While the masses are feeding their bellies at the Taste of Buffalo this weekend, only steps away they'll get a chance to feed their brains -- with almost as many flavors to choose from.
The Buffalo Book Fair will fill the downtown library and pavilions outside with discussions of books, writing and authors.
Actor James Earl Jones, the voice of Darth Vader, will headline an "inspirational breakfast" for a paying audience and later read from "The Lion King" in a free event. Ishmael Reed, one of Buffalo's best-known literary sons, will be interviewed by Ujima Company founder Lorna Hill.
A Books, Blues and Barbecue event kicks off the festival at 6:30 p.m. Friday at the Central Library downtown, where some of the book fair participants will mingle with guests. Tickets are $30. The fair is free and open to the public, but there are some ticketed events. Proceeds from the dinner and all the events on Saturday benefit the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library and Literacy Volunteers of Buffalo and Erie County. The complete and very long and diverse schedule can be found at buffalobookfair.com.
>Author's family helps with plots
Another author from Western New York, Wendy Corsi Staub, will be talking about her latest book in a 60-volume career that's crossed the New York Times best seller list.
Staub, who grew up in Dunkirk, has drawn on Western New York scenes and sensibilities throughout a catalog that includes romance, suspense thrillers and young adult titles. "Don't Scream," her most recent, has former sorority sisters realizing that a girl whose disappearance they've kept secret for a decade might not be resting in peace.
Staub is on a torrid pace, with 10 novels of various flavors being published in an 18-month window.
"I'm blessed, I write really quickly," she said. "When you're hot, you're hot, and you have to keep it going because it could all go away tomorrow. So I've been just killing myself for the last year or two, trying to keep up with deadlines."
Under her flying fingers, a romance or a young adult novel usually takes about a month, she said. That's writing seven days a week, for 12 to 14 hours a day. "That's how I work best," said Staub. "I will get up usually at 4:30 or 5 in the morning and stay at my computer until 6:30 or 7 [p.m.]. I was in here yesterday for 15 hours straight."
Now a Westchester mom with two young sons, Staub makes her fiction writing a family business. She's been successful enough that her husband Mark stays home to take care of the kids. On their family vacations, the boys sometimes take notes of what they see to help their mother flesh out scenes later when she's writing.
Her oldest boy, 12-year-old Morgan, has gotten into the act by offering editing suggestions and even taking an active role in shaping a story in her upcoming series of young adult books set in Lily Dale, Staub said. The Chautauqua County hamlet is known for its community of psychics. "A girl comes to town not knowing it's a town of spiritualists," said Staub, summarizing the plot, "then she finds out she might be one of them."
It's aimed at readers 12 and older, so she let her son read the manuscript for the second book in the series "Believing."
When he gave it back, "he'd marked it up with red pen and he put Post-it notes all over it," said Staub. "He had actually edited it. He said, 'You know, I think the ending should be changed.'"
Staub's agent agreed, and her son joined his mother in the business, albeit in a minor way. (The Lily Dale series has been optioned for television, Staub said, but who knows where that may lead.)
The Fredonia State grad said that growing up in a big Italian family, where storytelling around the dinner table was a part of everyday life, contributed to her success at spinning yarns in print.
When people ask how they can be writers, too, Staub tells them it's work. "I started writing in third grade," she said. "I've worked my butt off. It never happened overnight. I always tell people, 'You can do it, but you have to be prepared to spend years building a career, sitting there typing day after day.' "
Becoming an author for the first time is one of the many subjects scheduled for discussion during the fair.
>Book Fair highlights
Panel discussions: How to get published; efforts to improve programs that teach children to read; turning journalism into a book; insights into the art of autobiography writing; romance writers on the modern romance novel; ingredients of the perfect thriller; young writers roundtable; the legacy of hip-hop culture in America
Author presentations: Kevin Merida and Michael Fletcher of the Washington Post, "Supreme Discomfort: The Divided Soul of Clarence Thomas"; Ishmael Reed, "New and Collected Poems, 1966-2006"; Karolyn Smardz Frost, "I've Got a Home in Glory Land"; Brooke Masters, "Spoiling for a Fight: The rise of Eliot Spitzer"; Catherine Gildiner, "Too Close to the Falls"; Brenda Lacy, "Feet Don't Fail Me Now"; Todd Mitchell, "The Traitor King"; Lee Welles, the Gaia Girls series; Quincy Troupe, "Snake-Back Solos" and "Miles: The Autobiography"; Tim O'Shei, "Live ... Starring You!"; Sofia Quintero, "Divas Don't Yield"; Eisa Nefertari Ulen, "Crystelle Mourning."
Buffalo book presentations: "City on the Edge," Mark Goldman; "Counsel in the Crease: A Big League Player in the Hockey Wars," Robert Swados; "It's a Wing Thing -- Buffalo Style," Diane Noto; "We'll Never Tell," Kayla Perrin.
Workshops: The art of storytelling, Rafe Martin; How to write fiction from the moment of inspiration to final edits, Linda Lavid.
Children's pavilion: "The Lion King," read by James Earl Jones; "Judy Moody," by Mary McDonald; "You Think It's Easy Being the Tooth Fairy?", Sheri Bell-Rehwoldt; Clifford the Big Red Dog