Sunday, November 6, 2016

An Evening with Ben Montgomery

One of the highlights of the One Book One Broomfield program (just completing its 11th year--woot, woot!) is the author visit. This year, as a member of the committee that chose the book, I was lucky to have dinner with other committee members, library staff, our mayor, and the author and his wife--very fun! Ben Montgomery, author of Grandma Gatewood's Walk, is a good storyteller (as is Bill Roberts, husband of committee member Irene Roberts) and we laughed and talked books, food, hiking, and other topics. I won't tell their story, but Ben and his wife Jennifer had a story about David Sedaris that caused me to throw out the one David Sedaris book I owned.

But on a more serious note, last night Ben talked about Emma Gatewood's through hike of the Appalachian Trail and the process of researching and writing the book. Two points stood out for me. First, Ben continued working his "day job" as a reporter at the Tampa Times while writing the book, which led to some very long days in which he admits he wasn't much help in terms of the family's home life (as he put it, "It takes a village to raise a book"); it's a reminder of how few authors are able to devote themselves solely to writing (at least if they want to eat). Second, I was touched by Ben's  deep affection for Grandma Gatewood (without overlooking her less positive traits)--so deep that he found himself breaking into tears near the end of the writing process when he knew he was going to have to write about her death. It reminded me a bit of hearing Kent Haruf talk about the people of Holt, Colorado, people he had created and clearly loved. So how is it different to write a book about someone you don't like, whether a real person or one you have created? Is it easier because you don't care about them? Or harder because you don't like them--or do you have to like them at some level to write about them. Something to ponder.

Kudos to the Mamie Doud Eisenhower staff, who planned a great series of events around the book. I'm proud that our little community has sustained this community reading program when our larger neighbors (I'm looking at you, Boulder and Denver) have given up the program.