Award) will speak on Wednesday, September 17th.

Just in case you aren’t really clear on what the Fall for the Book Festival is, here’s what they say (taken directly from their website):

What began as a two-day literary event in 1999, organized by George Mason University and the City of Fairfax, has expanded into a week-long, multiple-venue, regional festival that brings together people of all ages and interests, thanks to growing community interest and generous supporting partners.

Each year, the festival:

  • Advances children’s education by hosting specially tailored writing workshops or readings for students at the elementary, middle and high school levels and by publishing an annual anthology of student writing in partnership with the Northern Virginia Writing Project and Dominion.
  • Makes literature fun by showcasing literary events in an active, engaging atmosphere that includes skits, dance, storytelling and more, and by introducing young people to living authors whose work they’re reading in the classroom.
  • Connects readers and authors at all levels, offering book lovers the chance to meet and greet their favorite writers and hear behind-the-scenes stories of writing and publishing.
  • Builds community by connecting with senior centers, book clubs, special interest community groups, libraries, bookstores and many others.
  • Encourages cultural diversity by combining common points of cultural reference with forums for discussion of our shared stories.
  • Gives sponsors a chance to support regional programs, and attracts the broadest possible cross-section of families and individuals throughout the area.
  • Fall for the Book, an IRS-recognized non-profit corporation, is governed by a board of directors that meets throughout the year.

Events take place at George Mason University’s Fairfax Campus, the festival’s base, and at other locations throughout Northern Virginia, DC, and Maryland.

If you are new here, welcome. This post is one in a series of entries about my experiences at various writing conferences this year. You can read about Tin House’s Winter Workshop here and the Woodbridge Writers Retreat here.

 

Connecting with Authors….

by Ellen Weeren
@EllenWeeren/@AReasonToWrite

In just the past few days, I have spoken with 4 well known authors. Shaken their hands, asked them questions. Gotten super inspired. And I now have signed books from all of them. Yea!

And just how did I do that, you might wonder. (If you don’t wonder that, stop reading now. 😎  )

Well, I attended a panel discussion at Fall for the Book at George Mason. The discussion was focused on the definition of literary fiction v. genre fiction and if it’s even important to make the distinction between two any longer. The answer was basically that it’s nearly impossible to define literary fiction or appropriately capture its essence. Outstanding writing will be discussed without prompting from scholars and its words will be devoured – no matter what you call it.

My own definition/measuring stick will be that if a college professor picks up The Alligator Purse and discusses it in her classroom or if a book club can’t stop talking about it, then I will consider it Literary Fiction. (She says crossing fingers that one day that will happen.)

These three fantastico authors were at Fall for the Book…

Alma Katsu  – Alma inspired me because she was first published after the age of 50. There’s still hope for me! 😎 And her writing has gripped me – here is the start of her novel The Taker:

“Luke Findley’s breath hangs in the air, nearly a solid thing shaped like a frozen wasp’s nest, wrung of all its oxygen.”

That is some fabulous prose.

Louis Bayard is very simply a tremendous writer and a professor at George Washington Univ.

I also love the opening of The School of Night:

“Against all odds, against my own wishes, this is a love story. And, it began, of all places, at Alonzo Wax’s funeral.”

Now, I am curious as to what is going on.

and then there was Julianna Baggott. The movie rights to her latest novel Pure have already been purchased. She writes across genres and audiences. And, she speaks in poetry. The way she expressed her thoughts was beautiful. I can only imagine the prose in her stories will be scrumptious.

This is what Julianne said on her own blog about the panel discussion. She asked if it was worth her time – she sold fewer than ten books and her child was sick while she was gone. To that I say, “Thank you for coming. When you signed my book, you wrote Best of Luck With Your Writing, Imagine Wildly.” I don’t know if inspiring me was worth missing her sick child. But I was inspired and so were many others.

Mark Athitakis was also on the panel. He is a book critic and manages a guide to DC area readings. You can find that here. I hope one day that he will review my book.

Yes, you are right. That is only three authors. The fourth was one of my absolute faves – John Shors. He wrote the magical historical fiction about the Taj Mahal called  Beneath a Marble Sky. And, if you’ve been following for a while here, you might remember this review. His new book is called Temple of a Thousand Faces and you can preorder it here.

John was kind enough to call our writers group and share his insights on writing. Why did he do that? Because he is awesomesauce – that, and we asked him to.

It is amazing to me just how approachable some authors are. They share a unique understanding of how challenging this writing journey is. And they are eager to see other authors succeed. They want to encourage and enlighten them/us/me.

So, if you are thinking that you really missed out on some great opportunities – have no fear – American University is hosting a visiting writers series and you can get inspiration from some amazing authors. You’ll find the calendar here.

NYC2 – The people that you meet…..

Yesterday, I began the story about my trip to NYC. If you want to catch up, you can do that here. And I am back today with more. 😉

When I was blogging about India, I wrote a post about some of the people I would see on the street. I also saw lots of fun/interesting people in NYC so I thought I would revisit that little diddy today.

First, let me say that if you are a complete whackadoo and want to find a place to fit in, NYC is the place for you. I am not going to post any pictures of the absolute nutcases I saw because I don’t want to make fun of anyone, but I’m just sayin’ there are some crazies in the big apple! Happy and comfortable, but craZy!

The numero uno whackadoo hubby I spent my weekend with was this guy. He does not like his picture being taken so this was the best I could do. And by the by, if you are thinking about going on a getaway with a special someone, consider driving. You can have wonderful conversations without interruptions and you only have to take your shoes off if you want to. No long security lines to wait in. No children crying. No crappy snacks that cost $15. No middle seat next to someone who doesn’t quite fit in his/her coveted aisle seat. Think about it.

The play Wicked was on Broadway, so I guess this guy thought he could capitalize on the show being in town. I don’t know if he is an actor in the actual production, but my guess would be probably absolutely not. 🙂 And, although the real tin man would talk, this guy was apparently a mime tin man. Taking the role to a whole new level, I reckon.

Okay, I lied. I am going to share one picture of a person that I thought was a little not so fabulous. But only to save young (and not so young) ladies from themselves. Ladies, this is what this skirt looks like from the back. It is too short. I know it looks great from the front. And this chickadee is adorable. But she is showing off too many of her assets. Tee hee. Get it? Ass-ets.

I do have to say I was very surprised at the footwear in NYC. Most of the women I saw were wearing practical, comfortable (albeit very cute) shoes. I would like to thank them all for that. It made me feel a little less country mouse-ish. Especially since the last thing my daughter said to me before we left was “nice shoes” and not in a OMG-those-are-the-most-amazing-shoes-ever-and-I-am totally-borrowing-those kind of way.

It would be so fun to be able to tell you that this is a picture of my new BFF. But, since I only “met” him through the glass window of the studio, I guess I can’t declare BFF status. He is just as cute in person as through the eyes of the camera. Introducing George Stephanopoulos… And, yes, I do think he looks like he is trying to figure out how to get out of the interview so he can come outside and meet us.

I got a tad closer to these beautimous people.They send their best wishes. 😉 I love me some Today Show with Matt Lauer, Al Roker, Natalie Morales, and Savannah Guthrie. I am not sure where Ann Curry was.

These are some of the policeman who stand watch over the 9/11 Memorial. I cannot imagine doing this everyday.

This guy walks around with a cat on his head and his hand out. I asked him if I could take a picture and he answered, “if you could help me out with my endeavor to find food.” And then he said, “thank you for giving me the courtesy of asking first. That was nice of you.” Okay, then. You are most certainly welcome.

What this guy doesn’t know is that my daughter walks around like this…

Who knew the competition for walking around with your cat on your head would be so tough. That guy better watch out – he has given Angel something to aspire to.

These folks didn’t talk either. #Mime must be trending in NYC. So they could neither confirm nor deny their role in a Broadway production. I did find out later that they are part of an a capella group called Voca People.

My hubby shies away from bothering celebrities. Unless, of course, it is Mike Shanahan – the Washington Redskins head coach. This guy was absolutely delightful. Asked me my name, promised me a better season, and let us take pictures. Love him even more now.

And if you were a teenager in the 80’s, you know this guy as Bueller. Ferris Bueller. Love him too. We took this picture because after the first picture, he said, “I don’t think we got it. You might have turned your head too early.”

And he was right. If Matthew Broderick wasn’t such a sweety, this is the picture I would have been left with. Yikes. Thank you! And if you get the chance to see Nice Work If You Can Get It, it’s supposed to be fabulouso.

These guys made me promise not to tell anyone they let me pet their horses. I told them I had a blog and they said, “of course you do Oh, that’s fine.”

My hubby swore I was Livin’ La Vida Loca when I waited over half an hour to get this photo of Ricky Martin who was starring in Evita.

And for the grand finale……..dum ta da dum…..The Naked Cowboy. Thank God he is not actually naked. Brace yourself, this is not for the faint of heart.

It was tons ‘o fun just walking down the street!

And then there were two……….

India ignited a travel fire in us. So, we decided to travel to Houston to see the NCAA Final Four Basketball games.

The conversation started like this…..

Me: Maybe we could take Bear to the Final Four games for his birthday. You know the games are on his actual birthday.
Hubby: Really? I (yes, “I”, not Bear) would love that! But do you really think the girls would enjoy it? Maybe I should just take Bear.
Me: Maybe I should just take Bear.
Hubby: We should all go.
Me: Look at how smart you are!

Yeah for us! And my older brother who we dragged along with.

We arrived in Houston to find this little Bball court ready for some action.

Happy to oblige, the kids took their Uncle on while hubby picked up the car. Bring it.

And what kind of car did we rent? Well, we were in Texas, my friend. So we honored that by getting a big honking gas guzzling Yukon. Yes, that was a silly question!

We headed out at the crack o dawn on Saturday morning, which got us to Houston around lunch time. Hunrgy? Well, when in Houston, you are supposed to eat BBQ.

We found this little nugget of a restaurant called Pappa’s. All the food was served cafeteria style. Now you’re talking down home cookin!

I had the lunch of champions.

Oh, yeah. They served pit bbq too. This is the pork.

Then on to the games at Reliant Stadium.

There were tons of activities around the perimeter of the stadium so we got there a little bit early to get a fabulous parking spot to partake of the fun and spend way too much on t-shirts (which my rock star brother generously gifted everyone).

Bear got a long sleeved shirt so he did not put his on. And I, well being brilliant, I didn’t think I wanted a shirt. That is until I saw how cute Flower’s shirt was. Then I decided, “maybe I will get one.” Yeah. Me and my bright ideas.

I waited in line for about half an hour to find out that they only had smalls left. The sales lady was trying to be helpful and said, “don’t worry, honey, they stretch.” And, yes, I did tell her that wasn’t exactly a selling point. 😎

My hubby and my bro apparently have similar tastes. Which is lucky for me because it means they both have a high tolerance for a whole lot of me. But it also makes them dorks. Tweedlebro and Tweedlehubby….

But they did not have the most attention-grabbing outfits on. There were some doosies! I didn’t take any pictures making fun of people because I am not a big fan of the “People of Walmart” pictures. (I am a huge fan of Walmart and probably harbor an inner fear that it might one day be me. Yikes.) But these two made me smile.

As we walked toward the stadium, we saw tons of people working. I couldn’t help but feel bad for them that they might not ever get inside to see the games. But this guy was not to be swayed by that – he was listening in.

Of course, the real excitement did not begin until we got inside with 78,000 of our closest friends. This was the view from our seats. Yep, good job hubby!

I walked down closer to the court to get some pictures and I got to meet Lee Todd, Jr., the President of the University of Kentucky.

What’s that, you say? How did I know who is was? Well, the entire student section stood up and applauded for him and serenaded him when he walked in and stood right beside me. Thinking that probably wasn’t for me, I said, “Well, you must be someone special.”

The lady walking with him (who turned out to be his assistant) said, “Oh he is. He’s the President of UK.” And then tons of people came over to get a picture with him. I told him it was a real treat to be standing there to see the students response to him and that it made me want my kids to consider Kentucky as a school. Really, it was quite something! I got to meet his daughter too. She was delightful.

Then, I remembered I was there to see basketball and not to make new friends. So I took a few pictures of  Butler and VCU warming up.

And then my dear friend called me and told me that she had seen Jim Larranaga (George Mason’s coach) on a pregame show. She wanted a picture. And I was on it!

I asked the security guard (the one who incidentally told me that there was no way he could let me take my son on the court to get a birthday picture) if he had seen the coach. He had not. He was proving to do his job very well and, all the while, not being helpful to me at all.

Then he started telling people to clear the path. My camera perked up. Something exciting was about to happen. No kidding.

Former President George Bush, Sr., and his bride Barbara Bush rode in on a golf cart. Right. In. Front. Of. Me. And. My. Camera.

I blew him a big kiss and told him it was amazing to be right there. No matter what your politics, it is an absolute honor to be so close to a former President of the United States. He feigned blushing at my kiss, held his hands to his heart, and smiled. What a gentleman!

Then I nearly got knocked over when this woman from Kentucky came bounding down the stairs. Apparently, her brother used to be some state something or other and used to work for Mr. Bush. She actually asked the Secret Service agent if she could say hello. He said no. (Shocking.) Then I whispered, “Well now, I voted for him and I have seen him on tv, can I say hello?” He smiled and said no ma’am.

It was then I realized I might not ever make it on to the actual court. Hmpf.

I went back to my seat. And the games began with the most beautiful rendition of the Star Spangled Banner with soldiers holding a ginormous flag. Yolanda Adams sang the national anthem and boy does she have a voice! It was fabulouso!

And then my hubby spotted Jim Larranaga. He was sitting about 15 rows in front of us. Seriously. How lucky is that? So I went down and introduced myself as a Mason grad and babbled away about being so happy he stayed at Mason after taking the team all the way to the Final Four a few years ago and how lucky Mason was to have him for a coach. He was so kind and generous with his time. I told him I was sorry to bother him – I knew he was here to watch the game – it was just such an honor. And he said, “Don’t apologize. It’s nice to meet you too.” Honestly. So charming.

We took a picture.

Then later in the game, I was walking back up the steps from taking more pictures. And Mr. Larranaga was talking to some more fans. And he points to me and says, “she’s a Mason grad.” Wow.

Then I motioned for my brother to come down and meet him. Hubby was embarrassed, but my brother has more years in of putting up with me and just plays along. 😎

Angel came down the stairs with my brother and the Coach was so delightful with her. He introduced himself as the George Mason coach and bent down and shook her hand. I said, “oh she knows exactly who you are! She was at the GMU v. JMU game.” He asked her if she liked the band. I love this man!

Anywho, I finally thanked him for his graciousness and promised to leave him alone. 😎 The only thing I wish I had told him was that in my pool, Mason would have been in the Final Four. No, that didn’t work out so well. But I am a big, big, big Mason fan and you have to keep the faith!

You probably know how the Butler v. VCU game ended. But just in case…

Next up was UConn and Kentucky. We were sitting in the Kentucky section which could have been problematic because I have UConn winning it all. But the fans were nice and forgave me my transgression.

I had to go back down toward the court one more time to get some more warm-up pictures.

The night was just an amazing night but it was high energy. Angel got a little tired and managed to squeeze in a little catnap.

She slept until one of the Kentucky players made a fabulous 3 point shot and the crowd went nuts. If I had been filming her, we would have totally won America’s Funniest Videos.

You probably also know that the game was a nail-biter.  UConn won. Unfortunately 78,000 of us were planning on leaving the stadium at the exact same time, so I did not get a picture of that scoreboard.

Not Even a Finalist. Hmpf………..

So George Mason University was hosting this contest about the best couple’s story – you know, a “how we met at Mason” extravaganza.

I entered my story with Number One Hubby. We didn’t even make the finals.

But, I have my own blog. So there. You can still be bored to tears with how we met!

Violence in Film – A Love Story

I just know it is going to happen. At our 50th wedding anniversary, my grand-daughter is going to lean down close to my chair right before we blow out the candles on our anniversary cheesecake and whisper excitedly, “How did you and Grandpa meet?”

And just as excitedly, I will lean in closer to her with my hand cupped gently around my mouth and giggle into her tiny tilted ear, “in a Violence in Film class at George Mason University way back in 1989”. She will surely take a step back and wonder if I am hitting early Alzheimers.

My husband and I will simply laugh. Because that is exactly how it all started. I was an English major taking a film class. I (obviously) didn’t pay much attention to the genre when I picked this class. I was just trying to get one more requirement in and in a course catalogue filled with poetry and short story writing and literature and transcendental meditation classes, who would be worried about a simple film class focusing on violence? Clearly, not me. A Violence in Film class is just about the last class I would ever sign up for. It is even lower on the list than Shark Training 101.

Unfortunately, it did not all happen on a dark and stormy night because that would have made a great introduction to the story. Alas, it was actually a bright and sunny day at the beginning of the Fall semester. He was already sitting down when I walked into class on that first day. He was scrunched down in the seat, feet in the aisle, ankles crossed, and his blue tattered hat was tilted to just enough to the right. And he was cute as heck. He was an accounting major taking an upper level English class as an elective. Because that makes perfect sense.

Then I saw her. The teacher. Cynthia Fuchs. In fatigues and, if I remember correctly, she donned a strawberry blond crew cut. She looked pretty serious. Then I saw the syllabus. Violence in Film. Hmmm. I immediately wondered how many classes I was allowed to attend before dropping the class without GPA consequences. I wanted to stay just long enough to meet that guy, but not one short take more because the movies listed were gruesome – Taxi, Robocop, Blue Velvet. I would not have paid $5 to watch those shows at the theater and then suddenly I was about to let my parents drop a load of tuition dollars on this class because there was a cute guy in the back row. Excellent.

Professor Fuchs started calling out attendance. I waited and watched to see when he would raise his hand. This was my chance to find out his name.

Robert.

Here.

Seriously? Is that Rob, Bob, Bert, Robert, Robbie, or perhaps Bobby? Or maybe he goes by his initials. You gotta be kidding me. This might take more than one or two classes to figure out, especially considering the fact that every other class was scheduled as a viewing class where we would sit in the dark, in silence and watch a movie. A violent movie.

What I came to find out not so much later was that the cute guy in the tilted hat with the official first name of “Robert” actually went by his middle name.

I figured I would at least go to the next class. We were watching a movie. So, I packed my popcorn and my cranberry juice and headed off to class. The seat next to Robert/Bobby/Rob a.k.a. Number One Hubby was open. I took it. Maybe I pushed another student out of the way to get there, maybe not. But I got the seat. The lights dimmed, the movie started, and I carefully put one piece of popcorn in my mouth at a time and let it melt, slowly and quietly.

Then I heard, “Pssst.”

Really, was he talking to me? The dropping of this class and the making of our first date just might happen sooner than later.

I put my hand to my chest and shrugged my shoulders as if to say, “who me”. I might have even flipped my hair. A little. Maybe. Just a little.

To which he replied, “Could you please keep it down? It’s hard to hear the movie.”

Oh dear heavens. That is when I learned that my future husband was not only handsome, but also a smart arse. And thus the crush began.

We starting skipping the classes in which films were being shown and, instead, hung out in the Ratt. I vaguely remember beers and pizza being involved. Then we would have to rent the movie and it made more sense to watch it together. We’d go to the discussion class together and have our own discussions afterward. He liked the movies. I hated the movies. It was a match made in movie heaven.

We even worked side by side on our final papers. We had to create our own violent movie scene. And to this day, Number One Hubby will swear he got a better grade in the class than I got. And sometimes, for the sake of marriage, we let the little tales go so that one day we will be able to tell a Violence in Film Love Story at our 50th wedding anniversary party.

It all came together when he proposed to me, wearing that same tattered blue hat tilted perfectly to the right, in the Blockbuster video parking lot. We were creating a new story – not for homework – but for a lifetime.