Monday, June 9, 2014

BEA's Adult Author Breakfast: Tavis Smiley & Lisa Scottoline

Our Thursday at BEA 2014 started off spectacularly with a breakfast that featured Anjelica Huston, Tavis Smiley, and Lisa Scottoline, and was hosted by the amazing Neil Patrick Harris!  When we signed up for this breakfast, we knew of course that we would NOT be disappointed, and had been looking forward to it with anticipation for months.  

Anjelica Huston spoke first, and you can read all about that speech on our previous post, here

Tavis Smiley was the second speaker selected for the breakfast and boy, did he have a LOT to say (typical talk show radio host). His talk was really interesting and he definitely flowed over his time. He started off saying that he was so grateful to be selected by the "secret committee" who decides these things. [Chuckle from Audience] He followed this up with a lovely memorial story of Maya Angelou, mentioning how this moment was a little surreal to him (which is explained a bit in the story). He states, "You are who you are, because somebody loves you. I am who I am because somebody loved me, and Maya Angelou loved me." Apparently, Maya Angelou brought him to Africa when he was a small child (she was the first to take him there). "It was through reading that I was able to realize there was a world beyond my experience." Reading allowed him to see the world beyond the small home with the cornfield in Indiana. The life in Indiana consisted of a trailer of 3 bedrooms, 1 bathroom to be split among 13 people. He also tells us that Maya Angelou was one of the few Americans who spoke at the "home going" (like a wake/funeral) of both Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. THAT is how important she was/is. She was even haunted by MLK's death: she was born April 4th 1928, and MLK died on the same date in 1968.

After honoring Maya Angelou, Smiley made a serious joke about Martin Luther King speeches, "I know you think MLK, like most Americans, made only one speech with only one line in it" [Chuckle from Audience] "But he made quite a few." Tavis Smiley considers himself a self-taught expert on MLK, who he has been studying since he was 12 years old. He spent all that time studying him but this is the first time he has written it down, in his book Death of a King: The Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Final Year. The reason it took him so long to write anything about the great humanitarian? "King has been sanitized, sterilized and even the point where we don't even know who he is anymore."  

He spoke from the heart, and you could tell that he wanted to speak his piece (even if he went overly political with his speech). He states, "This gap between the rich and the rest of us needs to stop. The new poor are the prior middle class." He said that MLK tried to tell us this and warn us that this was going to happen. I'm very interested to see where he goes with all of this in the book. 

The third Author featured, Lisa Scottoline, is the author of 22 novels. Her introduction was an nod to her prolific-ness: "Lisa, we are all trying to catch up with you." She came on stage and took a moment to flip her hair and give it more body (which had everyone laughing). She stated... 

...Actually, she was so funny and intriguing that neither of us stopped to take enough notes. We'll give you the little we have and can only say that it doesn't do her justice!!

One of the facts she gave us from her life that struck both of us, was that her mother was 1 of 19 kids. She had a great story to go with that, one that ended with them running into a relative they didn't recognize and saying, "That's your Aunt Lena, we haven't spoken to her in 12 years." Why hadn't they spoken to her? Because she brought a gun to a wedding! She even poked a little fun by saying the great love of her life is ALSO Jack Nicholson. Here's a couple other great quotes from her speech:

  • "What's the difference between a mother and a Rottweiler? The Rottweiler eventually lets go!"
  • "Books become a very intimate thing. You feel their soul and you connect that way. We are all of us engaged in promoting the books, selling the books, writing the books.... How lucky are we?" She also says something along these lines (not an exact quote), "There are many ways to live a life and make a living, but we are so lucky."
  • "I'm privileged to have a life in books - I'm LUCKY to have a life in books."
  • "Truth matters because it connects one to the other." If she writes something really true, you will know it and you will start to find the things in your life that are that. Book clubs are proof of that.
  • "When you talk about your favorite book, you're talking about yourself!"
The entire breakfast was really great and I think we'll want to go again next year. It was nice to sit, relax, and hear some inspiring things about BOOKS! You can't really go wrong with that, can you?

-Amber & Arianna

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