North Carolina Literary Festival

My weekend was what some would call a writer’s paradise.  I spent it attending various authors’ sessions at the North Carolina Literary Festival held at UNC Chapel Hill, which happened to be free!  Yay!  I would say, however, that a writer’s paradise would be to sit on the other side of the table from where I sat, as an author with published works.  Someday, someday.

Anyhow, I had a great time at the sessions I attended, which featured a mix of well-known and newly published authors, almost all with some sort of connection to the state.  The first I went to was “The World of Sci-Fi and Fantasy,” which featured John Kessel, Warren Rochelle, and Mur Lafferty.  I enjoyed the readings, Lafferty’s especially, and will likely buy Playing for Keeps soon, which is her superhero novel about a woman who has something both the jock-like superheroes and nice guy villains want. Lafferty is a friend of a friend and also runs a writing resource website called I Should Be Writing.

Next up, I planned to go to Rick Bragg’s reading and discussion on writing about real people in real life situations, as it would likely have been beneficial for me as a writer.  But in my heart of hearts, I really wanted to screw that sentiment and go see RL Stine instead.  Luckily for me, Rick Bragg’s reading was cancelled so I was able to see Stine guilt-free, whom I have fond memories of from my speed-reading days in elementary school.  Fear Street rocks, yo.  He’s mainly famous for the younger-skewing Goosebumps series these days, and did a great job of keeping the youngins interested by telling a story with audience participation.  I’m glad I got to see him as those page-turners probably deserve some credit for both my desire to write and my genre preferences.

Carrie Ryan, author of the young adult novel The Forest of Hands and Teeth, gave a great session after that.  She’s but a few years older than me, which always gives me hope that I could also get published, and is writing a post-zombie-apocalypse series.  Her readings definitely had me intrigued-another book to add to the “to read” list.  As a fellow lover of horror, discussions of how it and other genre fiction can be so well used for social commentary always keeps me engaged.

Then Elizabeth Strout, Pulitzer prize-winning author of Olive Kitteridge, read from that book and answered questions at Memorial Hall.  It was great to see her in person.  If you have not read Olive Kitteridge and you like literary, modern American fiction, then you need to.

I ended my NC Lit Fest adventure by checking out the “Chefs of the Triangle” session on Sunday afternoon.  Chefs Bill Smith (Crook’s Corner) and Bret Jennings (Elaine’s on Franklin) were on hand as they are featured in Ann Prospero’s book of the same name as the session that took shape first on her blog, Prospero’s Kitchen.  Obviously, for an aspiring foodie and reviewer like myself, the book will be required reading.  Add another one to the list!  She read a few snippets about a bunch of different Triangle-based chefs and also gave us some background on the whos and whats of our fantastic dining scene.  Ann gives much credit to three chefs; Bill Neal, Scott Howell, and Ben Barker, for drawing talent to our area and helping create the chef-farmer relationships we benefit from.  When asked about how his own personal scene as a chef has changed over the years, Smith replied that he’s “older and more tired” and because of that, he’s learned that “simplicity can be as good as complexity” in making a dish, with which I completely agree.  He also attested that part of the benefits of having so many talented chefs here is that he is “influenced to keep up the good work.”

On the farmer and chef relationship, Jennings feels that the “farmers here are as imaginative and creative as the chefs,” and loves that they experiment with new ingredients that he then will experiment with in the restaurant.  He also commented in response to a question, that the dining clientele has become smarter about food and that children are influencing their parents in making good choices on where to eat, both of which can be at least partially credited to the locavore movement.  There were samples from the chefs available after the session but I did not stick around to try them.  Shameful, I know.

To sum up, I was very impressed with the NC Literary Festival and glad I managed to get myself on out to several sessions.  Now, does anyone know if any local bookshops carry Playing for Keeps, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, or Chefs of the Triangle?

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