Last week I had the extreme pleasure to attend the 2013 Book Expo’s Author Breakfast and listen to authors Chelsea Handler, Ishmael Beah, Doris Kearns Goodwin, and Wally Lamb talk about their craft and their upcoming titles. While Handler served mainly as the humorous Master of Ceremonies and briefly promoted her forthcoming book, Uganda be Killing Me, the other authors discussed the craft of storytelling. Beah’s heartbreaking memoir A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Solider, has been translated into 31 languages. He explained how he became the village storyteller where he lived in Sierra Leone and how the people relied on him to write letters to their relatives. When he came to America he experienced difficulty in translating words from his native language (ie. ” a nest of air” is a ball) into the American vernacular. He read for the first time from his upcoming book, Radiance of Tomorrow which is due out in the winter of 2014.
Well-known historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, went on with the theme of storytelling by telling us “that history at its best is about telling stories. … We study the lives of others in the hopes that we, the living, can learn from their struggles and their triumphs.” She explained how she came up with the ideas for some of her books, at first thinking that her Lincoln book , Team of Rivals, was going to be similar to her book about husband and wife, Franklin and Eleanor, but then found out how interesting Lincoln’s cabinet was and Team of Rivals was born. Kearn’s upcoming book, The Bully Pulpit, is about the fascinating friendship between Teddy Roosevelt and Howard Taft and the era of muckraking journalism. I held onto every word as she was describing some of the scenes from her new book, as only a gifted storyteller can. The Bully Pulpit is due out in October.
Last, but certainly not least, was master storyteller Wally Lamb, who regaled the audience with stories about high school pranks involving cat cadavers and fruit flies which eventually led him away from a career in the sciences and thankfully for us, to the professions of teaching and writing. He is one of my favorite authors and his upcoming book is called We are Water. It is set in fictional town of Three Rivers, Connecticut and takes place in the racially torn 1950’s as a flood is about to devastate the community. We are Water is also due in October 2013. The author Joan Didion was quoted as saying, “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” What a treat it was to listen to such masterful storytelling.