A variety of authors, including a few Pulitzer Prize-winners, a popular postcard exhibit and a panel interview by Washington Post sports writer John Feinstein with George Mason University Basketball Coach Jim Larranaga, highlight the 2006 Fall for the Book Festival.
In addition to more prize-winning author appearances, this year's festival has expanded to a nine-day event. More evening events are scheduled and the City of Fairfax, one of the festival’s biggest sponsors, has arranged for events in a few popular Old Town destinations. Old Town Hall, the Sweet Life Café and Circa Home & Garden will host authors, book-signings and discussions as part of the literary festival that has traditionally offered its events only on the GMU campus.
“It just makes sense,” said Jo Ormesher, the city’s marketing manager.
The evening events will allow for more people to attend who cannot get to campus during the daytime, said Art Taylor, spokesman for Fall for the Book, a nonprofit organization. With the additional hours, days and locations at this year’s festival, Taylor said that organizers hope to top the 8,000 visitors who attended last year.
“Each year, successfully, more people come,” said Taylor.
A FOUR-DAY ART exhibition will add something fresh to the eighth annual event, said Taylor. Frank Warren, founder of the bestselling book and top-ranked Web site "PostSecret," has four events scheduled for Fall for the Book. People have sent about 70,000 homemade, anonymous postcards to Warren in Germantown, Md. The “secret” is what people write on their cards: some write about fears, others about regrets, but whatever the secret is, they’re all completely anonymous.
“It’s really turned into this new phenomenon,” said Taylor.
The postcard exhibits are Monday, Oct. 2 and Thursday, Oct. 5, at Gallery 123 in GMU's Center for the Arts. A gallery reception with Warren is scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 3, at 5 p.m., also in Gallery 123. Warren is set to give a presentation on the postcards in the Concert Hall in the Center for the Arts, Thursday, Oct. 5, at 6 p.m.
The Feinstein panel interview should be a very inviting atmosphere, said Penny Gilchrist, the Fall for the Book coordinator. Feinstein and Larranaga are good friends, Gilchrist said, so the tone should end up being mellow and conversational.
“We want this to feel like they’re just having a little chat with each other,” said Gilchrist. “He’ll be interviewing him, but since they’re friends, we hope that it’s going to be a really warm, friendly feeling.”
Feinstein wrote a book called “Last Dance: Behind the Scenes at the Final Four.” GMU’s trip to the 2006 Final Four is the likely topic of the interview, and Gilchrist said she’s heard a lot of interest in it so far.
“It’s the only event my son is looking forward to,” she said, laughing. “It [GMU’s Final Four appearance] really put George Mason on the map. I think it’s done a lot for Fairfax in general.”
OTHER EXCITING guests this year include Kim Edwards, a novelist whose book, “The Memory Keeper’s Daughter,” is currently the number-one bestseller on the Washington Post’s paperback fiction list. She will offer a talk and booksigning, Saturday, Sept. 30, at 7 p.m., at the Harris Theater at GMU. Taylor said another special event should be the National Book Critics Circle’s discussion at Old Town Hall, 3999 University Drive. The critics will discuss whether criticism is a dying art, Sunday, Oct. 1, at 3 p.m.
The Pulitzer Prize-winners, six in total, add to the quality of the festival, said Taylor. Pulitzer Prize-winners in poetry, biography, fiction, journalism and history will participate in discussions, signings and panels from Thursday, Sept. 28 to Wednesday, Oct. 4.
“That speaks to the seriousness of the festival and the type of talent we’re attracting,” said Taylor.