Book Review: Sculptor

sculptorSculptor
by Scott McCloud

Published by: First Second
Form: Purchased Hardback
Genre: Graphic Novel
Big Themes
: Art, Life, Death, Love, Depression, Individuality, Legacy, Time

Summary:
A young artist makes a bargain with Death: unlimited artistic ability but in exchange, David Smith will only have 200 days left to live. With his new ability to sculpt anything his mind can imagine, David struggles to create a legacy to his name.  He wants his work to be seen and remembered, but the clock is ticking.

“The best graphic novel I’ve read in years. It’s about art and love and why we keep on trying. It will break your heart.” -Neil Gaiman

Review:

Scott McCloudIf you are a fan of graphic novels, Scott McCloud should be a familiar name.  His books Making Comics and Understanding Comics are must-haves and will change how you read and appreciate graphic novels. I bought these books for my brother about ten years ago after being incredibly impressed by them myself. We would both call ourselves Scott McCloud fans. However, while McCloud has written how-to manuals about comics, he had yet to embark on creating a novel-length piece of graphic fiction.  Sculptor is his first.

I had the opportunity to meet and hear Scott McCloud speak at Politics and Prose in DC back in February. He had a great computer presentation that allowed him to show us his creative process and the work that went into Sculptor. The book is a 488 pages and took McCloud five years to craft. This event moved Sculptor to the top of my to-read pile despite how enormous my to-read list is lately.

What I Loved:
The art was gorgeous.  You can tell this book was an act of love. Every panel shows thoughtfulness. The novel is set in New York City, and some of the panels made me ache to jump on the train for a visit.

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The message about life was another element I loved. I’d like to discuss this book in a book group, but here is what I took away from the book (without giving any spoilers). After reading, I felt like McCloud wanted his readers, particularly young people who are driven to make a name for themselves, to realize that life is more than making your mark. Especially when it comes to creativity, life fuels your work, your craft. Experiences and relationships and everyday life are just as important as any goals or aspirations you may have. And to live in a manic, focused, obsessive state where your entire focus is centered on your own aspirations is wasting the one life you have to live.

This resonated with me because creative types, introverted writers especially, can live in the worlds they create. They can obsess over the right word or phrasing. They can worry if anyone will ever want to read their work. And writing is often such a solitary act that shutting out the real world becomes too easy. So for me, this book was about finding balance. A reminder that life outside of art and ambition is equally important.

Also, the concepts of some of the sculptures that David creates were really, really awesome. I’d imagine that would be difficult to come up with as a writer–ideas for art that corresponds with infinite ability. That was a fun, almost superhero element.  Super Sculptor–can mold anything with his bare hands. McCloud made that power seem cool and desirable.

Criticism:
I’d love to have a discussion about Meg. McCloud admits that she fits the trope of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, but he said the following:

The Manic Pixie Dream Girl is an archetype that shows up in romance almost exclusively, and our reaction is to mark it for death. We shouldn’t kill what we don’t understand. There’s a reason why this character shows up again and again. I don’t know how well a job I’ve done of investigating those reasons, but I hope there’s something in The Sculptor that makes Meg worthwhile.

Quote from Vulture.com

There are so many things to be discussed about Meg–from her first appearance as an angel, to their talk about her being an object, to her final representation in sculpture form. Am I okay with how McCloud portrayed the only leading female character? My initial answer is no. But I’d love to talk about it.

Overall:
Four stars. Overall, I really enjoyed this. Would highly recommend to all creative types or ambitious types. Recommended for adults due to sex and mature topics.

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NoVa Teen Book Festival 2014

Where: Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia.
When: Saturday, March 8th from 9:30am to 4pm
Book Event Website: NoVa Teen Book Festival

This was the first book festival organized by NoVa Teen, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.  But I can say I was highly impressed!  The venue was bright and comfortable with great acoustics.  The program of authors was varied and entertaining.  Lots of volunteers in bright red shirts helped answer questions and keep the day running smoothly.  And there were loads of tables with books and food for sale.  I am certainly adding NoVa Teen Book Fest to my list of annual events!

What I loved most about this event was how they organized the day.  In the main auditorium, they had 45 minute author panels, and then in classrooms they had smaller breakout sessions.  I didn’t attend any of the breakout sessions, and instead opted for the main panels in the auditorium.  Main Author Panels are listed below:

  • “Who Are You” A discussion about identity, destiny, and the roles that shape characters.
  • “The Scientist” The morality of science and the consequences of defying nature.
  • “Survivor” How dire circumstances and high-stakes situations unite and shape characters to defeat the odds.
  • “Bad Boys” An exploration into the appeal of bad boys and the girls who love them.

I loved that each panel had a theme that went beyond just book genre.  I caught the end of the panel about identity, and then listened to both “The Scientist” and “Survivor.”

The Scientist
This panel was my favorite of the day.  I love science fiction and this panel was FASCINATING.  The topic of science and morality is so timely and relevant.  Each author on the panel had a different perspective because each of their books had a different futuristic/science premise.

Jenna Black’s book Replica is based on the scientific premise of being able to create a back-up copy of yourself–complete with memories, physical traits, the whole deal.  Essentially cloning, but with that added twist of creating a duplicate copy of not just your body but your brain.  Ethics and idenity issues abound with this idea, and it is a fascinating concept.  (I bought the book.)

Jennifer Rush’s Altered is a book I’d already purchased as a Kobo ebook, and I started it… but have yet to finish.  In part I haven’t finished purely because I only have the Kobo app on my iPad and my iPad isn’t ideal to read on, in my opinion.  I need a Kobo ereader.  This book is essentially about genetic modifications, and some boys who have been experiments in a lab.

Cristin Terrill wrote All Our Yesterdays, which is about the catastrophic consequences of time travel.  The main character’s dilemma is whether she should go back in time and kill the inventor of time travel–even if that inventor was someone she loved and cared about…  Sounds a bit like the movie Looper.  I loveeee time travel stories, thanks to Ray Bradbury’s “Sound of Thunder.”  The consequences of time travel in fiction seems to have infinite possibilities and conflict galore.

And the final member of the panel (also the moderator) was Jon Skovron whose new novel Man Made Boy is about the son of Frankenstein.  The son of Frankenstein is a gifted hacker and creates a sentient computer virus.  Supposedly, this computer virus lacks empathy for human beings, and Boy Frankenstein must take responsibility for his creation.  I thought this was a super interesting premise, and this was one of my book purchases of the day.  Plus, Jon Skovron was a great moderator–knowledgeable in the field of YA and asked interesting questions.

Pictures from “The Scientists” Panel

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Author Jenna Black

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Jennifer Rush and Jenna Black

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From Left to Right: Cristin Terrill, Jennifer Rush, Jenna Black, Jon Skovron

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Author and Moderator Jon Skovron

Survivor
This is probably one of my all-time favorite topics.  I love throwing my characters into high-stakes situations and seeing them fight their way out.  And all my favorite books involve authors pummeling their characters with dire circumstances.  And while I enjoyed the discussion, it wasn’t quite as mind-blowing as “The Scientist” panel was.

I’ve heard the whole “discuss how your character is a strong female” question before.  Yes.  Strong, kick-butt females are hot right now.  And I doubt that’s gonna change anytime soon… Because the alternative is… weak females?  Yeah.  Pretty much every author will argue their female lead is strong.

What I did find interesting was the idea that when a female character is too perfect… She’s a Mary Sue.  But go to the other end of the spectrum and she’s unlikable.  Arrogant?  She’s the B-word.  However, what several of the panelists argued, is that male characters can be these things.  Too perfect is hero figure (Bruce Wayne aka Batman was their example).  Arrogant is a beloved bad boy.  Female characters seem to have to hit this sweet spot of being just a bit flawed and relatable.  Very interesting and something you could delve deeper into if given longer than a 45 minute discussion.

The two authors I was most impressed by during this panel were Kristen Simmons and Meagan Spooner.

Kristen Simmons is the author of Article 5, which at least a dozen people on my Goodreads listed as “Want to Read” but only one actually read (the one person gave it a favorable 4 star review).  Perhaps Article 5 hit the dystopian trend a little too late, but from what I heard from Kristen Simmons, I’d still like to give this book a shot.  It sounds like a high stakes, exciting read!

These Broken Stars by Meagan Spooner and Amie Kaufman keeps popping up on my blogger radar with rave reviews.  The author described it as “Rose and Jack from Titanic in a spaceship where they crash in the first five minutes and land on the island from LOST.”  I paraphrased that.  Anyhow, it’s a love story in space from dual perspectives (I totally looove books with two POV characters).  And I pretty much had to buy this book based on both that crazy description and to see what all the blogosphere hype is about.

Pictures from Survivor Panel

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From Left to Right: Jessica Spotswood, Meagan Spooner, Kristen Simmons, Claudia Gray, Lisa Maxwell

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Kristen Simmons and Claudia Gray

Overall, this was a fantastic book event that I would highly recommend attending if you live in the Washington DC metro area.  Well-organized and a fun bookish day!

Author Event: February 1, 2014

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Who (pictured above from left to right):
Megan Shepherd, Jessica Spotswood, Stephanie Perkins, Victoria Schwab, Ellen Oh
Where: Bethesda Library, MD
When: Saturday, February 1st at 2pm

Five YA authors results in a packed room:

Crowd 2/1/14

I was there mostly to see Stephanie Perkins, author of Lola and the Boy Next Door and Anna and the French Kiss. Perkins was on my “bucket list of authors to meet” and therefore, I was super excited!  I was also pleasantly surprised with the rest of the panel.  I was familiar with all of their books, even if I hadn’t read them.  And it is always nice to hear a variety of authors speak about their writing process.

If you’re looking for a creepy read, you may want to check out Victoria Schwab.  She was very fun to listen to and more of a veteran author than I realized.  I was only aware of her newer YA book The Archived, where the dead are stored like books on shelves, and the main character hunts down those dead that escape the library.  The premise is haunting and intriguing, and after hearing her speak, I’d trust her with my reading time if I feel like a thrills and chills kinda read.

The other author that I’m NO DOUBT CHECKING OUT is Megan Shepherd.
Megan Shepherd
She is one cool chick and a lot like myself.  Shepherd is doing gothic/sci-fi retellings of classics.  So freaking cool.  I’d already bought her first book, The Madman’s Daughter, but never got around to reading it.  The Madman’s Daughter is based off of H.G. Wells The Island of Dr. Moreau and her next two books in the series will be based off of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Frankenstein.  She did not plan to write a trilogy, but at her editor’s suggestion, she developed this plan that incorporated other classics that were along the same “playing with science” vein.  I think that reading her books will be inspirational for my own writing, and I’m excited to check her books out!

And finally, there was the lovely Stephanie Perkins.  Upon meeting her, I’d planned to tell her that I loved how all of her characters (even the secondary ones) had their own interests and hobbies.  I found this made all her characters very endearing and lovable.  I was so pleasantly surprised when the topic of secondary characters came up in the panel discussion, and Perkins cited her inspiration for creating great secondary characters was J.K. Rowling!  I knew there was a reason I liked you Stephanie Perkins!  She talked about how she thinks it is so amazing that J.K. Rowling managed to create such a HUGE (thousands!) cast of secondary characters that are memorable in their own way.  Well, Stephanie Perkins, I believe you have successfully emulated J.K. Rowling because your secondary characters made your books stand out to me beyond the average contemporary fiction.  Kudos!

The only autograph I wanted was Perkins.  So I stood in line and had a short but lovely chat with her.  She has such a glowing, beautiful smile, as you can see in the pictures below!

Perkins 1

Perkins 2

Me and Perkins

Perkins Autograph

Love the message to be yourself, and very “Lola” appropriate!
Overall a great author event  🙂

National Book Festival 2013

The National Book Festival is held each year on the Mall in DC.  I go every year and it’s absolute heaven for a bibliophile like myself.  The event is totally free and a great opportunity to meet your favorite authors.  Below is a summary of the authors that I had the great opportunity to see this year:

(Click on images to view larger.)

Hattie Ever AfterKirby Larson

I absolutely adored Kirby Larson’s Newbery Honor book, Hattie Big Sky.  If you want great historical fiction that is more challenging (but similar to) the American Girl series, you should check out Hattie Big Sky.  I’ve purchased, but not yet had the chance to read the sequel Hattie Ever After, but I’m very excited to, especially after hearing Kirby Larson speak!

Matt de la Peña

I had not read any of Matt de la Peña’s books, but I plan to now!  In a somewhat soft-spoken voice he told several humorous stories from his own life that had the audience laughing.  He explained how his life experiences, being biracial and from a working class family, inspired his fiction.  I purchased his book Mexican Whiteboy and am excited to read it!

1377013_10101116396175095_1471933396_nPhyllis Reynolds Naylor

I’m most familiar with Naylor’s Shiloh, about a boy who rescues an abused dog.  However, she spoke mostly about her Alice series, which has been highly controversial and on ALA’s most banned book list.  Naylor shared many of the letters she’d received from readers regarding the impact the Alice series has had on their lives.  I certainly felt by the end of her speech that the Alice series is something I don’t want to miss out on, and I plan to check it out!

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Packed crowd for Veronica Roth

Veronica Roth

As expected, Roth drew the biggest crowd of the day.  The first book in her dystopian trilogy, Divergent, is a soon-to-be major motion picture, and the series is hot on the heels of the Hunger Games trilogy in terms of popularity.  The final book in Roth’s trilogy, Allegiant, is coming out this fall.

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Veronica Roth is on the left. Moderator on the right.

Roth is an extremely young author (early 20s), but I was very impressed with her professionalism.  She spoke about the trend in YA of strong female heroines, but her dissatisfaction that what makes these heroines strong is that they shoot guns and fight.  Shooting guns and fighting are a traditionally masculine version of strong, and Roth hopes that we will see other forms of strength in YA, perhaps feminine and gender neutral forms as well.  There was also some discussion of why Tris is so annoying in Insurgent (book 2), and it gave me a little more tolerance for that book, though I don’t think I’ll ever be a raving fan of it like I was for book 1.

553774_10101116396753935_3418276_nMatthew Kirby

I have not read any of Kirby’s books, but the cover of Icefall was familiar as well as award winning.  I was charmed by Kirby’s love of research and enthusiasm for writing.  I definitely plan to read his latest book, The Lost Kingdom, which looks a little steampunk (I purchased an autographed copy at the book tent).

1375859_10101116396758925_1358263899_nD.J. McHale

I’ve had many students recommend the Pendragon series, and after hearing D.J. McHale, I definitely NEED to check these books out.  McHale is a pro-presenter.  He was funny, engaging, and knew how to talk to kids.  I purchased an autographed copy of his latest book, SYLO, that I plan to give away in a raffle to students.  If you ever get the opportunity to see this guy speak, take it.

1209398_10101116396748945_1952491338_nTamora Pierce

Huge confession to make: I haven’t read any books by the legendary Tamora Pierce.  I own a few.  Haven’t read them.  I know I absolutely need to!  Pierce’s crowd was brimming with love and enthusiasm for her works.  After playing a little prank on the audience that got laughter and applause, Pierce spent pretty much the entire thirty minutes answering questions.  It was clear to me that she was confident, strong, witty, and a force to be reckoned with in the writing world.  I was thoroughly impressed and also humbled that I am clearly missing out on some great works of fiction.  I see a Tamora Pierce binge reading session in my future…

Meeting Marissa Meyer (Scarlet Tour)

On Tuesday, February 19, I had the pleasure of meeting Marissa Meyer on her last stop of the Scarlet Tour.  I was so incredibly excited because Cinder is one of my favorite books, and I’ve heard that Marissa is a wonderful person.
(She is.  Love her.)

Marissa was a fabulous speaker.  She was charming and funny and energetic, despite a quiet and kind of mellow crowd of mostly adults and only a few teens.  I was a little sad for Marissa because the library and bookstore who hosted the event didn’t do anything for her birthday.  I have experience in event planning, and was definitely thinking of some easy ways we could have spruced up the event and made it more festive.  If only I’d been in charge of planning instead of just a guest!  I did bring Marissa a card, which I like to do for author events anyways.  But in this case it doubled as a birthday card as well!  Wish I’d brought a cupcake, too!

I’d read a smattering of interviews with Marissa and knew some of her story: her Sailor Moon fanfiction background, her NaNo participation, and her quick publishing contract.  However, these tidbits didn’t make up the whole story and it was fun to hear more about where the idea of Cinder came from.  I love how a lot of authors are able to trace back the root of their story to other things they love.  Marissa was able to talk about how her love of science fiction, Sailor Moon, and fairy tales all came together to inspire her Lunar Chronicles.

After she spoke abut the inspiration for Cinder, Marissa read a bit from Scarlet and shared the true gruesome fairy tales of Cinderella and Red Riding Hood.  Then, there was a question and answer period.

 I liked Marissa Meyer’s answers to two of the questions during her Q & A.  The first was in response to the question “Are you a mechanic?”  Where she answered she doesn’t, but she did a lot of research.  For my own novel, my main character is a blacksmith, and I’ve never hammered a piece of iron in my life.  But I’ve done a lot of research.  So hearing her answer this way was encouraging that I’m going about my book the right way.

 The second was in response to a question asking how she manages to write different voices for the characters. She said how some characters would just come to her and how others would take some time.  I had a similar experience when I was writing my angel short story, where it took awhile before I found my main character’s voice.  She said she had trouble finding Scarlet’s voice, but when it came to her, it worked.  I like hearing writers who have similar processes as my own.  Makes me feel not so crazy and alone in the writing process!

The event ended with book signing, and Marissa’s husband went down the line of people writing our names on Post-Its to help with personalizations.  It was fun to chat with him, and it was clear he was so proud of Marissa.

I was extremely smiley and star struck and flustered when I had my chance to talk to Marissa.  I forgot to grab any swag that they had laying out on the table.  Agh!  But I told Marissa how much I loved that she blended two seemingly unlike genres (sci-fi and fairy tales) and how it was something I was working on in my own novel.  I also told her how much I loved that Cinder was a mechanic.  Yay for women in traditionally male occupations!  She was a great listener, recommended a book for me to read, and wished me luck with my writing.

I got both my hardback copy of Cinder and my hardback of Scarlet signed.  Yay!  Hopefully, I’ll have a complete signed collection someday because I’m confident this is going to be one of my favorite book series.

I just finished re-reading Cinder this evening, and I’m going to go start Scarlet… NOW!  Watch for a review in the next week or so!

2012 National Book Festival Schedule

The National Book Festival is my favorite book event of the year.  It’s in Washigton D.C. on the National Mall and is TOTALLY FREE.  The DC Metro is easy to use, so you really don’t have to worry about driving or parking in the city.  I’ve been when it was raining (very cold and miserable) and when it’s sunny (glorious).   I’ve gotten books signed in the past, but what I usually prefer to do is find a good spot in the Teen Tent and sit and listen to speakers all day.  If you want to get books signed, just be prepared to wait in lines and realize that you will miss out on other authors speaking.

If you want to know what the Book Festival is like, I recommend reading last year’s post: National Book Festival 2011

The event is very well-organized and this year’s panel of authors looks fantastic.  Authors I’m especially excited about: John Green, James Dashner, Walter Dean Myers, Lois Lowry, Maggie Stiefvater, Melissa Marr, and Avi.  This year’s festival is Saturday, September 22 and Sunday, September 23.  See a full list of speakers below:

Saturday, Children’s Tent
Time                Author
10:00-10:45 Laura Amy Schlitz
10:55-11:40 Peter Brown
11:50-12:35 James Dashner
12:45-1:30        Jewel
1:40-2:25         Natalie Pope Boyce
1:40-2:25         Mary Pope Osborne
2:35-3:20         Jerry Spinelli
3:30-4:15         Chris Raschka
4:25-5:10         Anna Dewdney

Saturday, Teens & Children’s Tent
Time                Author
10:00-10:45 John Green
10:55-11:40 Mike Lupica
11:50-12:35 Walter Dean Myers
12:45-1:30        Lois Lowry
1:40-2:25         Maggie Stiefvater
2:35-3:20         Melissa Marr
3:30-4:15         David Levithan
4:25-5:10         R.L. Stine

Sunday, Children’s Tent
Time                Author
12:00-12:45 Bob Balaban
12:55-1:40        Patricia Polacco
1:50-2:35         Michael Grant
2:45-3:30         Erin E. Stead
2:45-3:30         Philip C. Stead
3:40-4:25         David Ezra Stein
4:35-5:20         Avi

Teens & Children
Time                Author
12:00-12:45 Bryan Collier
12:55-1:40        Ellen Hopkins
1:50-2:35         Siobhan Vivian
1:50-2:35         Jenny Han
2:45-3:30         Jacqueline Woodson
3:40-4:25         Sharon Flake
4:35-5:20         Sonia Manzano

More information on the National Book Festival can be found on the Library of Congress Book Festival Site.

Let me know if you’re thinking of going!  I’d love to see you there!

Gaithersburg Book Festival 2012

This year was the 3rd annual Gaithersburg Book Festival, and with perfect weather, there were crowds of people celebrating books.  This was my second year attending, and I was again impressed with how well-organized and professional the event was.  More people showed up this year, but you still had easy access to some really talented and amazing authors.

Below is a synopsis of each author I heard speak:

Meredith Goldstein
Author of the book, The Singles, and columnist for the Boston Globe, Goldstein was honest and funny as she spoke about the writing process for her book which is about five single people invited to a wedding.  Timed to come out during the wedding season, the book explores how five different people (3 men, two women) cope with going to a wedding alone.  Most of the authors I was familiar with were later in the day, so I stumbled upon Goldstein in the morning by chance.  I’m definitely happy I heard her speak, and will definitely be checking her book out.

John Corey Whaley

Winner of this year’s Printz award for Where Things Come Back, Whaley was sarcastic and self-deprecating.  He joked about the sweat he was mopping off his forehead with a southern boy handkerchief, and spoke of how his first year teaching at his alma mater was a terrible experience where he learned things about his former teachers he never wanted to know.  On the topic of his book, Whaley shared how a news story and his small hometown in Louisiana inspired Where Things Come Back.  While his book doesn’t sound like my typical read, I’m definitely intrigued.  I bought a copy of the book, had it autographed, and it’s now sitting in my massive to-read pile.

Michael Buckley

I’d heard Michael Buckley (author of The Sisters Grimm and N.E.R.D.S.) speak before, and as he is a former stand-up comedian, I knew I wanted to hear him again.  The beginning of his speech, I was distracted by a rapidly melting ice cream cone dripping all down my arm (and trying not to get chocolate on my white skirt).  But the second half of his speech he spent answering questions for adoring little girl fans.  He had witty responses for all of them, but my favorite was:

Q: What made you want to write for children?

 A: J.K. Rowling’s payday. 

Michelle Ray

Michelle Ray was by far my favorite author of the day.  She was a cheerful and engaging speaker.  I have not yet read her debut novel, Falling for Hamlet, but knew Ray would be one of my must see authors of the festival because Hamlet is tied with Romeo and Juliet for my favorite Shakespearean play and the idea of a YA modern retelling from Ophelia’s point-of-view is AWESOME.  Ray spoke of her love of Shakespeare and how she strives to make Shakespeare not-so-scary.  (She wore an awesome Cafe Press shirt that said “Shakespeare Sucketh Not”)  She showed us her writing notebook (which is very similar to my own crazy scribbles).  And when I got my book signed, she was so genuine and personable.  She is a teacher as well, and that makes her extra awesome because it gives me hope that the stress of teaching will not prevent me from achieving my own writing/publishing goals.  Can you tell I was impressed?  Her book is going near the top of my to-read pile (right after my mandatory grad school reading… or will I slip it in early for a break… we’ll see!)

Other authors I heard:

  • Buzz Bissinger, author of Friday Night Lights and his new book Father’s Day: A Journey into the Mind and Heart of My Extraordinary Son
  • Siobhan Fallon, author of You Know When the Men Are Gone which is a collection of short stories about the men, women, and families of the U.S. Army. 
  • Marvin and Deborah Kalb, authors of Haunting Legacy: Vietnam and the American Presidency from Ford to Obama  This father/daughter team spoke about the impact the Vietnam war on the American Presidency from elections to foreign policy.