A huge shout-out to Andrew Laties for conceiving and organizing the Easton Book Festival! Easton may not be the largest city in the state, but the Lehigh Valley is Pennsylvania’s fastest growing area. As we discovered when we moved here almost a year-and-a-half ago, it is a region that supports bookstores. Even before the Festival we’d explored some six or seven and after moving from central New Jersey—where keeping a small shop or two open was a struggle. We’ve become spoiled for choice. Writers may not be the easiest people to herd—many of us are quiet and tend to live in our own heads quite a bit—but the festival has brought some 200 of us together, and we write on all kinds of things.
Although the panel on which I participated had religion as one of its themes, my wife and I noticed that at each session we attended religion was mentioned. Either it was in an author’s background, or it figured into their writing, or most embarrassingly, it objected to and tried to silence them through censorship. Although my book’s subtitled The Bible and Fear in Movies, it was evident that I wasn’t the only person who found the Bible’s effect on people scary. And the theme continued into the evening as I attended the author’s banquet solo. Many of the people I met had religion in their background or in their present motivations for writing, and not one of them was judgmental toward a guy like myself who’s trying to find his way.
The Easton Book Festival is in its first year. Although by late afternoon the weather had deteriorated into the rain we can’t seem to shake around here, it was wonderful to see people walking around with festival booklets (there are enough events to warrant one) and not bothering to conceal and carry. Books, that is. For a moment, they were cool. My second session is this afternoon. As I learned both last weekend at my book signing and at sessions yesterday, a sell-out crowd is unlikely. This is a free event and even authors who had more fingers than attendees were gracious and glad for the opportunity to explain what they were trying to do with their writing. And they unstintingly shared what they’d learned with one another. This was community, centered around books. It was a small slice of what Heaven could be like, if we’d all just take an interest in each other. Even if we’re shy and secretly would rather be home writing.