But the readings, talk, and question and answers session with two hot writers (Kathleen Kent and Cristina Henríquez) was another awesome book-related experience. Each of these authors spoke for a time, read from their works, and then together they sat down and answered questions from the audience. This forum was different from the usual and I think the authors enjoyed being on stage together after their respective time alone in front of the audience.
Cristina Henríquez spoke first and I was excited to hear that she had been a member of the Iowa Writers Workshop (as have the Harrisons of a previous blog entry). She had also lived in Dallas for 3 years before moving to Chicago. Her book is entitled The World in Half and relates the story of a college-age young woman traveling to Panama to try to find her biological father. I have started reading the book and am enjoying the fact that Ms. Henríquez put in a lot of research effort as the book deals with Alzheimer’s, geology (I work in the energy industry), and a different country and culture that I know nothing about. Her main character, Miraflores, and Ms. Henríquez have many similarities such as they both live in Chicago, are half Panamanian, are both shy, and are both rules followers (goody two shoes). I enjoyed her talk and reading and learned a few things such as it took her 4 years to write this first book, she had no idea how it would end until she started writing the last chapter, and that the construction of the Panama Canal created a lake that covered some mountains, of which you can see the tops of below in the water. Lastly, I was excited to hear that Isabel Allende had praised Ms. Henríquez’s first novel by saying it was “truly unforgettable.” I am a big fan of Ms. Allende and recently read four of her books, one after the other.
I saw Kathleen Kent previously at Legacy Books and enjoyed hearing her again speak about The HERetic’s Daughter. A very good point Ms. Kent made concerned the fact that people are the same emotionally as they have been since the Salem witch trials and even for the past 1,000 years: we all want to survive and have the same feelings of love, hate, and fear. Another good point she made was to ask what happens in a society where there is no separation of church and state? The answer seems to be that the most vulnerable are affected and those most vulnerable are women and children. I enjoyed hearing about her writing process in that she told no one except family that she was writing this first book, she used tapes of her grandfather to get the cadence of speech down to be more authenticate, and she stopped going to bookstores as she felt defeated by seeing all the books and authors displayed. Her writing consisted of discipline, hard work, and of locating her own inner voice. I would like to say that Ms. Kent gets a “well-played” for her elegant, black, belted dress and pearls. She reminds me of a taller Diane Sawyer.