My favorite things from yesterday’s 2013 Gaithersburg Book Festival.

My favorite things from yesterday’s 2013 Gaithersburg Book Festival.

Writers: Coffee with Judith Sanders

I had the wonderful opportunity to share a cup of coffee with author Judith Sanders over the weekend. Such a gracious lady and dedicated writer! We could have gabbed for hours, but alas, she and her husband were on their way back to North Caroline after a visit here in Maryland with their son. I did have the chance to mention the 2013 Gaithersburg Book Festival (May 18, 2013) and the fast approaching deadline with the hope that she would apply to be a featured writer for this year’s festival.

During our lively conversation - which ranged from her career as a nurse to her recent adventure holding a summer “science camp” for her young grandchildren - she kindly shared with me a glimpse of the substantial research she conducted to produce her latest novel, IN HIS STEAD, published just two months ago. If just a smidgen of the knowledge she gathered on the historical aspects of military substitutes in the U.S., as well as the difficulties endured by those who serve in combat is encompassed in this story about one family’s struggle with the heart-breaking consequences of war, it will be a winner. Needless to say, I’m looking forward to reading it and tracking the career of this intriguing new writer. (I will provide a review here after I’ve completed it.)

By the way, Judith and her husband - a former Iraqi vet and physician - are so passionate about supporting our troops that a portion of all sales of this book will go to, which was created to keep families connected while our military men and women are serving abroad.

While Judith was kind enough to share a signed copy of her book with me, you can check out where to buy it at Goodreads
( If you like it, keep an eye open for readings and book signings - or better yet, ask your local independent book seller to invite her to read and meet your book club. Her website is

The Personal Impact of Innovation

Hats off today to one of my favorite inventions that actually took place nearly 600 years ago: the invention of the printing press with moveable type. Apparently, it was on this date in 1455 that “the first printing of the Gutenberg Bible began in Mainz, Germany. Although books in China had been printed as early as the 9th century, every book in Europe had been produced by hand, copied painstakingly by scribes, until Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press with moveable type. The invention of the printing press is considered to be one of the most important single developments of the modern age. It made the widespread dissemination of knowledge and information possible and affordable, and it played a vital role in the Renaissance, the Age of Enlightenment, and the Scientific Revolution.” (1)

Personally, it holds a special place in my heart in that when I was a young girl my grandfather taught me how to set “hot lead” moveable type and run a “letterpress” printing press. He learned the craft from his father, both of them lover of words, who made their living creating documents for other people needing to communicate ideas, whether in the form of newspaper articles, wedding announcements or holiday greetings. They were craftsmen who mastered hundreds of fonts, mixed inks, toiled with foils and embossing dusts, and perfected the art of paper selection.

For my part, I happily spent my Saturdays, holidays and summers in the dusty back room of my grandfathers shop sitting on a small metal stool hunkered over a wooden drawer holding a Helvetica, Garamond or Bodoni typeface. Literally singing at the top of my lungs while I worked, I would lay out the upside-down-and-backward letters into the type form for someone’s impending nuptials, unaware that everyone in the shop could hear my off-key a capella accompanied only by the noise of the printing presses (think about singing while you run the vacuum cleaner and you’ll understand why I thought no one could hear me). I may have only been 9, 10, 11, 12 or 13 years old at the time, but I loved it all: the din of the printing presses and the embossing machines; the smell of the ink and the cleaning solvents; the different way parchment, linen or glossed paper stock felt between my fingers. I didn’t know it at the time, but this happy work alongside my grandparents also set my career in Corporate Communications in motion where document layout, fonts, words and relationships with printers would always seem to be important.

So, here’s to Johannes Gutenberg, for being an innovator and entrepreneur who made a significant impact on the lives of us all. And here’s to my grandfather and great grandfather whose mastery of this innovation made a significant impact on my life. I will forever be grateful to them all.

1) Source: Garrison Keillor’s THE WRITER’S ALMANAC

Book Review: In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje

In the Skin of a LionIn the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A compelling story that had me hooked, but I was frustrated by Ondaatje’s writing style, which is often more poetry than prose. In some instances, this is beautiful from a pure literary sense, but it did nothing to help me with the urgency of wanting to have the story unfold. I also found the jumping around in time and from character to character jarring in an unpleasant way. I understand this is Onjdaatje’s style, but it is not one of my personal favorites. Five stars for the storyline and character development, but 2 stars (or less) for the ordering of the tale and the ghost-like quality of the language.

View all my reviews

The NY Times announced its selection of the top 10 best illustrated children’s books for 2011. The judges chose from among hundreds of children’s picture books published in 2011. Looking for a holiday gift for a young friend? One of these might just be perfect.

Tags: books