By Christina Wood
The annual Ernest Hemingway look-alike contest held in Key West isn’t exactly what you could call a literary event. (But, if you’re interested, Sloppy Joe’s Bar will host the 40th annual contest July 23-26, 2020.) It is, however, a reminder of South Florida’s long literary legacy.
First came intrepid individuals like Hemingway (A Farewell to Arms, in 1929). Then we had writers like Zora Neale Hurston (Their Eyes Were Watching God, in 1937) and Marjory Stoneman Douglas (The Everglades: River of Grass, in 1947) who didn’t just call South Florida home, they wrote about it. So did Elmore Leonard, who gave us Travis McGee, finder of lost things, in 1964 and installed him aboard The Busted Flush, docked at Slip F18 of the Bahia Mar Marina.
South Florida remains popular among writers today. Successful scribblers – like James Patterson, who has a tidy office on Palm Beach, and Miami’s funnyman Dave Barry, who has a soft spot for Florida’s quirky side – are scattered all along our coast.
“What’s not to love,” mystery writer and Fort Lauderdale resident Elaine Viets says. “I get to walk along the beach and think about ways to kill people.”
Of course, South Florida, where you can indulge in a good beach read anytime of year, also attracts its fair share of readers.
If you are among the many with an appreciation for the written word, get ready to put your book down (when you do, you will, of course, use a proper bookmark instead of folding the corner of the page, won’t you?). The 2019-2020 season offers cause for celebration.
Read Together Palm Beach County
The One-in-a-Million Boy, by Monica Wood, has been selected for the Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach County’s annual “one book, one community” campaign. Read Together PBC is designed to remind people who can read, but often don’t about the pleasures of reading, while also promoting community dialogue and engagement as readers get together to talk about the book.
The novel, which has been published in 22 languages and 30 countries, revolves around 104-year-old Ona and the 11-year-old boy who’s been sent to help her out every Saturday morning. As he refills the bird feeders and tidies the garden shed, Ona tells him about her long life, from first love to second chances. Soon she’s confessing secrets she has kept hidden for decades.
One Saturday, the boy doesn’t show up. Ona starts to think he’s not so special after all, but then his father arrives on her doorstep, determined to finish his son’s good deed. The boy’s mother is not so far behind. Ona is set to discover that the world can surprise us at any age.
Copies of the book are available at the Literacy Coalition for a $10 donation. The Palm Beach County libraries and municipal libraries also have copies.
The campaign began in early September. Events and book discussions are planned throughout the county running through mid-November. The campaign finale, where you’ll have the chance to meet the author, will be held on Nov. 21 at the Harriet Himmel Theater in West Palm Beach. (The finale is free, but you must RSVP; a suggested donation is welcome. Registration began Oct. 3.)
For a complete list of events, a book discussion guide or to register for the finale, visit LiteracyPBC.org.
Miami Book Fair
Before you satisfy your craving for turkey and all the trimmings, you can feed your appetite for all things book-related at the Miami Book Fair, which will be held Nov. 17-24 in downtown Miami.
The celebration of literature and community gets started on Nov. 17 with the popular Evenings With… series, featuring six nights of readings and discussions with noted authors such as Ambassador Samantha Power, award-winning novelist Richard Russo, the ever-challenging Eve Ensler and the always funny John Waters.
The Festival of Authors is part of the popular Street Fair, which will run Nov. 22-24. This year, more than 600 authors from near and far will be on hand, including Richard Blanco, T.C. Boyle, Oscar Casares, Edwidge Danticat, Téa Obrecht, Tim O’Brien and George Will, to name but a few. In addition to readings and signings, there will be programs for kids of all ages and live music as well as hundreds of publishers and booksellers offering everything from used paperbacks to rare manuscripts.
And you’ll be happy to hear, there are no sad endings. When the fair is over, organizers will continue to offer events – month in, month out – throughout the year.
All the details will be posted on MiamiBookFair.com as the date draws near.
Key West Literary Seminar
There’s a reason why this four-day event always sells out. Actually, there are several. The location would be enough to attract readers from colder climes. Then there’s the lineup of literary lions – which this year includes three Pulitzer Prize winners, a former U.S. poet laureate and contributors to the New Yorker and the Atlantic as well as winners of the Edgar Award, National Book Award, National Book Critics Circle Award for Autobiography and the Orange Prize. Geoff Dyer, who has penned four novels and numerous nonfiction books and has been hailed as “one of the funniest writers alive” by the Chicago Tribune, is the 2020 keynote speaker.
Another selling point is the fact that each year the seminar explores a particular literary theme, ensuring there are always fresh ideas to explore. In 2020, for the first time, sports writing will be in the spotlight. For “Reading Between the Lines: Sports and Literature” (Jan. 9-12, 2020), the focus will be on literature that gets at the heart of why sports matter so much to so many, and explores the roles sports play in momentous social issues, personal transformation, and cultural change.
You can try getting on the wait list for January’s event (registration is $675). Your chances are better of getting tickets for the 2021 Seminar, which should be going on sale in February. See KWLS.org for more information.
Palm Beach Poetry Festival
Once again, poets will be gathering at Old School Square in Delray Beach. The 16th installment of this annual event will be held Jan. 20-25, 2020, and will feature renowned poets at a number of ticketed public events, including readings, talks, interviews, panel discussions and more. Poetry workshops will also be offered; the deadline for applications is Nov. 10.
Joy Harjo, who was recently selected as the U.S. poet laureate, will be the 2020 special guest poet. An award-winning Native American poet and renowned saxophonist from Oklahoma, Harjo has also been named a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.
The festival’s Poet At Large for 2020 is Patricia Smith, the author of eight books of poetry, including Incendiary Art, winner of the 2018 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, the 2017 Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the 2018 NAACP Image Award, and a finalist for the 2018 Pulitzer Prize.
For information on the various events, visit PalmBeachPoetryFestival.org, where you can also find detailed descriptions, faculty biographies and application forms for the festival’s workshops.
Literary Feast 2020
What could possibly top nibbling on a little something while reading a good book? How about tucking into something yummy while talking about good books? When you add in that you’ll also be raising money for the Broward County Public Library’s literacy programs while you’re chatting, it’s hard to resist.
Since it was launched in 1988, the Literary Feast has evolved to include several different components. LitLUNCH! (Feb. 21) is a women-centric luncheon featuring a bestselling author. On Author Day for Students (April 3), authors engage thousands of Broward County high school students in discussions about their works and the craft of writing. For LitLIVE! (April 3), which is open to the public, authors participate in panel discussions and book signings at three locations in Broward County. A percentage of all sales during the event will benefit the Broward Public Library Foundation. This event is open to the public.
The main event is the Night of Literary Feasts (April 4). The evening begins with a reception at Bahia Mar–Fort Lauderdale Beach. After enjoying an open bar, hors d’oeuvres, book sales and signings and a silent auction, guests depart for intimate dinners with a featured author hosted in private homes or upscale restaurants.
The authors participating in this year’s events have not been announced. Previous Feast authors include Barbara Taylor Bradford, Rita Mae Brown, Carol Higgins Clark, Michael Connelly, Edwidge Danticat, Jennifer Egan, Carl Hiaasen, Debbie Macomber and Les Standiford, among others.
Festival of the Arts BOCA
From Feb. 28 to March 8, 2020, the Mizner Park Amphitheater and Mizner Park Cultural Arts Center in Boca Raton will be awash in sparkling sights and sounds as this annual celebration of music, film, concerts and authors returns for its 14th installment. Concerts and big-name entertainers – which this year will include Cirque de la Symphonie (opening night, Feb. 28) and a showing of The Empire Strikes Back with live orchestra (March 6), among others – usually get the most attention. You could, perhaps, says that the appeal of the festival’s Authors & Ideas program is more intimate, but it is just as compelling.
A Moth Story Slam (Feb. 29) headlines this year’s lineup. The Moth, as fans of the NPR show or the podcast will tell you, is a sometimes profound, often funny and almost always moving showcase for the simple art of storytelling. A Story Slam is an open-mic storytelling competition open to anyone with a 5-minute story to share on the day’s theme (TBA). Whether you want to tell your own story or listen to others tell theirs, this promises to be a highlight of the festival.
Also on the schedule:
• March 2: Novelist Jesmyn Ward, author of Salvage the Bones and Sing, Unburied, Sing. She is the first woman and the first person of color to win two National Book Awards for fiction.
• March 3: Roz Chast, longtime New Yorker cartoonist and author of Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? (2014), a memoir about her aging parents that won the National Book Critics Circle Award that year.
• March 4: Psychologist Dr. Laurie Santos, a professor of psychology and cognitive science at Yale University. In 2018, her course “Psychology and the Good Life” became the most popular course in Yale’s history, with approximately one-fourth of Yale’s undergraduates enrolled. She will present a set of scientifically validated strategies for living a more satisfying life.
• March 5: Political analyst Amy Walter will be speaking two days after Super Tuesday.
More information and tickets are available at FestivalBoca.org or by calling (866) 571-ARTS (866-571-2787).
The Palm Beach Book Festival
This festival is short but sweet, kicking off in the evening of March 20 and continuing from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on March 21 at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. The event features panel discussions, talks, book signings and photo ops every 45 minutes. James Patterson serves as honorary chair of the festival, which typically brings together New York Times bestselling and celebrity authors. Leigh Haber, the books editor for O, the Oprah Magazine, and the coordinator of Oprah’s Book Club, is scheduled to moderate a panel at this year’s event.
Keep an eye on PalmBeachBookFestival.com for announcements of this year’s featured authors. Tickets go on sale Jan. 4, 2020. You can also find information on other events scheduled throughout the year.