Tana French’s Into the Woods along the way. We looked at SIBA as a couple’s trip this year, with me off and running doing my bookish thing and him sleeping and web surfing all day with no responsibilities. When we arrived on Thursday afternoon, I met up with Sandy, Jill and Heather, and we took a bus ride over to Sunshine Books of Naples. We actually went on a tour of two of their stores, and between the books and the snippets of wine and cheese, the three of us had a wonderful time. After our tour, we were treated to a delicious Italian dinner, and the the three of us had a wonderful time chatting with the authors and booksellers around the table. Each of them was eager to find out what makes a blogger so motivated to write about books and what we like to read. The food was very tasty, and our thanks to JKS Communications, the dinner was on them. It was a wonderful way to begin the SIBA weekend.
Friday morning saw me stumbling around at 5:30am to take a walk along the beach with Jill and Sandy. Fitness is serious business for those two, and I was seriously winded and needed a nap before the events began! Friday was given over to author panels, and all the bloggers headed over to attend the panel Magical & Mysterious featuring Sandra Brennan, Tonya Hurley, Joseph Scott Morgan, Joelle Charbonneau, Suzanne Johnson, & Jeff Hirsch. This panel was hugely entertaining, and there was not only laughter and information about the books that the authors were debuting, but also a bit of singing from Joelle, who is also an opera singer. I think the book that I was most excited about was Blessed, which has a double-sided cover that reveals part of the story. Excellent and very cool idea!
From there we moved on the the Kick-Off Lunch with the Lee Brothers, where we heard from Matt and Ted Lee, Michael Morris, Stephanie McAfee and Janice Owens. The lunch was delectable and the speakers kept us more than entertained with the enticements that their books had to offer. I particularly loved hearing Matt and Ted Lee speak about their cookbook, The Lee Brother’s Charleston Kitchen. All three of us were leafing through the book while at the table and feasting our eyes on the beautiful photography and great recipes inside.
The next panel I attended was called Looking for the Uncommon Thread, where I was entertained and wowed by Robert LeLeux, Kevin Hawkes, Scott Anderson and Sharon Anderson. This was a really eclectic panel of books and authors that were wildly divergent, but somehow they all really fit well together. Jill, Sandy and Heather attended other panels so that the bloggers could spread out and cast a greater coverage of all the events.
Later that evening, we moseyed on over to the First 180 Days party that was held out in the tropical breeze with cocktails and more wonderful books! My old friends Beth Webb Hart and Lisa Wingate were there, as well as the amazing Marybeth Whalen! Before long it was time for the SIBA Supper, where we had a fine dining experience while we were swept off our feet by William Joyce, Randy Wayne White, Rhoda Janzen and Jill McCorkle. I was really blown away by the excerpt that Jill McCorkle chose to read, and I was excited to see Rhoda Janzen, whose first book, Mennonite in a Little Black Dress, was a favorite of mine. Later in the evening, my husband and I sat in on the late night reading and had a great time listening to a few wonderful ladies reading from their books as we sat and enjoyed the balmy summer night.
Saturday morning started off with a wonderful breakfast put on by HarperCollins, where we got the chance to hear Debra Dean, Courtney Miller Santo, Patricia Harman and Mary Kay Andrews speak. I was really excited to hear Patricia Harman speak, as her book Arms Wide Open was one of the most fun and eclectic that I have ever read. I’m in the middle of her newest, The Midwife of Hope River, and must say that it is fantastic too!
For the rest of the day, we wandered the showroom floor, filling bag after bag of glorious books and talking to publishing reps and authors about what’s coming up in the fall and winter that we should be looking for. The girls and I shared a late lunch at the hotel’s restaurant, and I gabbed over the most exciting books that we had picked up. Later in the evening, after perusing the showroom floor again, we headed over to The Writer’s Block Party, where we participated in carnival style games in order to win tickets. These tickets were then thrown into raffle bags to win dinner with an author. Sandy, Heather and I were lucky enough to win two authors (!) and got the chance to take Karen White and Wendy Wax out to a sumptuous Italian restaurant. Wendy and Karen were very fun and charming and we had a lovely time gabbing and eating.
Sunday morning found us at our tables for A Taste of Florida Feast Breakfast, where we got the chance to hear from Heather McPherson, Katie Farmand and Pam Brandon, Bob Kealing, Craig Pittman, and Joie Wilson and Penny Taylor. The books showcased at this event were both beautiful and unique. As we made our last trips around the showroom floor, we were all looking forward to the premier event, The Moveable Feast. Though each of us were seated at different tables, we all got the chance to speak with some fantastic authors, who showed us their latest work. It was a great event.
After all was said and done, the bloggers plus one husband went down to the pool and took in the sun for a few hours. Then the hubby and I went out for a romantic dinner in downtown Naples at a terrific little sushi bar that made the best dragon roll I’ve ever tasted! As we settled down for the night, we knew that tomorrow it would be time to head back to our real lives, but for just a weekend, we had the time of our lives, thanks to Wanda Jewell and the authors and publishers that made SIBA the event of the year.