February 2nd, 2008

Last week, I had the honor of being invited to West Palm Beach, Florida for BookMania, an annual event run by the Martin County Library System and held at the Blake Library, a gorgeous complex in an island town called Stuart.

I’d originally been scheduled to go to Asia in mid-January, but the people at William Morrow asked that I postpone the trip in order to go to BookMania. There was a certain amount of grumpiness on my part when I said yes, since I’m supposed to be writing the next Bangkok book while I’m in Asia, and this would cut into the writing time. And I also had no idea what to expect: tea and finger sandwiches with some librarians? (I love librarians, but I hate tea.) Or a sputtering, subject-challenged panel with a few writers who were probably all better known than I was, in front of an apathetic audience of ten or twelve?

Boy, was I wrong. BookMania is the best-run book event I’ve ever been near. I was met at the airport (along with Carolyn See and Dale Brown, whose flights landed at the same time as mine), and we were all put up at an extremely fancy beach resort, and generally treated like rock stars. On Friday evening, I was met by two amazingly nice women who took me in charge and drove me to the opening cocktail party, which took place in the library’s auditorium. There were perhaps 600 people in attendance, and twenty-four writers, including Brown, Carolyn and Lisa See, William Bernhardt, Amy Bloom, Luanne Rice, Steve Alten, Frank Delaney, and Michael C. White.

One end of the auditorium was taken up by a screen big enough for a drive-in movie, and our names, faces, and book jackets were flashed on it all evening long. Tables were scattered throughout the room; in the center of each was a lamp with a broad transparent base, and in each lamp was the name, photo, and dust jacket of one of the attending writers. I got so much attention I felt like a fraud.

The next day, I did a panel with Frank Delaney, Carolyn See, and Lisa See. I was pretty intimidated by the company, but that faded the moment we walked onto the stage, at which point I became purely and simply terrified. There were maybe 300 people sitting there, with another 75 standing at the rear and along the sides, and yet another 100 watching on closed-circuit TV in an overflow room. This was Saturday morning, and more than 400 people had turned out to hear four scribblers talk.

The moderator, Luann Justak, was right on top of things: she’d read everything twice, she had a fund of good questions, and everybody was in fine form. Both of the Sees and Frank Delaney were articulate and insightful, and there was some hilarious mother-daughter byplay between Carolyn and Lisa See.

Here’s my chance also to say that the Sees are extraordinarily interesting people whom I liked immensely and that Frank Delaney is an Irish spellbinder. (And Dale Brown, for those of you who count yourselves among his many fans, is a terrific guy.) Since I got home I’ve been reading and loving Lisa See’s Peony in Love, and have ordered Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. The next book I read will be Carolyn See’s There Will Never Be Another You, followed by Delaney’s Tipperary.

And I want to thank everyone at the library for giving us all the time of our lives. If you ever get a chance to attend BookMania, jump at it.

10 Responses to “BookMania”

  1. Cynthia Mueller Says:

    DALE BROWN???? Someone I chat with online has met DALE BROWN???? How cool is that?

    On the other hand, DALE BROWN . . . mega-author, A-6 pilot, general all-around-cool-guy met a guy I chat with online!!! How cool am I?

    On yet another hand, I’ll just bet that Dale Brown is sitting around with his buddies thinking how cool he is since he met the mega-author Tim Hallinan (who chats online with….)

    So much coolness, so little time….

  2. Lisa Kenney Says:

    This has all been a big trick. First I was too intimidated by all of your accomplishments to comment on your blog, then you turned out to be very down to earth and normal and I got real yappy and now I’m back to intimidated again. Yikes. You are totally a rock star!

  3. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Cynthia —

    Dale Brown is just a remarkably nice man, who’s completely wrapped up in two things: his writing and his family. I spent the better part of a couple of hours with him and enjoyed the hell out of him.

    Lisa —

    To paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen in his debate with Dan Quayle, “I know rock stars. I have worked with rock stars. But believe me, I’m no rock star.” I’m just someone who does his best to put two, then three, and then (maybe) four words together in the right order. And who loves doing it.

  4. Wendy Ledger Says:

    Tim, I’m really glad they were smart enough to invite you and that you went.

  5. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Thank you, Wendy –that’s really sweet of you.

  6. Jennifer Says:

    Sounds like a lot of fun, Tim, for the writers and the readers. It’s always interesting when your expectations of something are turned on their head, I think. Sounds like you’re pleased to have changed your schedule to fit this in.

  7. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    I had a terrific time. These people know how to run things with complete efficiency without losing the personal touch.

  8. Sphinx Ink Says:

    Sounds like a great book conference. Wish I could have been there. I’m impressed by your celebrity, too!

  9. Joyce McDoanld Hoskins Says:

    Tim, while you did fly into West Palm Beach, Florida, BookMania was held in Stuart, Florida. Stuart is a charming town forty-five miles north of West Palm Beach. The company must have been so stimulating on your ride up I-95 that you didn’t notice. I just felt compelled, on the behalf of Martin County and Stuart to straighten you out. I enjoyed the day and walked to the library from my home in Stuart.
    There was, indeed, standing room only. I sat on half of a chair in the back corner. Great day. Thanks for coming to STUART.
    Joyce McDonald Hoskins

  10. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Hi, Joyce —

    You’re right, of course. Even though I do say I went to Stuart for the event at the end of the first paragraph, the lead says “West Palm Beach.” And all I can say in mitigation is that I was told West Palm Beach when I first learned I was going, and then it said West Palm Beach on my airline ticket, and by then it would have taken dynamite to dislodge those words from my forebrain.

    Stuart is a wonderful town, and the people made me feel very welcome, so I could at least have gotten the name right in the first sentence, especially since that’s all that’s visible in the tease that one clicks on if one wishes to read the rest of the blog.

    And it says something for the popularity of the event that you were stuck on half a chair for the discussions.

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