Conrack Gone- Pat Conroy Remembered

 

When I read of Pat Conroy’s death, I prayed it was not so. In my continued prayers since learning of his diagnosis with pancreatic cancer, I imagined Pat fit, healthy, and miraculously healed by the prayers of his well-wishers, readers and fans.

Pat deserved to be well. Pat needed to be at the next book festival, filling literary minds with encouragement, humor, and his painfully honest recollections. The book world could not survive without Pat’s pink-cheeked smirk, wry humor or masterful manipulation of words. Yet, this dark day, we must find a way to do so.

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Decatur Book Festival

Pat was my author. It’s hard to describe why, or how, he became ‘my’ author. It likely started where every literary love affair begins, in a book. Water is Wide was my first foray into Pat Conroy’s world. It was love at first read. After that, I devoured everything Pat wrote, and attended every reading, festival and signing where I might feast on his opinions, learn a literary trick, hug greatness.

I think a quote from Pat’s My Losing Season- A Memoir describes my feelings best-

“The great teachers fill you up with hope and shower you with a thousand reasons to embrace all aspects of life. I wanted to follow Mr. Monte around for the rest of my life, learning everything he wished to share or impart, but I didn’t know how to ask.”

I had the good fortune of breathing the same air as Pat Conroy many times. So many times in fact, that a few friends asked if I was a Conroy stalker. Every greeting from Pat buckled my knees, and quickened my heart in a fan girl manner that made deep questions on writing, survival, and other important life issues, impossible.

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Savannah Book Festival

Pat was always patient and gracious despite my goofiness. He laughed when author Mary Hood (who’d witnessed my breathless approach) told me to, “breath” from a nearby signing table at the Savannah Book Festival. He teased me as we took a photo together, making up tales of knowing my mother in high school, and having a great time with her (wink, wink). He greeted my daughter and I at the opening of the Mina and Conroy Fitness Center as if we were long lost family, delivering a peck on the cheek that made me swoon.

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Mina & Conroy Fitness Center

As a fellow abuse survivor, and writer, Pat represented for me, the hopeful idea that I might someday capture the brutality of my own childhood in a prose that prickled reader’s skin and healed their hearts.

To open a Conroy book is to watch Pat slice a vein, and bleed precisely and eloquently on every page. Pat Conroy was a beacon for the beaten down, a man who reigned over a kingdom of readers with the touch of a healer.

He was my author, and I miss him already.

Blessings for Pat’s loving wife Cassandra, his family & friends,

V.L.
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2013 Savannah Book Festival: A Treasure Trove of Talent- Al Gore, T.C. Boyle, Richard Paul Evans, Claire Cook & more

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Telfair Square

Last year, in a post titled, Stephen King, Pat Conroy Inspire at Savannah Festival, I wrote about all of the inspirational, thought-provoking moments at the 2012 Savannah Book Festival. As many of you know, my passion for writing runs neck and neck with my passionate belief in open records for adoptees.

This was my fourth time attending the Savannah Book Festival. The last two times, I attended with a wish in my heart and a manuscript in the works.
This year, I had to quell the urge to skip from presentation to presentation, because while I am still looking for an agent, Waving Backwards is done, and I have started my next novel.  The FREE book festival has been a part of my growth as a writer, and gives me the rare opportunity to meet authors, and like-minded humans who adore books.

This year’s event opened for me with author James Patterson on Friday, February 15th at the Trustees Theater. Although his talk was short, I was thankful to have a question answered during the Q & A period.  After Patterson described writing 50-60 manuscripts at one time, all  from detailed outlines, I asked for clarification, “You mean you write 50-60 books at once? I just finished my first book, and that seems overwhelming.” His answer, “It’s not for you. Now that you’ve written the first book, don’t worry about PR, marketing and sales. Write your next book.”  I am taking his advice.

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Hoda Kobt

Saturday morning, February the 16th, opened with bright-eyed, svelte, TV personality Hoda Kobt from the Today Show. Hoda discussed her recently released book, “Ten Years Later: Six People Who Faced Adversity and Transformed Their Lives.” She was delightfully awake for 9AM and the crowd loved her.

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Al Gore

From the balcony of the Trinity United Methodist Church, I was  privileged to watch Ex Vice President Al Gore speak next.  His speech explored the themes presented in his book, The Future  and his points on the  climate crisis were animated and well-received (even though Savannah is primarily a Republican city). I have to admit, I was waiting for a few Q & A zingers. They never came, as Gore went over the allotted presentation time. He stayed on to sign books.

From church, I skipped over to the Telfair Sculpture Gallery, to see Susanna Sonnenberg discuss her books, She Matters and Her Last Death.  Softspoken, elegant Susan seemed a beacon of hope to many in the audience dealing with the loss of loved ones.

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T.C. Boyle

After a breathtakingly, brisk walk up and down Broughton Street during the lunch break, I went to the Telfair Rotunda to secure a seat front and center for T.C. Boyle. The author of World’s End, East Is East, The Road to Wellville, The Tortilla Curtain, and many more bestsellers, T.C. read his short story- The Lie.  He is one of the most stunning writers of our time.  I wish he had spoken a bit more about his career, but was thrilled to be in the same room with an author who’s command of the English language gave me the urge to bow when I met him.  Oh, if you are reading this T.C., I have no idea what you inscribed in my book, but I’ll cherish it anyway.

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Richard Paul Evans

Richard Paul Evans was up next, and his presentation was refreshingly down to earth and forthright.  Evans revealed a few childhood scars, and the fact that he suffers from Tourette syndrome. Evans is the author of dozens of inspirational, hopeful, faith based books including, The Christmas Box, A Winter Dream, The Walk, and Michael Vey.  His writing style is touching and heartfelt. Evan’s foundation, The Christmas Box International funds shelters for battered children. Having been an unwilling shelter guest as a child, this charity is near and dear to my heart. After the presentation, I spoke to Evans and that brief, emotional moment turned into the start of my next novel. Believe me, no one was more surprised by this than me!

Last but certainly not least in my Saturday at the Savannah Book Festival experience, was the incomparable, bubbling and enthusiastic Claire Cook.  Claire Cook is the ClaireCook2author of the much acclaimed book turned movie Must Love Dogs.  Her story of getting started as a writer at the tender age of 45,  kicked my can-do attitude in the can-can. Claire talked about the surreal experience of walking on the red carpet, and dished on the joys of working with John Cusack, Elizabeth Perkins, and Christopher Plummer. At the end of her presentation, Claire took a picture of the audience. A whirlwind of wonderful is the best way to describe this talented lady!

The closing ceremony for the festival was back at the Trustees Theater on Sunday, with guest author David Baldacci. Baldacci’s speech was not followed by questions. However, his story about speed boating with Ex President Bush Sr. was an absolute hoot.

As another Savannah Book Festival fades into memory, I am settling in for a year of productive writing, and prayer that the next time I attend, I will be a published novelist. Forget skipping, at that point I’ll float from speech to speech.

Bravo Savannah Book Festival coordinators, and blessings to all for a year of great reads and miracles,
Vicki-lynn