Monday, February 26, 2007

An Evening with Elizabeth Berg

A former library co-worker of mine once told me a story about going to Chicago to meet one of her favorite authors at a book signing. Anticipation had built up on the drive there and standing in line to actually be in front of this person who had inspired her greatly. When it was finally her turn, my former co-worker confessed to the author that her life was changed after having read her books – she sobbed with them and she grew with them. The author smiled briefly and said, " And who do I make this out to?" (blink, blink)

I am ecstatic to write that this was most certainly NOT the case when I met one of my all-time favorite ficiton writers Elizabeth Berg last week. She is beautiful, warm and true (and funny!) – much like the books that she writes. I had the pleasure of going to dinner in Kankakee with her and some other library folks. Here are some stories and factoids that she told:

Once when her children were small they had a massive snowstorm and in turn a snow day from school. Elizabeth wanted to turn this into something positive so exclaimed to her kids, "Let's play shoe store!" as they arranged all of their shoes for trying on. Her kids were giddy with delight at this whimsical play. That is until the phone rang. And their friends called for them to play outside. That, of course, was the end of Shoe Store. This little story stuck out at me because it’s the kind of thing that my mom and my sisters and I would play.

Elizabeth must have been a very playful parent as she also told a story of how her kids wanted their stuffed animals to get married. She clapped her hands in excitement and said, "Excellent! We’re going to make a tiered cake!" and then proceeded to plan the stuffed animal nuptials. I, too, remember attending/planning many a wedding of my stuffed animals and my cats (though, they were dubious of this commitment).

She said that she does narration of many of her own books for the audio versions and that one of the most time consuming ones was We Are All Welcome Here because of the heavy accents in the story.

Elizabeth also talked about her love of cover art and how she has cover art approval in her contracts. She gave us a sneak peek of the cover of her newest book, Dream When You’re Feeling Blue. I told her my favorite of her books is What We Keep and she chuckled and replied, "Oh, that’s a good one, isn’t it?" I agreed! Elizabeth said that the cover of that book is actually a picture from her editor – the two girls on the book are Elizabeth’s editor and her editor’s sister.

I was equally taken with Elizabeth’s companion, Bill. He knows a lot about everything and especially everything in the book industry, which makes for fun conversation for me.

At dinner when it came time to order, Elizabeth chose ostrich. That's right – ostrich, as in the big, non-flying bird. She’d never eaten it before and all I could think of was the episode of Mad About You where Paul orders Ostrich for the first time and then proceeds to get sick and have weird dreams that resemble Rowan and Martin's Laugh In episodes. Please don’t get sick and not speak at the Kankakee Public Library, Elizabeth!

She didn't. She said the ostrich was fabulous.

If you are already one of the millions of Elizabeth Berg fans, you may want to listen to the podcast or watch the vodcast of her talk at the Kankakee Public Library. If you’re not yet a Berg fan, check out one of her many books at KPL or at any library or bookstore.

Allison Beasley
Head of Adult Services


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