Savannah Book Festival Recap: Closing Ceremony with David Baldacci

Looking at ease in a khaki blazer, best-selling author David Baldacci charmed a rapt audience during his hour-long closing presentation at the Savannah Book Festival Sunday afternoon at the Trustees Theatre. Armed with a variety of stories, some poignant, many humorous, Baldacci provided the perfect coda to another wildly successful Festival and tremendous weekend for readers.

“I think it’s a statement that, number one, there are still people [who believe] in the importance of reading, and how much people really love it, and how much people really like to connect with the people that they’re reading. It suddenly puts life into that book,” says Savannah Book Festival executive director Robin Gold. “Like David Baldacci, If they’re reading their David Baldacci book, they’ll realize that he’s just a really neat, warm, funny guy. He was just terrific.”

Baldacci also recounted inspiring stories and advice from his zigzag career path, which took him from anonymity as a DC-area lawyer to someone who now has sold over 125 million books worldwide. His journey hardly a straight line, Baldacci said he encountered rejection after rejection before finally scoring his first book deal. He encouraged the aspiring writers in the audience to seek out rejection, to wear it “like a badge of honor,” he suggested.

“I’m an aspiring writer, so everything he’s talking about is something I can take home,” says Lawrence Staab, a Book Festival volunteer who attended the closing ceremony.

Patricia Moss and her husband Dwain drove down to Savannah from Lincolnton, Ga., about 150 miles north, for their second visit in as many years.

“We started coming to it last year. We didn’t know about it until last year, and have thoroughly enjoyed it and look forward to it every year,” says Patricia, who counts Wish You Well among her favorite Baldacci works. ”I thought it was wonderful. He’s a very interesting speaker as well as author. He’s just as fascinating to listen to as he is to read.”

The 2013 installment of the Savannah Book Festival included a veritable who’s who of the country’s literati, including humorist Dave Barry, former Vice President Al Gore, novelist James Patterson, and Diary of a Wimpy Kid series author Jeff Kinney.

“It’s just amazing who you’re pulling into Savannah,” added Moss.

In its sixth year, the SBF has quickly put itself in the pantheon of great book festivals in the Southeast, if not the country. Using a variety of venues in the greater Telfair Square area, organizers were able to offer over 30 free presentations over the course of the three-day event.

“It was terrific. It was about a thousand times better than we anticipated, and people seem to be genuinely tickled with the whole thing,” says Gold. “We had terrific crowds. The weather, even though it got kinda crummy on Saturday for a little while, people were just happy and excited and they just stuck right with it.”

Gold took over as Executive Director in April 2011 after moving to Savannah in 2003 from Connecticut. Previously, Gold worked with Savannah Country Day School to help start the Creative Minds Speakers Series.

“There are a lot of moving parts, and there is no one part that is more important than the next,” says Gold, who thanked the over 200 volunteers that assisted in this year’s festival. “This is the payoff. We prepare and prepare and prepare, and then it finally happens. I wouldn’t say this is easy, but it’s certainly the reward for everyone’s efforts.”

Pressed to reveal a few big names for next year’s Festival, she smiled but politely demurred.

“It’s too early. We won’t play those cards yet,” says Gold. “We have some soft commitments from some major authors, but it’s a year away and a lot of things can happen personally and professionally.”

To learn more about David Baldacci, check out The South Magazine’s Q & A with the Virginia-based author here.

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