Bay Area Book Festival: Tough Love and More

Yesterday I BART’d myself to Berkeley to attend the Bay Area Book Festival, a weekend-long event filled with author discussions, book signings, film screenings, and an expo featuring book publishers, authors, and writer resources. Books, writers, more books…sounds like my kinda place!

I arrived just in time to hear United States Senator Barbara Boxer (retiring this year) share stories from her new book, The Art of Tough. Writing much of the text during long flights, during a decades-long political career spent fighting for quality education, environmental protection, and our economy, Boxer wrote what she called an “empowerment book.” “If you have strong views, people will try to shut you down,” she said. Many political leaders tried to shut Boxer down, and she reiterated some of the crazy comments her opponents said. (I don’t remember them, so I guess you’ll have to read the book!)

Barbara Boxer
Barbara Boxer explains “The Art of Tough.”

In between stories about the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearing, the Iraq War, and other issues she either strongly championed or opposed, Boxer said she lays out nine principles in the book on how to master “the art of tough.”

When Boxer opened the discussion to audience questions, as expected, many wanted to know her opinion on the current reality show that is our 2016 election. One audience member asked Boxer if she had any advice to give Hillary Clinton on how to maintain her “art of tough.” Mrs. Boxer echoed my thoughts: Hillary is plenty tough enough!

After all this talk about politics, which I hear and read enough about every day, I wanted something lighter. I planned to attend a panel discussion featuring four mystery writers (for a change of pace, since I don’t read or write mysteries), but I read the program wrong and ended up in “Love: Falling into It, Losing It, and Finding It Again.”

I worried that I had ended up in the middle of a mushy romance novel discussion. Thankfully, I was not. The panel featured four authors from four different countries: Erik Tarloff (USA), Jean Philippe Blondel (France), Pedro Carmona-Alvarez (Norway), and Belinda McKeon (Ireland). All of these authors’ novels have love in the theme, but what book doesn’t? As McKeon said, just about every novel is about people. And maybe places. And if you write about people, in most cases, you’re going to write about love — whether it’s mushy or not.

In between these two talks, I meandered around the expo, which was packed with book publishers of many genres (I saw a lot of fantasy, science fiction, and mystery), authors, and booksellers. I found out about a cool literary journal called the Catamaran Literary Reader, based out of Santa Cruz, Calif. A stroll through “Writer’s Row” took me past lots of  tools for self publishing and the Authors Alliance, an advocacy organization that helps writers understand contracts and their intellectual property rights.

All in all, Bay Area Book Festival organizers did a fabulous job of gathering a wide range of authors and other exhibitors for a diverse community of book-lovers. Check it out next summer!

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