Book It

Popular authors tend to be the big draw for book events, but at the 11th annual St. Petersburg Times Festival of Reading, the extras are even more compelling than the lineup.

Thousands of book-lovers are expected to attend the festival, which takes place on the campus of Eckerd College from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 2.

Best-selling mystery writer Mary Higgins Clark makes an appearance to promote her memoir, Kitchen Privileges (Simon & Schuster), a jaunty account of growing up in the Bronx, family deaths and her struggle to get published. Novelist Thomas Sanchez (Rabbit Boss, Mile Zero) discusses his latest, King Bongo (Knopf), set in Havana in 1957, the story of a virtuoso drummer looking for his showgirl sister and hunting the terrorists who set off a bomb in the Tropicana nightclub. Tim Dorsey, former night news coordinator of The Tampa Tribune, pushes Cadillac Beach (William Morrow), the latest in his Serge Storms series of satirical Florida crime novels. And USF creative writing professor Rita Ciresi — the author of five books of fiction, including her new novel, Remind Me Again Why I Married You (Delacorte) — discusses her brand of humor.

But just like at one of the supersize chain bookstores, there's much more than books.

In the Story Land Area, kids can hear stories, make arts and crafts, play with favorite storybook characters and scrawl on a Monster Mural. Children's singer-songwriter Shana Banana performs her all-original musical program. And American Stage presents a production of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

On the open-air Spoken Word Stage, several resurrected authors — Aesop, John Steinbeck, Edith Wharton and James Weldon Johnson — wax writerly and grumble about lost royalties. The Eckerd College Theater troupe performs scenes from the play Godspell. Three men and three women debate gender issues through poetry. And local poets give readings of their original work.

Booksellers and publishers vend their wares in a Book Market — where Haslam's, St. Petersburg's beloved independent bookstore, offers antique books appraisals — and the American Civil Liberties Union displays its exhibit on banned books.

At 10 a.m. there's a discussion of Tom Wolfe's The Right Stuff. It's followed by a presentation titled Publishing 101: Tips and Trends to Get Your Work Published. And at 12:30 p.m., there's a Mystery Writing Workshop for kids.

Eckerd College is located at 4200 54th Ave. S., St. Petersburg. For more info, visit or call 727-892-2358.

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