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Reflections on Booktopia 2012

Elysha and I spent the weekend in Manchester, Vermont at Booktopia, a book retreat organized and run by the the inestimable Ann Kingman and Michael Kindness, the hosts of the podcast Books on the Nightstand. It is a weekend of conversation with readers and fellow authors, and it is one of our favorite weekends of the year.

Actually, I think it is the favorite weekend of the year.

Last year I attended the now-dubbed Booktopia as an author. This year I returned as a reader, and Elysha and I plan to return every year as long as Ann and Michael can find it in their hearts to keep this tradition alive.

Last year I posted a list of thoughts following a busy day of seminars and speaking engagements.

I have a similar list this year, though based upon last year’s list, it would seem that I got in a lot less trouble with my wife this year.

1. Only at Booktopia could a podcast geek like myself stumble upon a fellow podcast geek who listens to Slate’s stable of podcasts despite the fact that we both despise at least a few of their weekly hosts.

I have friends who listen to podcasts, but they are few and far between. But I have found that bookish people will consume content in any way they can, and podcasts appeal to many of us.

After all, it was a podcast that brought us together in the first place.

I’m thrilled to have a new friend who has the same voices in her head as I do each week, and I look forward to ranting about pretentious, know-nothing hosts to someone who understands and feels my pain.

2. Author Howard Frank Mosher, who has penned a dozen novels and two memoirs in his 50 year writing career, has just turned 70, but he is still one bad ass gangsta wordsmith.

Howard attaches negative reviews of his books to the side of his garage and blasts them with a 16-gauge shotgun. I saw a photo of Howard, his shotgun and his bullet-riddled garage this weekend. It was unbelievable.

Howard is also a diehard Red Sox fan, a fact that I knew all too well when I opted to don my Derek Jeter jersey for the Booktopia kickoff. My introduction to this esteemed author included a ribbing about the Sox 6-2 loss to the Yankees that night, and it got even better the following night when the Yankees staged a late inning, eight run comeback to defeat Boston 15-9.

Best of all, the Yankee’s miracle comeback literally began as Howard took the podium to deliver his Saturday evening address, a fact that I was sure to share with him as he was signing my book.

It turns out that Howard and I are both attending the Brattleboro Literary Festival in October, the time that the Yankees (and perhaps the Red Sox) will be battling in the playoffs. We agreed that it should be a fun time for us.

Howard is almost twice my age, but I found a kindred spirit in that man this weekend. Howard Frank Mosher is my kind of guy.

3. I became convinced over the course of the weekend that I am the least committed, laziest, most lame excuse for an author on this planet.

I am a pretender. An amateur. A fraction of what I should be.

This weekend I met, amongst others:

Richard Mason, an internationally bestselling author who writes his novels longhand, is creating an immersive, cutting-edge digital version of his novel, and once donated the advance from his first novel to assist in educating underprivileged children in South Africa. The man is handsome, brilliant, speaks with a British accent, and works tirelessly to help others while writing enormously successful novels. He is everything I could never be.

Madeline Miller, who was recently shortlisted for the prestigious Orange Prize for her novel SONG OF ACHILLES, which she spent ten years writing and at one point threw away a finished manuscript and started over.

Leslie Maitland, who spent years researching into her family history and traveling the world in order to write her memoir CROSSING THE BORDERS OF TIME and bring together two long lost loves in the process.

The aforementioned Howard Frank Mosher, who chose to spend the last 50 years in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont simply because it is so rich in untold stories.

Sara Henry, a former journalist who also spent ten years writing her first novel, which was listed as one of the ten best crime novels of 2011 by several esteemed publications.

These are writers that put me to shame. These are writers who spend decades laboring over novels like master sculptures chiseling into the mightiest boulders. They are artists and storytellers of the highest regard. They are writers that make me look like a mere scribbler.

4. I found this sitting in the corner of one of the meeting rooms this weekend and have yet to determine what this is or what is does. Anyone?

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5. I stopped at a gas station on Sunday morning to fill up the car and then went inside the adjacent convenience store to purchase a candy bar. While standing at the cash register, a woman stepped out of a public restroom near the front of the store and announced, “I don’t know how busy you’ve been this morning, but that bathroom was a mess!”

“I’m sorry,” the clerk said. “I honestly didn’t know. I’ll get it cleaned up in just a second.”

“Don’t bother,” the customer, a middle aged woman, said, now heading for the door. “I took care of it for you. But I’ll tell you, it was a hell of a job.”

Only in Vermont.