April 9, 2010

A real page turner

The fourth Maine Festival of the Book opens Friday with three days devoted to all things literary.

By Meredith Goad mgoad@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Tess Gerritsen admits she occasionally hears voices in her head.

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Heller is a magazine editor and journalist who has worked as the managing editor of the Antioch Review, as fiction editor of Esquire and Redbook, and as executive editor of the magazine development group at Conde Nast Publications.

Her first book, “Ayn Rand and the World She Made,” was featured on the front page of the New York Times Book Review and dubbed a New York Times Notable Book. In her review, Janet Maslin wrote that Heller’s biography of Rand is “a thoughtful, flesh-and-blood portrait of an extremely complicated and self-contradictory woman.”

Heller’s portrait of Rand, a passionate defender of capitalism and individual rights, is based on original research in Russia, interviews with Rand’s acquaintances, and archives of tapes and letters left behind by the author of “The Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged.”

Heller lives in New York City.


Gerritsen was a physician on maternity leave when she wrote her first novel, a romantic thriller titled “Call After Midnight.” Eight more romantic suspense novels followed, then she turned her attention to medical thrillers. The first, “Harvest,” was published in 1996 and made the New York Times best-seller list.

Gerritsen has written a total of 22 novels that have sold more than 20 million copies and been translated into 37 languages. “Ice Cold,” her latest in the Jane Rizzoli and Maura Isles series, will be released July 27.

Gerritsen is now retired from medicine and lives in Camden.


Shreve, born in Dedham, Mass., began writing fiction as a high school teacher living and working in the Boston area. One of her first published stories, “Past the Island, Drifting,” won an O. Henry Prize in 1975.

She later turned to journalism and spent three years in Kenya, writing for an African magazine and doing freelance work for magazines such as Quest and Newsweek. After publishing two nonfiction books, Shreve turned to fiction.

After Shreve’s first novel was published, she gave up journalism altogether so she could concentrate on fiction full time. She has since published 14 more novels, including “The Pilot’s Wife,” chosen for Oprah’s Book Club in 1999, and “The Weight of Water.”
In 1998, Shreve won the PEN/L.L. Winship Award and the New England Book Award for Fiction.

Her latest book, “A Change in Altitude,” (Little, Brown, $26.99), is about a married couple living in Kenya for a year and was published in September.




7:30 p.m. – Opening night with Tess Gerritsen and Anita Shreve, University of Southern Maine Abromson Center on Bedford Street in Portland. Tickets are $10 in advance at www.mainereads.org or $15 at the door. Doors open at7 p.m.


Full day of readings, author discussions, signings, book sales and performances at the University of Southern Maine Abromson Center. Programs are unticketed, last for about one hour and are held concurrently, with book signings immediately afterword. Free parking is available in the garage behind the center.

9:30 a.m. – “Maine in the World.” Neil Rolde tells stories of Mainers who had a significant impact on the world, and Earle Shettleworth examines the history of Bar Harbor as an internationally known summer resort.

9:30 a.m. – “Franco-American Women’s Words in Maine.” Rhea Cote Robbins and Trudy Chambers Price read from works in progress and published titles.

11 a.m. – “Poems Drawn from Life: Wesley McNair.” McNair reads poems from his new volume, “Lovers of the Lost: New & Selected Poems.”

11 a.m. – Mark Griffin, author of “A Hundred or More Hidden Things: The Life and Films of Vincente Minnelli,” shares his experiences interviewing celebrities for his book on the award-winning filmmaker.

11 a.m. – “Kids Cartooning Workshop.” Children ages 7 to 12 are invited to try their hand at cartoon art. Comic book artist Jay Piscopo will demonstrate how to build figures and perspective to create art that tells a story.

Noon to 2 p.m. – “Book Signing Bonanza.” About 30 authors will be on hand to sign books and chat, including Monica Wood, Julia Spencer-Fleming, James Hayman, Betsy Sholl, Cynthia Lord and Wes McNair.

1:30 p.m. – “The Reawakening of Ayn Rand.” Anne C. Heller, author of “Ayn Rand and the World She Made,” will discuss the novelist-philosopher’s life and work, and talk about why Rand is so popular in 2010.

3 p.m. – “Native Plants for Maine Gardens: Going Wild!” Maureen Heffernan, author and executive director of Coast Maine Botanical Gardens, will reveal her top 10 native plants for Maine gardens in an illustrated talk.

3 p.m. – “There are No New Stories.” In this panel presentation, three authors whose work involves the retelling of old stories will discuss their inspiration. Graphic novelist Nicole Chaison will talk about Joseph Campbell and hero journey stories. Novelist Debra Spark will talk about reading the Book of Esther on the eve of the Iraq War. Elizabeth Searle will talk about her fascination with stories of celebrities in disgrace.

5 p.m. – “That Takes Ovaries! Bold Females and Their Brazen Acts,” presented at the North Star Cafe, 225 Congress St. This theatrical production is based on a collection of real-life stories from women and girls about gutsy, outrageous or courageous things they have done. There will be an open-mic finale. Free for children; $5 suggested donation for adults.

7 p.m. – “Annual Poetry Party,” Constellation Gallery, 511 Congress St. Music, cocktails, Northeast Regional Poetry Slam and Maine’s first inter-high school poetry slam. Free.


7 p.m. – “Longfellow’s Shorts: Debra Spark” at Portland Stage Company, 25A Forest Ave. A dramatic reading of selections from “Good for the Jews,” a new novel by Debra Spark.


Go online to www.mainereads.org for directions and to download a brochure.

But it’s just her characters talking to her.

Gerritsen, a best-selling suspense writer who lives in Camden, will be talking about how she created two of her most popular heroines, Jane Rizzoli and Maura Isles, at the fourth annual Maine Festival of the Book. The festival begins Friday night and runs through Sunday.

“My process, really, is just sit down and start writing and see if they’ll talk to you,” Gerritsen said. “There are writers who will do character sketches. They’ll do long, long pages of clues to the (character’s) personality, and I’ve never done that. I think I kind of go by instinct, and a lot of it is very mysterious.”

Gerritsen and fellow best-selling fiction writer Anita Shreve will open the festival at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the University of Southern Maine’s Abromson Center by talking about writing and the writer’s life.

Gerritsen said she enjoys such appearances because she gets to meet fans and interact with other writers.

“When I go on tour,” she said, “I meet a lot of readers, but I don’t often get the chance to hang out with other writers as well. It’s fun to hear what they have to say.”

It’s support from well-known authors such as Gerritsen that has put Maine’s Festival of the Book on the national map, says Sarah Cecil of Maine Reads, the nonprofit group that organizes the festival and supports other local programs that promote literacy.

“The fact that we’ve had four Pulitzer Prize winners in the first three years is big stuff,” Cecil said. “I find that when I talk to people who have put on other book festivals that are considerably older, they’re like, ‘How do you get such good authors so early on?’

“I think a lot of it has to do with people who have connections to Maine that are really great writers. We’ve been able to tap that really nicely, and are grateful for those writers and their generous help with the book festival.”

Reaching out to all kinds of readers has also been key, Cecil said. The idea of a book festival can seem dry, so Maine Reads works hard to make the discussions lively, bringing in authors that appeal to many audiences and reading levels.

Another enticement: Except for the first night, which costs $10, everything is free and does not require tickets.

Readings and discussions will be running all day Saturday at the Abromson Center, with topics ranging from writing novels to historic preservation. Comic book artist Jay Piscopo will be hosting a cartoon workshop for ages 7 to 12 at 11 a.m., and from noon to 2 p.m., about 30 authors will hold court at a Book Signing Bonanza, where fans can meet favorite authors.

Twenty-somethings tend to flock to the annual Poetry Party, which is “always a wild, fun scene,” Cecil said. The event, hosted by Port Veritas, will be at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Constellation Gallery, 511 Congress St.

Biography will be one of the hot topics. Mark Griffin, author of “A Hundred or More Hidden Things: The Life and Films of Vincente Minnelli” (Da Capo Press, $15.95), will discuss what he learned about the famous director of “An American in Paris,” “Gigi” and other classic films at 11 a.m. Saturday. He may also be showing a short documentary that he recently screened at the Museum of Modern Art in New York that features audio clips of Kirk Douglas, Lauren Bacall and George Hamilton describing what it was like to be directed by Minnelli.

The sleeper event may be an appearance by Anne C. Heller, a New York-based magazine editor and journalist, at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at the Abromson Center. Heller just wrote a biography, “Ayn Rand and the World She Made” (Nan A. Talese, $35), that has been getting a lot of attention.

“Ayn Rand – some people hate her, some people love her,” Cecil said. “People are passionate about Ayn Rand and ‘The Fountainthead’ and ‘Atlas Shrugged.’ This is Anne Heller’s first book, and it was featured on the front page of the New York Times Book Review.”

Tess Gerritsen’s appearance will be taped by a film crew from TNT, which is launching a new show this summer called “Rizzoli and Isles,” based on characters from eight of her crime novels. The show stars Angie Harmon of “Law & Order” fame and Sasha Alexander, who appeared in “Mission Impossible III.”

Seeing these characters, whose voices originated in her head, suddenly end up on the TV screen is “kind of weird,” Gerritsen said.

“I was there to see the filming of the first episode, and it was really a lot of fun to see,” she said. “They weren’t exactly what I had envisioned, but you go with the talent.”

Then she laughed.

“And, of course, they’re way more beautiful than I ever imagined.”

Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:


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