Five questions with the Williamsburg Book Festival's Greg Lilly

We sat down with Greg Lilly, organizer of the Williamsburg Book Festival, set for Oct. 7 at the Williamsburg Regional Library.

Williamsburg Magazine: What do you hope people take away from the festival?

GL: I think the main goal that we have is to introduce new authors to the public and hopefully to inspire some writers who want to get published, because we're having panels on publishing. I think that should be of great interest to people who have been kicking around writing a book for years.

WM: Given the rise of the Internet and the emphasis on movies, TV, etc., in popular culture, what role do you still see for books and how do you encourage people to read?

GL: Everything that people see is written by someone. If it's a movie, if it's a video game, whatever it is. In fact, there are several authors who will be at the festival whose writing has been made into movies or audiobooks. When people see that, when they look at a movie, they've got to know that there's a person behind that, who came up with the action and made it real. One of the media is a paper book. This is where a lot of people get started; this is where we all learned to read, from books. I would say most screenwriters you talk to have written a book of some sort. One thing special we're having this year that we haven't done in the past in the publisher's alley, where we'll have five publishers from Virginia who are going to talk about what they publish.

WM: How do you think the current state of the world affects the world of literature?

GL: I think it's spurring people to express people themselves more than ever before, no matter what side you line up with. Whether it's using fiction to break down difficult-to-understand topics, or we have people that do history and they equate what's happening today to what's happened in the past. Ron Shafer is going to be there, and he is a former Washington political features writer for the Wall Street Journal and a Pulitzer Prize winner. He's going to be there equating the the current political scene with political scenes in the past. So it's not as bizarre as we think.

WM: What book is on your bed stand right now?

GL: Actually, I am reading our headliner's book. Kathryn Aalto. She wrote "The Natural World of Winnie the Pooh." She looks at the way A.A. Milne was inspired to create the Hundred Acre Wood, where Christopher Robin and all his friends lived. It really explores the way nature inspires creativity, not just children but writers of all ages. We need to get back to the childlike wonder that we all had and we need to get back in nature. She's doing a presentation in the evening over in William and Mary's Tucker Hall. It's free. We're hoping a lot of people show up. When you read how all that developed, it's just fascinating. What she writes about is very sophisticated.

WM: What book would you say is quintessential reading for anyone?

GL: I write mysteries, so I tend to go toward those. Of course Sherlock Holmes, any of those; I've reread some of those recently. Plus history, where we are. I've finished David McCullough's "1776." Everybody in Williamsburg should be reading that. And another one that's again kind of the geeky mystery side, Deb Bloom's "The Poisoner's Handbook."

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