Tales of the London Book Festival and John Ericsson Events

If you want to find characters for a novel, there’s no better place to look than a writer’s event.  Since the January 26 awards dinner for the London Book Festival was an international gathering the “characters” were even more colorful:  A former Yugoslavian who spoke very little English, a tall-tale teller from Montana, a charming widow from South Africa, a cheeky woman from Dorset, a Bangladeshi resident of London representing her uncle, who couldn’t make the trip to receive his award….I could go on!  We drank some wine and received our awards and drank some more wine and ate a fabulous dinner at the historic Grosvenor House and talked and talked and talked.  I wasn’t going to make the trip over to receive my award in person (The Brave Escape of Edith Wharton won the biography category!) because it seemed so extravagant.  Two friends urged me to go.  Paula and Kate, I owe you a big, big thank you!

I left my elegant London digs, flew to New York City, and took up temporary residence at a Fairfield Inn in an industrial section of Queens.  A hike across the John Jay Byrne Bridge put me right in the middle of Greenpoint (in Brooklyn) and the 150th anniversary celebration of the launch of the Civil War ironclad ship, the USS Monitor.  After researching a picture book about the inventor of that very ship (Thank You Very Much, Captain Ericsson!) I thought I knew at least most of the story.  Not by a long shot, as it turned out!  There were speakers and exhibits, a concert of Civil War music, a memorial service at the Church of the Ascension, and – finally – a parade to the launch site which included a police escort, a bagpiper, folks dressed in period costume, three llamas (!!!), and, of course, me!

From the very proper Edith Wharton and the elegant Grosvenor House to a scrappy industrial section of Brooklyn…when you write nonfiction, it’s all wonderful!

More Images from the London Book Festival


More Images from the John Ericsson Monitor Launch Anniversary Event