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A festival for all tastes and ages

By MARGO HAMMOND

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 27, 1998


Author talks, musical and theater performances and free books for children will be featured at the Times Festival of Reading on Nov. 8 at the Eckerd College campus in St. Petersburg. The event, now in its sixth year, is free.

Among the headliners who will talk about their newly published books are an actor, a producer, a journalist, a columnist, a cartoonist, a stand-up comic and a cook. They are:

* Fannie Flagg, the actor, who will present her cast of colorful characters from Welcome to the World, Baby Girl, her first novel in a decade since Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe.

* Stephen Cannell, producer of The Rockford Files, who will talk about his latest thriller, Riding the Snake.

* Juan Williams, Washington Post correspondent and frequent co-host of TV's Crossfire, who will discuss his new biography of Thurgood Marshall (Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary).

* Frank Rich, New York Times columnist, who has written about his days as a theater critic in Hot Seat: Theater Criticism for the New York Times: 1980-1993.

* Jules Feiffer, Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist and children's book writer, who will present his latest children's book, I Lost My Bear.

* Bob Smith, comic, who has written about his life as a gay comic in Openly Bob.

* Curtis Aiken, TV cook, who will demonstrate his culinary talents from his latest cookbook, Curtis Cooks With Heart and Soul.

Also scheduled for author talks are radical feminist Mary Daly (Quintessence) and military thriller writer Larry Bond (Day of Wrath). Bond was the co-author with Tom Clancy of Red Storm Rising.

Those who are optimistic about the future might want to check out the talk by science fiction writer Ben Bova, whose new non-science fiction book, Immortality: How Science Is Extending Your Life Span -- and Changing the World, discusses the possibility of living forever. Those who are convinced we are not destined for immortality might prefer the session featuring lawyer Steven Mitchell Sack, who will address the subject of wills and trusts covered in his book, The Lifetime Family Legal Guide.

Several authors from the local area also will be speaking at the fair. Sarasota-based mystery writer Stuart Kaminsky (The Dog Who Bit the Policeman and Green Bottle) will talk about his prolific mystery writing career. St. Petersburg-based writer Rhonda Sonnenberg will discuss Thomas Mann, John Steinbeck, Virginia Woolf, Colette, Ernest Hemingway and Ezra Pound, the subjects of her new book, World War II and the Writer's Life. Tampa-based writer Robert A. Norman will present his new book, Mother Nature, Father Time, based on stories he has collected during his medical practice.

Several panels are scheduled for the event. In addition to their individual talks, Juan Williams, Frank Rich and Jules Feiffer will talk on a panel about ethics in journalism. Jane Leavy, Michelle Kaufman and Lissa Smith, collaborators on the anthology of essays, Nike Is a Goddess: The History of Women in Sports, will discuss women in sports. Lee Gramling, author of Thunder on the St. Johns and other "Cracker Westerns," and Herb and Muncy Chapman, authors of Wiregrass Country, the first book in Pineapple Press' Florida Pioneer series, will speak on the Cracker Western."

A panel of Florida mystery writers will feature Kaminsky, who is president of the Mystery Writers of America, Walter Satterthwait (Masquerade), Randy Wayne White (The Mangrove Coast); E.C. Ayres (Lair of the Lizard), and Kathy Hogan Trocheck (Midnight Clear).

Also available for conversation will be an entourage of the festival's "Famous Dead Authors," including Mary Shelly, Aesop, A.A. Milne, Lucy Montgomery, Louisa May Alcott, Ernest Hemingway, Lorraine Hansberry, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Kahlil Gibran (played by local actors Kathleen Gavin, Stephen McCruder, Ron Zeitz, Gaylia Cole, Sherri Lundquist, Sam Zeoli, LaWanda Walker, Corinne Broskette and Dan Khoury).

The festival will feature three open-air stages of poetry readings, musical and theater performances, storytelling, and a marketplace with book vendors and educational booths. The first 5,000 children 12 or younger who attend may receive a free book and a Marvel comic in the children's area. There also will be a children's parade of storybook characters, crafts and writing workshops.

The banned books marathon, an annual event where fair-goers are invited to read from books that have been banned, is returning to this year's fair.

New this year will be a Books-as-Art exhibits, including a display of rare books illustrated by Salvador Dali from the Salvador Dali Museum, books created at the African Cultural Experience Workshop at the Frank Pierce Community Center and books created by disabled art students at the Creative Clay Art Center. The center, along with Allen Loyd, is also creating two giant book puppets that will be roaming the festival grounds.

The Soapbox Stage, produced by local author and poet Billie S. Noakes, will present poetry performances and readings. Along with Noakes, the poets who will be performing include: Chris Vannoy, Kathleen W. Jackson, Colin Clark, Boo Ehrsam, Bradley Morewood, Guy Hoagland, Colleen Wilhite, Smokey Coombs and Gary Drilling, and Paul Watkins.

Among the highlights offered on the StoryLand Stage, which is produced by the Juvenile Welfare Board, will be: the American Stage School tour of Three Tall Tales, three stories of the history of our country, told through three different cultural perspectives and music; the Gulfport Public Library Children's Marionette Troupe production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, with scenery, costumes and marionettes created and performed by the children of the troop; storytellers Windell Campbell and Tamara Green telling African-American stories; and the Peace River Tale Spinners telling humorous tales set in Florida.

The StoryLand Stage area will also include bookmaking workshops for kids by Creative Clay, a computerized create-a-book program by the Tampa Writers Alliance, and "Kids Create" activities by the Junior League of St. Petersburg.

The Theater Under the Pines Stage, produced by First Night St. Petersburg, will include: classical, jazz, gospel and popular music performances; two live radio shows by the Retro Radio Players; an appearance by Col. Rod Henrick, who tells stories about Florida Crackers, hound dogs and pickup trucks; and Annette J. Bruce, who spins fine yarns, both natural and synthetic.

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