Sunday, February 16, 2014

The last day of the Savannah Book Festival.

We enjoyed hearing from 3 authors on Saturday. At 9:00 a.m. we had the pleasure of hearing from Dave DiBenedetto. He is the Vice President and Editor in Chief of Garden & Gun, where he oversees all print and digital platforms. Formerly the executive editor at the title, DiBenedetto was part of the team responsible for the magazine’s National Magazine Award for General Excellence in 2011. Previously he was the editor of SaltWater Sportsman, where, in addition to implementing a complete redesign of the 78-year-old magazine, he led the title to its first ever National Magazine Award nomination (General Excellence) in 2007.SaltWater Sportsman was the first, and is still the only, fishing publication to be nominated for such an honor. Prior to his time at SaltWater Sportsman, DiBenedetto was the deputy editor of Field & Stream. He began his career at Men’s Journal in 1995 as an editorial assistant just three days after graduating college and worked his way to senior editor in 2001.

Also an author, DiBenedetto wrote On the Run: An Angler’s Journey down the Striper Coast in 2003 for HarperCollins. The book received numerous accolades, including a coveted starred review in Publisher’s Weekly. DiBenedetto was born and raised in Savannah, GA and now resides in Charleston, SC with his wife, Jenny, and their Boykin spaniel, Pritchard. He was exactly what I expected from his articles in Garden & Gun. Witty, friendly, smart, a bit sassy and funny. He even told the packed room he appreciated us showing up so early. His Dad on the way over to the muesum had solemnly told him not to expect many people to get up so early! His parents raised him in Savannah even though they were originally New Yorkers and he clearly loves the south. His book on all things Southern is great. A collection of stories written by many of the Garden & Gun writers. The crowd loved him. He mentioned that one gentleman had complained that he should have included in the book how to crack a pecan with one hand. A fellow in the audience popped up and explained you just need a second pecan in your hand and then squeeze them hard together! Which duh certainly makes sense. He talked a bit about the important things that make Garden & Gun special. Everything from the amazing photography to the high end glossy paper stock and of course the stories which are the fabric of the magazine. He mentioned how readers love the Dog Stories and it was evident that the crowd find them to be a special and much loved part of the magazine. His talk ended too soon for the crowd. He was just excellent and such fun. And yes, I did buy his book! The Southern Handbook. A Guide to Living the Good Life.

Next up after a short walk to a different venue off of Wright Square was Mike Ritland. A former Navy Seal and expert K-9 trainer. Interesting guy. He saw how vaulable the K-9 Dogs were while he was in special ops. After his retirement he decided to start a company to train these special dogs for the military and others. He also started a project to establish a kind of retirement program for the dogs that  were wounded or just too old to continue. Mike bought his book as well. It should be an interesting read to see how he trains both the dogs and the trainers to do the amazing life saving work that these military K-9 dogs do.

I was excited to hear Nancy Horan since I had read Loving Frank ( Frank Loyd Wright) by her last year. After reading the book we were inspired to visit Fallingwater in PA. We toured the home with a small group of ten and ended with a grand brunch on one of the terraces overlooking the stream that the house was built around. A great experience. 

Nancy's new book is about Robert Louis Stevenson and his pursuit of a older married woman. He eventually persuaded Fannie to divorce the father of her children and marry him. She was a strong woman ten years his senior. Not all of his friends approved of her. Stevenson was sickly and she was devoted to him at any cost to herself. He always felt better when at sea. They spent nearly two years sailing. She was always sea sick. If you have ever been sea sick you know that was quite a sacrifice. Nancy was a compelling no nonsense speaker. She did an excellent job letting you into her writing world. She is at heart a researcher and delves into all the details no matter how small. Very intelligent and interesting lady.  I really enjoyed her presentation. 

We enjoyed the closing address by Dr. Eben Alexander from Lynchburg, Virginia. He is the author of Proof of  Heaven. I recently read the book. He is a neurosurgeon by training. A near death experience changed him forever. Prior to his near death experience he had lost his faith in God. Afterwards he is profoundly certain that when we die our soul lives on in a way that is difficult to explain. As he said it is all very good news. He spoke for over an hour. He was very passionate and spoke in a booming voice. He spoke as quickly as possible seeming to want to get the maximum number of words out to share with us in the hour that was allotted. He struggled at first to accept what happened to him. He researched everything from a medical perspective. He compared his experience to the tens of thousands of other people's experiences and he believes we are on the brink of gaining a better understanding of what comes after death. To understand it you need to read his book Proof of Heaven. I highly recommend it.

We also met Bobbie, Jamie, and Jack Deen sons and grandson of Paula. They were all nice and so polite. A lady asked to take their picture and it was so cute to see that the three of them including little Jack all switched on 100 watt smiles that looked exactly alike at exactly the same moment. It must be in the genes!  Yes, we did buy Bobby's new lower calorie cook book. It must work the boys were all super lean and quite handsome.

We both enjoyed the Book Festival which is held around the Presidents Day holiday each year. The temperatures improved as the week went on. Saturday & Sunday were perfect days, with lots of sun and clear blue skys. Even the cooler days were fine with a jacket and with the knowledge that we had escaped a 22 inch snow storm in Roanoke!

We enjoyed biking on the island this week and visting with Tybee friends. We did some inside Cottage fluffing and just enjoyed being in our sweet little Tybee Cottage. So light and bright here. It is a cheerful place to be.

We head back to the W tomorrow. Mike is planning a return trip here shortly to do some outdoor Cottage fluffing. Some cleaning and painting outside. The Cottage is booking up quickly for 2014 so I won't have a chance to get back until the end of April. Till then I will have to say goodbye to Paws & Paddles and Tybee Tyme.

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