GAITHERSBURG – While organizers agreed Saturday’s inclement weather brought attendance down from previous years, several thousand people nonetheless braved the rain and came to the City Hall grounds for the seventh annual Gaithersburg Book Festival.
Attendees could listen speeches by authors and meet them afterward as well as purchase books and participate in workshops, including ones for kids.
Novelist Jeffery Deaver writes crime and mystery novels, several of which have been adapted into films.
Deaver said he became interested in writing as a child because he had few friends. He praised the role books play in forging connections between people.
“You see a shy boy carrying a book under his arm,” Deaver said. “You look at the cover and say, ‘Oh, I like that book, too.’ And suddenly that boy isn’t alone anymore. Suddenly you have a new friend.”
Deaver read from his new book, a collection of quotations from other authors about the craft of writing.
“I’ve never done plagiarism before, so I thought I’d give it a try,” said Deaver, joking.
Annette Gordon-Reed, the Charles Warren Professor of American Legal History at Harvard University and Peter Onuf, the Thomas Jefferson foundation professor of history at the University of Virginia, read from their book “Most Blessed of the Patriarchs: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination.”
The book addresses the paradox in the public perception of Jefferson, a slaveholder who is nonetheless revered as a key figure in the cause of human freedom.
“Slavery was an institution Jefferson was comfortable with personally,” Gordon-Reed said. “As a man of the Enlightenment, he knew it couldn’t continue. He felt it was against the Enlightenment, and that it would go away. We, today, can’t accept that because we knew what it took to do away with slavery, but that’s how he was able to be comfortable with it.”
Other prominent authors at the festival included ESPN sportscaster Tim Kurkjian, who read from his book, “I’m Fascinated by Sacrifice Flies,” and longtime Washington news correspondent Elanor Clift, who spoke during a conversation with WAMU radio host Diane Rehm.
The Writer’s Center in Bethesda sponsored several workshops on various aspects of writing.
Roddie Simmons, a Gaithersburg resident and aspiring children’s author who has regularly attended the festival since its 2010 inception, said he enjoyed the workshop he attended on writing children’s books.
“The workshop was very useful,” Simmons said. “The instructor is very talented, and she gave me some good guidelines on plotting and story and how to fit it in a book.” Simmons said he is working on both a kids’ chapter book and a comic book.
The cable network C-SPAN broadcast several panels and presentations.
“I’m really pleased with the turnout we got in spite of the weather,” said Gaithersburg Mayor Jud Ashman, who founded the book festival and continues to serve as its chair. “Tim Kurkjian was one of the first authors who spoke, and he was so funny, brilliant and engaging. It just set the tone for the rest of the day. I’ve gotten tremendous feedback from attendees and authors and I’m very excited about the program we’ll have for our eighth festival.”
The next Gaithersburg Book Festival is May 20, 2017.