MAPLEWOOD, NJ - Anna Quindlen. Rosemary Wells. Keith Hernandez. Tayari Jones. These are just a few of the authors who were speakers at the Second Annual Maplewood South Orange Book Festival on Saturday.
The book festival, which attracted about 2,000 attendees according to organizers, had a full day of author panels covering a wide range of topics that included "#MeToo: From Victims to Activists," "Researching the Novel," and "Modern Jewish Food: The Present and Future."
There was also a children's area in the parking lot of The Woodland with live music, a place to play, and more than 35 children's authors selling and signing books for the youngest readers. There were also several food trucks and vendors.
In addition, the book festival held a SOMA Library Benefit on Friday night featuring best-selling author David Baldacci, with all proceeds going to the Maplewood Memorial Library and the South Orange Public Library.
Anna Quindlen, whose ninth novel Alternate Side was recently published, discussed with Jean Hanff Korelitz in the Great Hall of The Woodland the writing process, her thoughts on poetry, and her latest book. Quindlen also shared that she had perviously visited Maplewood, to see the house being filmed as part of the movie One True Thing, based on her novel of the same title.
Quindlen discussed life as a writer, telling the crowd there are "few thrills like seeing your name on the front page of The New York Times," and that she remembers being 11-years-old and going to the New York Public Library and saying to herself, "I would go between Proust and Ayn Rand."
She explained that while she usually writes without knowing what the book's title will be, Quindlen had the title for Alternate Side from the beginning. She also said that the book cover was finalized early on and that she loved it for being "not like everything else," while also noting the cover for the paperback version has a completely different cover which is "much more inside the box."
Quindlen shared that she visits schools, where she tells students not to write poetry, which they usually want to do "because there's less of it," but that "it's the hardest form out there."
Rosemary Wells was the children's keynote speaker, and encouraged parents to read Mother Goose to their children, to put away their electronics, and to be cautious of giving children iPhones and iPads, which she said are "dominating our children's lives... without knowing what it does to their brains.
"We need studies on what iPads do to children's brains and the parent-child relationship," cautioned Wells.
Wells also answered the question many have about her famous rabbit siblings, Max and Ruby, which is -- where are their parents? Wells explained that Max and Ruby are based on her own children, and there are no parents there as she was always writing down what they were saying in the next room, and therefore was not a part of the dialogue.
Wells said her aim with all of her books is to have the child enjoy reading and to want "more books of all kinds." When asked if her message has changed in her books she replied, "no, because I don't really have a message," adding, "I don't like adult agendas in children's books."
Wells said she thinks children are wary of stories that try too hard to teach a lesson so she never tires to do that with her books, other than letting children know, as Wells put it, "you are not alone."
Numerous SOMA authors were part of the festival both as speakers and moderators, including Pamela Erens (in conversation with Claire Messud), Shannon Sarna (speaking about modern Jewish food and her cookbook Modern Jewish Baker), and Khalil Gibran Muhammad (moderating "The Rise of White Supremacy and the Future of Race Relations").
In the children's area, SOMA authors included Melanie Conklin, Holly McGhee, Ethan Berlin, and Christopher Healy.
The dates for next year's Maplewood South Orange Book Festival have been announced: June 7 and June 8.
TAPinto SOMA is a media sponsor of the Maplewood South Orange Book Festival.