Bookish Event Wrap-Up: Junior League of Richmond Book & Author Dinner

Last Tuesday night, I had the great pleasure of attending the Junior League of Richmond’s annual Book and Author Dinner in the company of Swapna, Michelle, Emy, and several of my IRL bookish friends. The Book and Author Dinner is the JLR’s biggest fundraiser, and now, in its 65th year, it is the longest running event of its kind nationwide. This was my first time attending, and it was fabulous.

Swapna, Michelle, and I kicked off the evening with a pre-dinner drink at Penny Lane Pub, then we took our gussied-up selves down to the dinner for mixing and mingling. Almost immediately, we bumped into my good friend Emy (you know her as Elizabeth Emerson Hancock, author of Trespassers Will Be Baptized), who is a member of the Junior League and served on the planning committee for the dinner. Here’s a pic of us canoodling.

Yes, my forehead looks shiny, and no, I cannot for the life of me figure out how to prevent that from happening when it’s roasty toasty outside. Too bad I can’t keep Deanna Danger (the awesome stylist of the pantyworthy photo shoot) on hand all the time!

Here I am with Swapna and Michelle. Swapna and I didn’t coordinate our dresses, but it was kind of fun that we coordinated.

After we mingled, we sat down to dinner and proceeded to enjoy short talks (well, they were supposed to be short—limited to 8 minutes—but some of the authors weren’t so great about sticking to their time) from six authors. And it all began with Abraham Verghese, author of the stunning Cutting for Stone, which was one of my favorite books of 2009 and has earned a spot on my list of all-time best reads. Verghese discussed the book that inspired him to become a physician—W. Somerset Maugham’s Of Human Bondage—and he spoke about the power of story to change our lives.

That idea, that story and narrative bring our imaginations to life, was a running theme of the evening, and it came up in almost all of the authors’ talks.

Next up was Sarah Blake (The Postmistress), who was just as wonderful and inspiring as she was when Swapna and I saw her at Politics & Prose a few months ago. (Swapna’s wrap-up of this event is up today too, and it is much more thorough. Go check out her thoughts about the evening.) And then came Dean King, who discussed his book Unbound, which is about the thirty women who survived the Long March when the Chinese Communist Party came under attack in 1934. King’s talk was remarkable first because the thirty women he researched were the only thirty women among the 86,000 Communists who sought escape. Only 10,000 of them survived, but ALL of the women made it, and King explained that Unbound is about these women and their strength and resilience.

People, I was ready to toss my panties at him before he even finished his talk—you know I love me a fan with a good feminist sensibility—and I cannot wait to read Unbound, which I picked up during the event.

After the heaviness of Dean King’s topic came Phyllis Theroux, whose book The Journal Keeper is essentially a memoir about writing memoirs. Now, I have no idea if the book is funny, but Phyllis (she doesn’t know it yet, but we’re on a first name basis) was a HOOT and had us all practically falling off our chairs in fits of giggles.  I’m not sure if I’ll end up reading The Journal Keeper, but it seemed like it would make a great book club selection, and I imagine Phyllis would be a fun author to have visit your club.

The final two authors rambled to the point that I lost focus and leaned over to ask Michelle, “Is this guy still talking???” Swapna covers them in greater depth if you’re interested.

After dinner, we got in line to meet Abraham Verghese, who totally made my day with exclaiming, “Oh, so nice to meet you!” and agreeing to take a photo with us.  As this was happening, I was thinking to myself, “I wonder if he knows I want to throw my panties at him….God, I hope he doesn’t think it’s creepy.”  (This was the first time I’ve met one of my pantyworthy authors in person. Dr. Verghese, if your Google Alerts have led you here, pantyworthy simply means a book was so good that I’d throw my panties at the author in a show of appreciation. I swear, it’s not as weird as it sounds. Click here for a full explanation of pantyworthy.)

Then I went to meet Dean King and tell him how much the folks at Fountain Bookstore have raved about his book and how I’m stoked to read it, and then we called it a night.

Oh, and at some point I spilled food right on the front of my dress. Because I’m smooth like that.

All in all, a fantastic night in the company of good friends and great authors.

20 Responses

  1. Oh man — what a super event!! You guys all looks so pretty and happy.

  2. what fun!

  3. That looks like so much fun. As I commented on Swapna’s post, I’ve never met an author before (looking forward to BEA!) so I am extra jealous of you meeting Verghese (definitely an all time favorite of mine too, I’d throw my panties, and I think he deserves some nice lacy ones!). Also, hilarious that you give the quick explanation of pantyworthy just in case ;)

  4. That looks like so much fun! I wish I had more blogger friends in the area to go to things with.

  5. This event looks like it was fantastic! And Unbound looks really, really good and just what’s been piquing my interest lately. I’ll have to check it out.

  6. Rebecca, it sounds like you had a fantastic time, despite the authors that weren’t so scintillating. If I ever were to have a photo of myself and Abraham Verghese, it would go into my mythical treasure box!

    I have read The Journal Keeper by Phyllis Theroux and it is actually an edited version of her personal journals from 2000-2006. There are some suggestions for journal writing at the end, which comprise only a couple of pages. While I found the book rich in wisdom and profound in these post-midlife reflections, I personally would guess that those under say, 50ish, might not find much content or emotion to which they can relate.

    Just my opinion, of course. I (being well over 50) thought it was wonderful.

  7. Oh, what a fun evening – I can’t think of anything better than authors, food and fellow bloggers!

  8. I have an award for you here.

  9. I loved reading your update, as well as Swapna’s. You three look so very gussied up (so much that you got drinks bought for you!). I wish they had events like that down here, but that probably won’t happen. I guess we must be soulless and very non-literary!

  10. Wow, I really am looking pregnant. Thought I was hiding it so well!

  11. Sounds like you guys had a great time! I have The Journal Keeper in my TBR pile now. I hope to get to it. One day. ;-)

  12. Thanks for the explanation! I cracked up (LOL is the term) when I first read that. Truly a unique quality measure–i am honored to be in that worthy group!!!
    It was a great pleasure to meet all of you. You bring such energy to the blog, tweet and book world. I am most grateful.

  13. It looks like you ladies had a GREAT time! I have Elizabeth Hancock’s book on my shelf just waiting to be read. :)

  14. Looks like you guys had a lot of fun.

    My forehead shine secret weapon is the Neutrogena Shine-Controlling Blotting Sheets. I’m sure you’ve tried them, but they are my lifesaver in the summer.

  15. Looks like a great time was had by all!

  16. Man, I need to move about 2 hours north. You girls have ALL the fun!! That whole event sounds so amazing!

  17. Thank you so much for having us! It was great to have a bookish girls night!

    I was mentioning to Swapna (or maybe it was you, haha) that even though I’m not a memoir girl I would consider reading Phyllis’ book. Though I admit I fear it would suffer in comparison in the humor department. I’m so interested to hear what you think of Unbound, it sounds so very depressing but so so good. I think Dean King is definitely a pantyworthy author in the makings!

  18. […] also blogged about my night with Swapna and Michelle at the Junior League of Richmond’s Book & Author Dinner (where I met Abraham Verghese and just *barely* resisted the urge to throw my panties at him, and […]

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