Promoting the cultural awareness & appreciation of the published author. (We believe that reading begins at the top…with our educators, teachers and librarians.)
“Hemingway may have not slept here, but he would have had his Book Festival in Palm Beach!”
- Lois Cahall, Founder & Creative Director, Palm Beach Book Festival
The Public wanted it. The community said it would never happen -it couldn’t be done – not in Palm Beach. But on April 11th, 2015, the first annual Palm Beach Book Festival made its literary debut…
We welcomed hundreds of reading and writing enthusiasts at the Norton Museum of Art’s auditorium. And we also welcomed a group of disappointed fans who found us SOLD OUT. The audience enjoyed a full day with NYT best-selling authors, covering women’s literature, mystery, and how-to-get-published. Before he hosted the Tony Awards, we honored Alan Cumming as our “Memoir of the Year” for his brave life story, NOT MY FATHER’S SON.
Later at the Colony Hotel, authors relaxed and mingled with attendees. Closing night words followed with Joe Klein of TIME magazine, moderating our Honorary Chairman, James Patterson, on literacy and education. Mr. Patterson says it best, “Reading is our most endangered species.”
One patron, juggling an armload of books, pulled me aside confessing that he’s a book-festival-junkie and had attended quite a few. But he felt that “ours was like no other festival. Inspiring, engaging and entertaining. I got to speak to all the authors. Makes me want to go home and write! I can’t wait for next year! Thank you for this, Lois.”
But I say “thank you” for making our inaugural event such a grand success. I say “thank you” for showing up a second year and believing in us. Again.
In April 2016, we grew to two days and a wider range of household-name authors. We honored the legend, Burt Reynolds, for his humble memoir, BUT ENOUGH ABOUT ME in which he addressed (on our stage in tears) his life-long regrets as a movie star, and how ‘love’ and good friends, is all that really matters. The festival’s theme for 2016 was ‘reinvention’ – whether as an author or an artist – in an ever-changing publishing and media climate. The iconic, Gail Sheehy, spoke at length about this subject which Burt simply called “Survival.”
In 2015 we ran a contest to find the best undiscovered writer in Palm Beach County. The winners – both fiction and non-fiction – have secured/met a Manhattan literary agent. The 2016 fiction winner is well on his way to being published. A portion of proceeds from the contest entry went to the Pahokee Middle School. The school’s Principal, Michael Aronson, was in attendance at our festival in the front row.
So let’s keep reading and writing alive for our generation and our children’s generation. Let’s start by getting more teachers, students and librarians into more seats in our audience. For year 2017, we’ve secured a larger venue – The Harriet Himmel Theatre in City Place. Maybe there’s one teacher out there who will feel appreciated and inspired by meeting her favorite author, and then introduce his/her book into his/her classroom. Maybe there’s one child out there whose dream falls on a deaf ear at home. Perhaps there’s one author on that stage who will inspire that child to read more, to write and to get published. Perhaps one day that child will be THAT author on the stage!
But, wait….if we can publish local authors from here to there (New York) and bring in big-name authors from there to here, it will help to put Palm Beach County and its schools on the map, in a way not previously achieved.
According to Amazon, Florida has the highest readership in America. Apparently we’re America’s darlings when it comes to books, yet ironically our children aren’t curling up with them…
And who am I? I”m an international best-selling author. (my full bio under the home page tab ‘Our Board.’) Why did I start this festival? In April of 2012, in my version of ‘Under the Florida Sun’ – not the Tuscan sun, I couldn’t afford Tuscany – I moved from Manhattan (and London) to West Palm Beach. I came here to mend my broken heart, to get all eat-pray-love, to chase serendipity (not trust-fund babies) and to pen out my memoir and keep writing.
Call it a self-imposed witness-protection program, it was a far cry from my old life. There would be no Cannes Film Festivals, or blinding-light L.A. red carpet premieres. Here in Florida there were zero publishing houses or book parties with my elbow-rubbing world of NY literati. Instead there were writer friends asking, “You moved where?” pause… “Why?”
But when my first year in Florida turned into my second, and my second turned into my third, I learned that there was something more to Florida. I found myself wanting to bring the Manhattan cultural life to Palm Beach. I found myself wanting to give back to a community who had welcomed me with no questions asked. The air here is soft and warm. The gentle surroundings allow my mind to rest and at the same time to expand. I feel like Hemingway….writing to the sway of the palm trees…adopted cat at my feet, occasional vodka at my side (but only after 6 EST time.)
Artists survive their experiences by writing them out. But as an artist I was also thriving because of a great support system of wonderful friends in Palm Beach County. I’ve become close with those who attend my guest speaking engagements. These are brave people who have humbly shared their life stories with me. Some of the locals were so interesting and exotic that I have had the honor of writing multiple in-depth profiles on them for the Palm Beach Post. …and that worked out fine because I’m often called “an exotic pet” myself. I beat to my own drum, too, and now I do it in this sunshine swing state. The swing state is the future of the world. Outside of the NY and London bubble, Florida has become the transition of what happens next…
What happens next? We bridge the gap between the NYC publishing world and Florida’s untapped talent. There’s a lot of voices here. There’s also a next generation of writers.
As a young girl I admired Peggy Guggenheim, the great art collector, whose photograph sits on my desk as inspiration. In the 1930s Peggy stormed into her friend Picasso’s studio in Paris when her mission for months was to buy a painting a day during the time of World War when painters were desperate to sell their works. When the Germans attacked, I loved that Peggy sat in a Paris cafe sipping champagne as the city was being bombed. I loved that she stashed her friends’ paintings – – Picasso, Max Ernst, Magritte, Man Ray, Dali, Chagall, – the ones that the Louvre had rendered worthless, into a barn in the French countryside…Just in case they might ever gain notoriety.
Like Peggy, I see the worth of the people of Palm Beach as more than ‘Worth Avenue.’ I see their creative writing, their aspirations, and often the pouring of their passion onto the page whenever I play book whisperer to a student. I believe there’s talent here. I long to be the Peggy Guggenheim of Palm Beach. I long to be a pioneer of reading and writing. And if not a pioneer, I suspect I’ll go down giving it my best shot….
Perhaps that’s why Hemingway was a boxer…
PLEASE GO TO THE ‘SUPPORT US‘ TAB AND MAKE A DONATION TO PUT A TEACHER, CHILD OR LIBRARIAN INTO A SEAT FOR 2017!