Away we go, down the track, ricocheting from wall to wall, winding our way through the maze to the dining car to eat our dinner with two young tablemates who showed us the roof of our home, then theirs, on their iPod. What? If you’re confused, I’ll explain. We were taking the overnight train from Washington to Charleston. We pulled in at 7:00 a.m., took a cab to the downtown Charleston County Public Library, crossing the Arthur Ravenel bridge on the way—two giant praying hands with strands of steel that slope from the fingertips to roadway below. Then we set up our display for the 2010 Capital Bookfest—Charleston, the 17th century city of cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriages, and colorful brick houses with white three-story porches.
Kwame Alexander is the producer of Capital Bookfest. His first festival was in Largo, MD, and this year he expanded to Harrisburg, PA and Charleston, SC. Kwame’s a poet and author of more than fourteen books for children and adults. With his organization, Book-in-a-Day, he travels to schools around the world teaching young people how to write and publish books. In Charleston, he gave all the participants his new children’s book illustrated by artist JahSun from Charleston, Indigo Blume and the Garden City, with a read-along CD.
This Charleston bookfest hosted many notable authors including Marjory Wentworth, South Carolina Poet Laureate, The Endless Repetition of an Ordinary Miracle; Jenny Sanford, Staying True; Victoria Rowell, Secrets of a Soap Opera Diva, Nikki Giovanni, 100 Best African American Poems; Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond, Powder Necklace: A Novel; Noni Carter, Good Fortune; Heidi Durrow, The Girl Who Fell From the Sky, and many others.
Next to us at our table was publisher Susan Kammeraad-Campbell of Joggling Board Press (www.jogglingboardpress.com) from Charleston “dedicated to the production of books that amplify the history, culture and character of the American southeast.” Dead Weight, Gullah Cuisine, The Unexpected Visitor, Matilda P. Snoggins, and many others. (If you want to know what a “joggling board” is, click on “about.”) On the other side was E. Jon Spear, a former Navy man, whose memoir Navy Days was selling “like hotcakes.” We enjoyed visiting with A.C. Moore from Baltimore, Even Angels Need Miracles, http://moorenovels.com.
But my favorite book at the festival was Vamos Cantandom (www.vamoscantando.org), which teaches Spanish to children by having them sing songs on a CD while looking at pictures in the book and not by having them start with English translations. The creators are Roger Bellow and Berita Martin from Charleston.
All day long we talked to people about our books Well Considered and Cologne No. 10 For Men, found many who we were drawn into my stories and some who became interested enough to buy, even though they were surrounded by thousands of other books! And altogether, we had a delightful time in Charleston.