I recently finished two days at the South Carolina Book Festival
Hanging out with readers and writers, buying books, hearing about and talking about books, reading books, and in general celebrating books and those who read and write them. Ah, what fun!
One of the highlights was a session celebrating the bicentenary of Charles Dickens’ birth. February 7, 2012, was the official date, but the entire year is full of celebrations of all sorts. [See www.dickens2012.org for details.] At the South Carolina Festival, wonderful readers evoked Dickens’ spirit, re-creating some of his most memorable characters and scenes with nothing but the spoken word—just as Dickens himself did in his dramatic renditions before packed houses both on his visit to the U.S. and in his homeland.
Dickens knew the power of words, whether spoken or written. Listening to the death of Little Nell or the opening scene of A Christmas Carol or Pip meet Miss Havisham, I was struck that those characters came to life almost 200 years ago in the mind of a man who couldn’t imagine that I’d be typing a blog on my iPad or that I could push a button and send it out for whoever finds it to read. But he knew the power of emotion, of love, of loss, of caring, of family—of all the things that make us human.
So why do we gather to celebrate books and stories? Because they remind us that story hints at something bigger than and beyond ourselves. Because they remind us of what we share.
So whether it’s at Killer Nashville, a Dickens event, a state-wide book festival, story time at your library, a critique-and-complain session with writer friends, a book club to talk about your latest favorite mystery, or just a visit to your local bookstore, find a way to celebrate the universality of books. Treat yourself to a book at your local bookstore or library—they need your support. Loan a favorite book to someone you think will enjoy it. Give a gift certificate from your local bookstore as a gift.
Best of all, curl up in your favorite spot and enjoy a read yourself. Summer vacation is almost here, so gather a stack of summer reads. Hey, comment here and tell us what crime stories you’ve been enjoying lately! Without readers, there are no writers. Without bookstores and libraries, we miss out on stories we would love to know. Without books and those who celebrate them …
Cathy Pickens, the author of the Southern Fried Mysteries series (St. Martins) and the Charleston Mysteries walking tour, also conducts a popular course in developing the creative process, is past-president of Sisters in Crime, and serves on the national board for Mystery Writers of America.
(The Killer Nashville Guest Blog series is coordinated by KN Executive Director Beth Terrell (http://www.elizabethterrell.com/). To be a part of this series, contact Beth at firstname.lastname@example.org.)