Irish storytellers in novels and nonfiction

Thursday August 30, 2012

SPENCERTOWN, N.Y. -- Pulling off a dynamic book panel discussion may hinge on three main ingredients: "what you say, how you say it, and how long you say it."

That's what acclaimed author Frank De laney says, and it's a recipe the has employed whenever he's a panelist talking about his works.

He has interviewed more than 3,500 writers for the BBC, so he should know.

"The first thing you have to do is make sure everything is accessible to the audience," he said. "You have to make sure it's not an insider conversation; be absolutely inclusive. I've seen people go blank. It's not nice. Also, make sure you don't hog the panel."

He may practice the way of speaking he describes in his novel, "Venetia Kely's Traveling Show." Venetia, a young traveling performer, loves, above all, playing her shows in country towns so that hard-working people can hear stories come alive.

"She carried that holding mood into the delivery of the words," he writes. "That's an exercise I'd like you to think about. When next you hear a major singing star performing a song that you know and love, and have sung often in the bathor the shower, follow the words silently. See how the singer holds back. Now how he delays the phrase. Observe how he waits to deliver the freight of the line."

Delaney, who lives in Litch field, Conn., has written international best-selling novels and served as a judge for the Booker Prize. He will talk about his New York Times best-selling book, "Ireland," at Spencer town Acad emy's Festival of Books event, which kicks off Friday and continues through Monday.

"Ireland" travels through 2,000 years of history in stories, and Delaney will share his panel with John Kel ly, who will speak on Saturday about his new book, "The Graves are Walk ing," on the Great Irish Potato Famine.

In its seventh year, the Fes tival of Books has gained a reputation among writers and readers for the quality of its readings, said the academy's executive director, Mary Anne Lee.

The festival combines a huge sale of second-hand books with children's programs, along with readings and book signings by nationally known and local writers.

Admission is free, and the book sale benefits the academy's programs including arts VOYAGE, an extensive arts-in-education partnership with Chatham Cen tral Schools and Ichabod Crane Central School District in Col umbia County, N.Y.

"Even though it's a tiny festival, the authors who have come have such a good experience. The audience is one that's really engaged," Lee said.

The writers enjoy talking with audiences who have read their books and loved them.

"Now when we approach an author we can reference someone who's been here before," Lee said.

Lee said she was excited to have Kelly and Delaney in the lineup this year.

"It was a real coup to get Frank Delaney," Lee said. "(And Kelly) has written books on great disasters. His new book got a blurb by President Clinton. It will be a very significant nonfiction book."

Delaney's book, "Ireland," honors the land of his birth and spoke of the beauty and accomplishments of its people. He often takes on the charge of speaking about the good of Ireland -- and dispelling misconceptions about its people.

He can trace his family in Ireland back to the 5th century.

"We are sophisticated and educated and have produced the likes of Oscar Wilde, Wil liam Butler Yeats and James Joyce," he said.

An Alternative Publishing Panel on Saturday will bring together Peter Matthiessen Wheelwright, an architect and associate
professor at Parsons The New School of Design in New York City, who recently published his novel, ‘As It Is On Earth,' and Ardal Powell, CEO of Music Word Media Group, an innovative media startup.

Sunday's readings include Joshua Henkin ('World Without You'); Capt. Sean Parnell ('Outlaw Platoon: Heroes, Renegades, Infidels, and the Brotherhood of War in Afghanistan'); and Great Barrington-based author Alana Chernilla ('The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making').

‘We have a pretty accurate pulse of what people are reading
in this community,' said Spencertown Academy's
executive director, Mary Anne Lee, ‘and nonfiction, history and politics are very popular.'

What: Spencertown Academy's Festival of Books, 790 State Route 203, Spencertown, N.Y.

When: Friday to Monday

On Friday, a special members' preview sale from 6 to 9 p.m.

On Saturday, early shopping sale from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Book sale open Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Monday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Admission: Free to book sale, readings and children's events;

$25 for Friday's preview party; $20 for Saturday's early sale.

information: (518) 392-3693,

For more: www.berkshireeagle


If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.

Powered by Creative Circle Media Solutions