Monday, May 16, 2011

Comprehensible Babble

Twitter is a wonderful invention. Without it, I would never have known that one of my favorite authors, Chris Bohjalian, was speaking at the Concord Public Library last night and I would have missed out on a great talk and delicious gingersnap cookies. For those of you who may not know, Chris has written wonderful books such as “Midwives”, “Skeletons at the Feast”, and “The Law of Similars”, just to name a few. I strongly recommend reading his books; he draws on ethical dilemmas and raises questions that most people don’t even think to ask.

The Concord Public Library is a beautiful building and we heard Chris speak under the watchful eyes of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Louisa May Alcott, and Ebenezer something-or-other, a name I didn’t recognize. (My sister exclaimed, “Oh, Ebenezer is a real name! I thought Dickens made it up.” It does sound like an odd choice for a name…) Chris’s talk was a good mix of funny and serious, ranging from his travel exploits to his grim research on the death marches of WWII. He kept us rapt throughout the entire thing and we were so interested in what he was saying we were surprised when it was over and he was asking us if we had questions. It took a few seconds for us to get our bearings before the first hand was raised.

What frightened me a bit were the statistics that Chris brought up in the beginning. Readership is down in America and that is depressing. As someone who loves to read, it shocks me that there are those out there who couldn’t care less. I read at least 30 novels a year, and Chris was saying that those who read only 1 novel/year are only about 49-50%. I know that looks high, but when you think about the population of the United States, that’s about 150,000,000 who don’t read. How can we get people interested in reading again? And in reading books that don’t involve vampires? One statistic that made me happy was one that Chris brought up at the end – apparently there are more public libraries in the country than there are McDonald’s. So, let’s find a way to get these 150 million people to visit their libraries!

My sister and I are traveling overseas on Saturday for a week, so it made us a little nervous when Chris talked about his new book that’s coming out on October 4th (my birthday!), “The Night Strangers”. It’s about a plane crash, so Chris brought up his 3 safety rules. You can ask him what they were, but we became a bit apprehensive about crashing when we’re going to be spending 6+ hours on a plane this weekend. But now we know what to do in the case of an emergency!

I was brave enough to raise my hand to ask Chris a question at the end of the talk. Usually I’m more the silent listener type who’s happy to let others ask the questions, but as an aspiring writer in the new millennium, I’m easily distracted by the internet and funny pictures of cats saying funny things. So my question was how to keep from getting distracted and staying focused on the task at hand. His main piece of advice was to keep the internet as a prize for writing. Set a goal, and then once you reach that goal, only then can you go online to laugh at pictures or post on Facebook and Twitter.

Not only is Chris a wonderful speaker, but he’s an all-around nice guy who didn’t mind chatting with my sister and me as she got his autograph in an already-autographed book. (She just happens to buy books that were previously autographed. We’ve actually never met Chris before last night.) I haven’t been to many book signings/author talks, but the few I have been to, the author is quick to get you out of the way for the next person. Not so with Chris. He was perfectly happy to talk about what we do for a living and my aspirations to be an historical fiction novelist. And just an fyi for you Twitter-ers (Tweeters? Twits?) out there, he’s also very good about replying or commenting on the tweets of his fans. You can follow him at @ChrisBohjalian.

So, check him out. He not only tweets, but also blogs at, where you can read his posts as well as find out more information about his books. He has some great advice for writers, too, at I went to his talk last night to hear more about his books, and walked away not only full of tasty treats from the reception, but also with new inspiration. If I ever do become a successful writer, I’ll have Chris to thank for giving me the motivation.


  1. Ugh, I should tweet, because I missed this! Bummer! (I saw this post over on Bohjalian's facebook post which is how I ended up at your blog!) did you see it?

  2. Chris is awesome--and I loved this post! I read usually 2 novels a week; I'm slower on the non-fiction, which I do read some of as well. Chris is a staple for me. Good luck with your writing!

  3. I agree with all your comments. Great author, engaging speaker, and all-around nice guy. If my novel ever makes it into print, he's in the acknowledgments with special thanks for encouragement (they were written long ago). Your blog is terrific - good luck to you.

  4. Bethany, no, I didn't see Chris's Facebook post! I'll have to go check that out!

    Marna and Beth, thanks for the well wishes! Good luck to both of you as well! :)

  5. Not all vampire books are bad! just the teenage angsty ones....ok so most! ;) At least you didn't say my name! :P

  6. Hey! I'm with Emily. What's wrong with vampires?! That's a horrible statistic about non-readers. I can't even fathom that kind of existence. Yucko. Sounds like you had a wonderful time. Thank you for sharing the writing tips, by the way. I shared turned around and shared them with a friend. I'll have to check out this author's books. *hugs to you*

  7. Emily, I didn't say your name, but you just revealed it... ;)

    Ezzy, glad you enjoyed the tips! They resonated with me, too. :)