Bethesda Literally Takes Literature out to Party; 7th Annual Festival Showcases Authors, Works

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 27, 2006 | Go to article overview

Bethesda Literally Takes Literature out to Party; 7th Annual Festival Showcases Authors, Works


Byline: Kathryn McKay, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Downtown Bethesda is known as a great place to dine, but this weekend you can feast on more than food as the town embarks on the three-day Bethesda Literary Festival.

The recipe for the seventh annual event keeps improving:

Invite local and national authors. Put in poetry readings and poetry slams. Combine with essay contests. Line up literature for little ones. Blend in book making for children. Include publishers from small presses. Add artwork celebrating the written word. Bring in a book appraiser. Top it off with comedians.

Do it all for free.

Then spread the events over three days at the Writer's Center, Barnes & Noble, the public library, art galleries, hotels and other spots.

The Bethesda Literary Festival was envisioned in the late 1990s by a small group of literature lovers, including museum consultant and Bethesda resident Robyn des Roches.

The first year 500 persons came. This year more than 5,000 are expected - including Ms. des Roches and her 4-year-old son.

"It's like a big party," she says - and compared to other festivals, "more homespun." Although you can buy books, you don't have to pay for tickets and there's not a commercial driving force to sell books, she explains.

Making the magic happen is the work of the Bethesda Urban Partnership Inc. (BUP), host of the festival. "We aim to have something for everyone," says the organization's Stephanie Coppula.

Whether you come on your own, with friends or with children, grab a map and a schedule at www.bethesda.org. Chart your course.

Here are some highlights:

Meet the authors

Hear headliners David Frum, author of "The Right Man" and "An End to Evil"; CBS Evening News anchor Bob Schieffer, author of "Face the Nation: My Favorite Stories from the First 50 Years of the Award-Winning News Broadcast"; and NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell, author of "Talking Back: ... to Presidents, Dictators and Assorted Scoundrels."

Why are well-known authors volunteering to participate in the Bethesda Literary Festival? It turns out they want to do more than promote their books.

Mr. Frum, a former speechwriter for President Bush and a New York Times best-selling author, says it's "easy" to figure out why he participates: "These are my neighbors," the District resident says.

Mr. Frum will field questions and comments from supporters and critics of the administration. He'll also give a preview of what his next book is about.

Mr. Schieffer says he enjoys the exchange with his readers.

"I tell people these are my focus groups," he says. "I find it instructive and I get a good feel for where the country is."

Another news veteran, Ms. Mitchell, says, "When we broadcast into people's homes, there's an obvious separation" - one bridged by the person-to-person contact at the festival.

"Writing is a solitary process," she says. "I love talking about my book."

Coming to a screen near you?

If you haven't heard of Barbara Kline ("White House Nannies") or Marisa de los Santos ("Love Walked In"), you may soon. Both of their books have been optioned by Hollywood - and even if they don't make it to the silver screen, the authors agree that it's a thrill to have their stories considered.

Ms. Kline, who for 20 years has run a nanny-placement service called White House Nannies out of offices in Bethesda, says that over the years she collected enough anecdotes to fill a book. The next step was writing courses at the Writer's Center in Bethesda, and the book itself.

"I had no excuse. The Writer's Center is literally across the street from my office," she says.

Ms. Kline is happy to dish on politicians' families (she'll even reveal a name a two), give tips for hiring a nanny, or talk about the trifecta: career, family and sanity. …

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