May 9, 2020

I’ve been home now for 7 weeks. I feel so fortunate I am able to work from home, and that I still have a job. The work keeps me chained to my computer from 7:30 in the morning until 3:00 in the afternoon, and it gives me a sense of purpose.

I set my alarm Monday through Friday mornings, I get up, I do my hair (haha,) I put makeup on, I get dressed. Not dressed like I’m going to work, I’ve been pretty much living in tank tops, jeans, and flip flops (Florida!), and once or twice a week, I wear a comfy dress. One that I could wear to the beach, for instance.

I do this not because I don’t like hanging out in my pajamas. I like that as much as the next person. But early in this pandemic, I had read this article from a journalist, I think from the Wall Street Journal – sorry I can’t find that article now so it could have been the Washington Post or the New York Times, I read them all every day. Anyway, he had quarantined himself for a few weeks just to see how it would work. And what I took away from that article was that I need routine, and I need to get dressed. Saturday, I can hang out in PJs all day if I want.

I get groceries delivered once a week or so, or send my husband to the store every other week, so I am cooking with what I have. When I say “send my husband,” please know that is entirely his choice. He’s got this slightly protective macho thing where he doesn’t want me going shopping. Or my daughter. Even though we are less at risk than he is. But it is not worth fighting about, so I try and keep it to a bare minimum, which for me is twice a month. Costco has “senior hour,” which he qualifies for, so he goes then. Our supermarket, Publix, has senior hours for 65+, so we can’t go then. But if he goes right after that hour, the store is empty. Now I understand Costco is limiting the amount of meat to three packages per person. I have no room in my freezer, so when we run out, vegetarian it is, or maybe they’ll be restocked by then.

Surprise Box of Veggies

Speaking of vegetables, there is a farm a few miles away that has started selling boxes of fresh produce for $10. It’s awesome! They have a horseshoe-shaped driveway, and people waiting alongside it. Then they just put the box in your car. You don’t get out or anything.

I’ve gone through more than 15 pounds of flour in these weeks that I’ve been home. Mostly because I am doing the sourdough starter. I feed it twice a day, that’s pretty much 2 cups of flour a day. Plus lots more if I actually bake with it. So far, I’ve made pretzels, rustic sourdough bread, and sourdough sandwich bread. But the best thing I’ve made is Sourdough Banana Pancakes. I found the recipe on Instagram (thanks, Chef Johanna Hellrigl – for the photo, too!) and they were the easiest and best pancakes I ever made. We are doing breakfast for dinner every week or two, which my family thinks is great, so lucky me, it’s about the easiest dinner to make, so we are all happy.

I’ve also found myself making food that lasts for at least two meals or more. Turkey. Brisket. My family’s favorite meatloaf from Old-School Comfort Food by Alex Guarnaschelli. It’s Alex’s mom’s recipe and their family favorite, too! I turned pork butt into “Pressure Cooker Garlicky Cuban Pork,” which is so good! But my delivery didn’t include tortillas, the store was out. So I made flour tortillas for the first time. I never quite got the round aspect down, but they tasted good. I also made “Big Bellied Argentinian Empanadas” one night from the fantastic Gran Cocina Latina cookbook by Maricel Presilla. I’ve made them many times, but always with frozen empanada dough. For the first time, I made the dough (all local stores sold out of the frozen!) but I chickened out at attempting the traditional rope edge. I was down to my last egg, so I didn’t do the pretty egg wash either. I especially love this recipe because they are baked instead of fried (so much easier!) and are so good!

We’ve made pizza a couple of times. I made a Chicago style pizza, or as I think of it, pizza casserole, that was awesome!

Chicago “pizza”

Then I spent two (or was it three?) days making Anthony Falco’s “Sourdough Pizza Dough,” and it was so bad I could have cried. The dough looked beautiful every step of the way until it came time to make the pizza. The dough didn’t stretch, it tore. Adding a ton of flour made it somewhat more malleable, but it tasted like crap. Looks good in the pictures though!

Then my boss told me she made pizza and the crust came out like crap. She thought maybe old yeast or something. We are calling it the “Quarantine Pizza Curse.” We’ve also been eating lots of pasta –  mac & cheese, homemade “beefaroni,” pasta with veggies, frozen ravioli when I really don’t feel like cooking. Fortunately, that doesn’t happen very often. I’m trying to balance all those carbs with fish and chicken and salads, but to be honest, I don’t always achieve that balance I’m seeking.

Because I am home, I have the luxury of time. There is no more rushing to get dinner ready. I have time to make things from scratch. Time to try new recipes. On my “lunch break” from work, I can throw a cake in the oven or start marinating something delicious for dinner.

Reading has always brought me comfort and escape. But it is not enough right now. I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing, but I love to cook and to bake. That is my happy place and let’s face it, we all need something to bring us joy right now. I found mine, and I hope you have found yours!

As always, thanks for reading and stay safe!






April 19, 2020

More thoughts to share on the quarantine, or as my daughter calls it, “hibernation.” She’s not wrong. I definitely feel like I’m hibernating: not leaving my house and eating enough carbs to last the year!

A friend sent this, it is cute and funny and too true! At least, if my name was Debbie…

I have leased cars for many years now. My husband has a Jeep with over 100,000 miles on it, and he swears it is the last car he’s ever going to buy. He loves that car. So it made sense for me to have a new car. One new, one old. But my lease is up this month. We looked into getting a new Prius, which would be my third one. But prices were really high, and the dealers were very cocky. All five that I contacted. I tried Costco’s auto buying service. They sent me to the Toyota dealer in Coconut Creek. They offered us list price plus their absurd fees. I declined. They have been harassing me ever since. Their sales manager had the nerve to tell me that they don’t have to honor their commitment to Costco on the Prius. Whatever.

My car is like new. It is a 2017 and is immaculate, with just under 27,000 miles. We put new tires on a couple of months ago. So we decided to just buy it. The buyout on the lease was reasonable, I certainly couldn’t buy another used one at that price. These decisions were being made in February and March. But as time went on, and things got worse and worse, we started talking about it.

I hadn’t driven in over a month. My husband has a job furlough coming up. When we do go back to work (fingers crossed) we can carpool. Our jobs are only a couple of miles apart, and our hours overlap perfectly. We decided to just turn in the car, which we did this week.

We had to bring it to the dealer where we originally leased it, in Fort Lauderdale. Normally, when a lease ends, the finance company inspects the car, but now? No inspection. Just return it. So we did. My first time out of the house into the world in over a month.

I was shocked by how much traffic there was. It was 2:30 in the afternoon on a weekday. The local traffic was plentiful. We got on the highway, I95, and again, lots and lots of cars. I kept thinking about the pictures we see on TV of Paris, of NYC, with no cars at all on the road, or maybe one or two. Judging by the traffic here, you would never know there was a pandemic. Is no one in South Florida staying home?? At the dealer, we wore masks and gloves, and we saw a couple of people in masks. But most of the people there, especially those that were working, had none. I couldn’t wait to get back home. I’m not leaving again if I can help it. Not until things are under control. And with our spineless idiot of a governor, who knows when that will be.

The spring holidays have come and gone. Easter was a breeze. I splurged and ordered a Honeybaked Ham because they were advertising curbside pickup. They lied. But my husband picked it up inside the store and said they were pretty organized. Plus we got it early, on the Wednesday before Easter Sunday, so they weren’t crazy busy. I ordered three pounds of sweet potatoes from Whole Foods and got three potatoes. Weighing a bit more than a pound each. They were huge! I made Melissa Clark’s Sweet Potatoes With Bourbon and Brown Sugar, which I started making a couple of Thanksgivings ago, and if you haven’t tried it, you must!

I couldn’t get my husband his favorite Easter treat, the Cadbury egg. So we watched Claire Saffitz make a gourmet version instead! If you haven’t seen Bon Appetit’s Gourmet Makes, you are missing out.

Passover was especially wonderful this year, and I never thought that was even a possibility. First, I had trouble getting the foods I needed for the holiday. We are ordering everything now, but a few weeks ago, my husband was still shopping. He went to the big Publix near my house, and couldn’t get several items on my Passover list. No chicken. No chicken livers. No cake meal. No lamb shank bone, which Publix has provided free at the butcher counter for as long as I’ve lived in Florida. I posted on a local Facebook group about my dilemma and had several people point me to the local kosher markets. But I heard they were crowded and not practicing social distancing. And someone also posted that one of them had been cited by the health department. It wasn’t worth the risk.

I kept searching online and finally found organic chicken livers at Whole Foods, which they delivered along with a bunch of fresh vegetables, like the aforementioned humongous sweet potatoes. So that was good.

I was able to cobble together a Seder plate. I found a rack of lamb in my freezer, which I made for dinner the night before Passover so I could salvage a bone for the Seder plate. Not quite a shank bone, but it worked. I didn’t have enough chicken fat to render, but my husband found frozen rendered chicken fat at Publix. I scavenged chicken parts from my freezer (I save them for stock, things like wing tips and backs and necks) and made chicken soup and matzo balls. I made charoset, the traditional blend of apples, walnuts, and wine. I made chopped liver. I made a brisket with carrots. I made a potato kugel, the delicious Smitten Kitchen recipe that has become a tradition in my house. Passover came together.

But it was the second night that made this holiday so special. We had a Zoom Seder with my son and daughter-in-law and her family, who we really lucked out with – we love them. It was one of the best Passovers we ever had. Who would have thunk it?! My machatunim, who are vegetarian/pescatarian or some variation thereof, printed out a picture of a shank bone for their seder plate – how brilliant was that! I just wish I had thought to take a few screenshots, but I will always have my memories.

Which reminds me, many years ago, when my children were small, we were pretty broke. I was a stay-at-home mom, and we lived on my husband’s salary. It was my choice, and to be honest, if anyone had suggested that I would have taken that route, I would have laughed myself sick. Maybe if I had a job that I loved (like I do now) it would have been different, I don’t know, but I didn’t. In fact, I got fired when my (self-insured) employer learned I was pregnant! Really! Ah, the good old days. But I wouldn’t have traded a day of those years that I spent with my kids.

I am wandering far off course here but stay with me for another minute. In those days, we belonged to a synagogue that mostly had very wealthy members. My kids did not have all the material things that some of their friends had, and once in a while, I felt guilty about staying home with them. Then one day, my rabbi started talking about how the best gifts we can give our children are memories, to create memories with them. And that we could afford.

This Passover made me think of that. We are living in a historic time. God willing, there will never be another pandemic like this again. I think about all the kids right now, the ones, for all intents and purposes, being home-schooled with online instruction. All those great videos of families doing creative, fun stuff that have gone viral. This is one of my favorites:

Celebrities doing fun videos to entertain us. Like this:

And this:

Those will be good memories.

We are all going to remember this time forever. But the memories are certainly not all good.

So many people getting sick, so many dying.

So many people losing their jobs, their businesses, leading to record unemployment.

It is without a doubt the most frightening and dangerous time I’ve ever lived through.

That’s why I’m doing this. It helps me to write about it, and I want a record. I want to remember this time accurately, at least from my perspective.

When November rolls around, I hope people remember as well. But that is a post for another day.

Stay safe!



April 14, 2020

Welcome to the pandemic. Life as we once knew it has changed for who knows how long. And can it ever go back to the way it was?

This is my new memoji (thanks, Apple), but I sit in front of an HP laptop. Can’t afford a Mac, and didn’t want the learning curve either. I also sit in front of my iPad for most meetings. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

On Thursday, March 19, I woke up with a slightly scratchy throat and a headache. I knew with 95% certainty that it was allergies, but out of undue caution and concern for my co-workers, I asked to work from home that day. And when it didn’t go away, I stayed home the next day as well. Under “normal” circumstances, it wouldn’t have occurred to me in a million years to stay home from work for that. I pride myself on my excellent attendance record for heaven’s sake! I had several years of perfect attendance when I worked for the Palm Beach County Library, and I think I only used one sick day in my job at Lynn University.

The following Monday, my university closed campus, and everyone was working from home. Welcome to the new normal.

Lots of changes were happening and happening quickly. Lynn University was in the unique position of having a somewhat smooth transition to online classes because we are an iPad school. Every student and faculty member gets an iPad Pro to use. So we didn’t have that hurdle to get over. And unlike most schools, we didn’t do Zoom classes, which in hindsight, was a truly brilliant decision as all the security issues are coming out now. Instead, we are using Amazon Chime for our online meetings and classes. It has worked pretty well so far.

Most of my days have shifted from what I usually did in my job as Information Desk Librarian, supervising my student workers and helping students with research and APA formatting. Now the library building is closed, but the librarians are still very much at work. Instead of helping students as they wander through my office, I, along with my colleagues, are chatting with them online and helping that way. Astonishingly, even though our hours of availability are fewer, our statistics are just about on par with the same month last year. Students are reaching out more than ever, and we are so happy to be able to help them get through this stressful period.

As for me, on my last day of working in the library building, I stopped off after work at the nail salon. I’ve been getting my nails done every two weeks since I went back to work when my 27-year-old daughter started kindergarten. This time, I had my nails cut down and did a gel manicure for the last time in who knows how long. My nail tech explained how to remove it when the time came, and I did that about a week or so ago. I haven’t felt my fingertips in such a long time, and I had to relearn how to type and chop things and all sorts of things I never really thought about. This is my pandemic:

The first picture was taken at my son’s wedding last summer. The dark nails in the middle was taken on my last day out in the world. The third picture I just took.

Let me reiterate in case that just went by you: I have not left my house since March 18, other than a walk around the neighborhood. My husband still has to go into work one or two days a week, but he is the only one there. At first, he was doing the grocery shopping, stopping at Costco (during senior hours!) or Publix (not during senior hours, we are too young!)

But as things grew worse, especially here in Palm Beach County, Florida, I didn’t want him going to the stores. He has several “underlying conditions,” as they say, and I was getting freaked out. On the other hand, he has this macho protector instinct and refused to allow me or my daughter to shop.

So we compromised, we are doing delivery for now, and learning how that works. Ordering several days to a week or more in advance of when I’ll actually need whatever it is. That has worked moderately well. I’m generally pretty organized with my shopping lists, but occasionally things do fall through the cracks, and we have to wait. Other items are completely sold out and cannot be ordered online or through Instacart, like disinfectant wipes, which we use daily on the mail and any packages that are delivered, so we are rationing as needed. We are making do with what we have.

We are watching a lot of TV. We recently started rewatching The Sopranos along with listening to the Talking Sopranos podcast, which has a video version available on YouTube. Steve Shirripa and Michael Imperioli are the hosts, and they are so much fun. I finally watched (all three seasons) of “AnnE with an E” on Netflix. It’s very loosely based on one of my favorite books, Anne of Green Gables. I enjoyed Little Fires Everywhere, based on a book of the same title, and I’m looking forward to watching “Mrs. America” on FX on Hulu. It’s about Phyllis Schlafley and the ERA, which, along with the Vietnam War, prompted my political awakening. It also has a stellar cast with Cate Blanchett, Uzo Aduba, Rose Byrne, Tracey Ullman, Margo Martindale, and more.

And of course, I’ve been reading, but surprisingly, not as much as I usually do. I’ve been worrying a lot about the people I love during this pandemic. A dear friend is going through chemo right now. My son and daughter-in-law live in Brooklyn. Friends are losing their jobs right and left. My husband has a furlough coming up. This all sucks, and it’s leaking into my brain when I try and escape it. Sometimes there just is no escape.

What else…I had to color my own hair (or risk going gray and really getting depressed!) I’ll give a shout out to Madison Reed, their color match online worked well, the color took and most importantly, covered the gray, and while I needed some help with the back (thanks, my darling daughter!) all in all, it was easy, and I got good results. They have this referral program, if you use my link, you get $15 off. Yes, it is more money than the drugstore brands, but also way less than what I was paying in the salon. It also doesn’t have those harsh chemicals that destroy hair. It was my choice, and I’m happy with it.

I’ve been cooking and baking up a storm. We have not done takeout at all since I’ve been home. I also jumped on the sourdough bandwagon. I have a healthy starter in my fridge now. The blue tape on the jar in the picture was where the starter was after feeding. It grew to the top of the jar in a few hours! I moved it to the fridge, and it’s shrunk down to about halfway up the jar. Today I’ll feed it again, the first time since I put it in the fridge. If it works well, I’ll move on to attempting my first sourdough bread! So far, I’ve made sourdough pretzels and sourdough biscuits with the discard. Stay tuned…

Hope you are all staying safe at home.

April Fools’ Day, 2020

April 1, 2020

I know I am not the only one who feels like we are living in some farcical, dystopian novel! May I suggest you escape into a good book?

Hello, my lovely readers! As regular readers are aware, I post a new giveaway on the first of every month in conjunction with the International Thriller Writers. Due to the pandemic, we discussed and decided to skip April for now. No one wants to be handling anything that has been touched by anyone, anywhere, nor do we want to ask anyone to go to the post office or anywhere else. Did you know the coronavirus can live on cardboard for up to 24 hours? And 2-3 days on hard surfaces?

For now, I am extending the deadline for the March bookshelf of thrillers, including all those terrific thrillers pictured here. It is a fantastic list so go for it! I am also suspending the one entry per email – go nuts! Enter as often as you wish, but just for April, okay?

A peek behind the scenes on how these contests work. The authors send their signed books to a central location in California, but they trickle in sporadically. Sometimes authors need a gentle reminder to send them, they get busy or are on tour or whatever. ITW generally waits until all the books for the month are in hand to send them out in one box. Sometimes they have to wait a month or two or three for all the books to show up. So there are piles of books waiting to be shipped out for previous months’ contests. At this point, we are going to wait to send those until it is safe to do so.

I wish I could say April Fools’, but I cannot. I can say I hope you are taking this pandemic seriously. I know it is hard to stay home or shelter in place, but for your safety and the safety of your community, that is the best thing you can do right now.

If you are going to listen to anyone you see on TV, I strongly suggest it be smart people who know what they are talking about, because they have advanced degrees or medical degrees, or know enough to ask smart people what to do and actually listen to the answers. Listen to people like Dr. Fauci, Donald G. McNeil (NYT,) Governor Cuomo, (even if you don’t live in NY,) or Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over someone who just has an “opinion,” or “a feeling,” or wants to give us all “hope,” about how this is going or what we should be doing.

Just because someone is in a position of power does not mean they should spout whatever nonsense they “feel.” That is not helpful. In fact, it is the opposite of helpful, it is dangerous. Social distancing is not a joke, it is apparently the only way to stop the insidious spread of this disease at this time. And handwashing. And don’t touch your face. (I need a doggie cone for that!) Please, please be careful and stay safe. Thank you; rant over.

For up to date, accurate information and statistics on Covid-19, check out any of these sites:

Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University


This one is just for Florida:

Florida Department of Health, Division of Disease Control and Health Protection

Finally, if you are an author who is also a member of the International Thriller Writers, and your book is being published in April or May, and you would like to participate in the next contest I run, please let me know. You can email me at bookbitch @ yahoo dot com, or put your email in the comments here and I will contact you.

Thanks for reading, and stay safe!



March 4, 2020

Reed Exhibitions has today announced that The London Book Fair 2020, scheduled to take place at Olympia, London, from 10 to 12 March will be cancelled following the escalation of COVID-19 Coronavirus in Europe.

The effects, actual and projected, of Coronavirus are becoming evident across all aspects of our lives here in the UK and across the world, with many of our participants facing travel restrictions. We have been following UK government guidelines and working with the rolling advice from the public health authorities and other organisations, and so it is with reluctance that we have taken the decision not to go ahead with this year’s event.

We recognise that business has to continue. With this in mind, we will of course support and collaborate with exhibitors and visitors to keep our world moving during this difficult period. We thank all those from the UK and a multitude of other countries who have prepared over the last year to deliver what promised to be a wonderful book fair showcasing, as ever, the exciting best of the global book industry. The London Book Fair will return, better than ever, in 2021.

Avon Books Announces Two Acquisitions After Open Submission for Own Voices Romances

February 4, 2020

New York, NY (February 4, 2020) – Avon Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, today announces the acquisition of two original works of romance fiction, the result of an “open submission” call for “compelling, heartfelt romances featuring authentic perspectives” that the publisher conducted in Summer 2019 to encourage increased diversity and amplify representation of writers of all backgrounds.  Authors Preslaysa Williams and Thien-Kim Lam each received a publishing contract for Own Voices contemporary romance novels that are scheduled to be published in 2021.

Editorial Director Erika Tsang signed Thien-Kim Lam, an author of stories about Vietnamese characters who smash stereotypes and find their happy endings.  Lam’s novel centers on heroine Trixie Nguyen, who is determined to make her sex toy business a success, proving to her traditional Vietnamese parents that she can succeed in a non-traditional career. Her first pop-up event is going well…until she runs into the ex who dumped her. Tsang says, “There’s an energy in Thien-Kim’s writing that I fell in love with almost right away. And the story feels universal, especially as it relates to our heroine Trixie, who bucks people’s expectations of who she should be and strikes out on her own path. With sex toys.”

Executive editor May Chen acquired Preslaysa Williams, an award-winning author and professional actress who writes contemporary romance and women’s fiction with an Afro-Filipina twist. Williams’s novel features an exciting new slow-burn contemporary about Maya Jackson, a Manhattan-based, Afro-Filipina wedding gown designer who learns to trust in herself and her ability to love again when she returns home to Charleston, South Carolina, and finds herself helping a widowed single father keep his struggling bridal shop afloat.  Chen says, “Reading this manuscript, it was immediately evident how much Preslaysa loves sharing her culture with her readers. Plus, Preslaysa’s acting background definitely shone through – the romantic tension drama runs high in this sweet and sexy book!”

“Lam and Williams are stellar additions to Avon’s growing diverse title program,” says Tsang.  She continues, “We saw a number of promising manuscripts, and as those projects develop, we hope to identify additional compelling Own Voices romances for the Avon list.”

About Avon Books:

Avon Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, is one of America’s preeminent romance houses and developed the careers of such bestsellers as Tessa Dare, Eloisa James, Beverly Jenkins, Lisa Kleypas, Sarah MacLean, Julia Quinn, Lynsay Sands and Cat Sebastian. Avon is also home to some of the most important names in contemporary romance and women’s fiction, such as Ilona Andrews, Alyssa Cole, Jeaniene Frost, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Alisha Rai, Jennifer Ryan, Jill Shalvis and Mia Sosa. Avon Books has been publishing award-winning romance and women’s fiction since 1941. For our complete mission statement, please visit

About HarperCollins Publishers:

HarperCollins Publishers is the second largest consumer book publisher in the world, with operations in 17 countries. With 200 years of history and more than 120 branded imprints around the world, HarperCollins publishes approximately 10,000 new books every year in 16 languages and has a print and digital catalog of more than 200,000 titles. Writing across dozens of genres, HarperCollins authors include winners of the Nobel Prize, the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the Newbery and Caldecott Medals and the Man Booker Prize. HarperCollins, headquartered in New York, is a subsidiary of News Corp and can be visited online at


UK Book Blog Awards to return for third year

January 25, 2020


Awards celebrate social media influencers’ impact on the publishing industry




The London Book Fair is delighted to announce the return of the UK Book Blog Awards @ LBF for a third year.  

Bloggers, social media influencers, members of the publishing industry, and the general public are invited to contribute nominations for Book Podcast of the Year, Book Blogger of the Year, Bookstagrammer of the Year and Book Vlogger of the Year. 

Once the shortlist has been revealed, a panel of judges will select one winner in each category, who will be honoured at a special awards ceremony at The London Book Fair. Building on the success of the past two years, the Fair will include live podcast events, seminars and networking opportunities focused on bringing together the social media influencer community and those in publishing. 

The UK Book Blog Awards celebrate the vital contribution of social media influencers to the book industry, with last year’s winners including popular blog What’s Hot?, Bookstagrammer Abbie Walker, and YouTuber Rose Reads. The 2019 UK Book Blog Awards also featured the debut of the Book Podcaster of the Year award, which was taken home by Mostly Lit. Holly Bourne, bestselling author and last year’s Author of the Day, hosted the awards.  

Helen Clifford, Marketing Manager at The London Book Fair commented: “Social media is a key aspect of the publishing landscape and we are thrilled to once again recognise the important relationship between influencers and publishing with the UK Book Blog Awards. We are very much looking forward to celebrating the bloggers, book vloggers, bookstagrammers and podcasters who bring so much to the book world at The London Book Fair.” 

The awards are open to any UK based book blogger, YouTuber, podcaster or Instagrammer. To put forward a nomination, or to nominate your own blog/podcast/Instagram account/YouTube channel visit:


  1. THE UK BOOK BLOG AWARDS 2020 are open to any blogger, YouTuber, podcaster or Instagrammer featuring books, who is based in the UK.
  2. Blogs, Instagram profiles, podcasts and YouTube channels can be entered by the brand owners, affiliates, or members of the public.
  3. The deadline for entries is Friday 14th February 2020 (the “Closing Date”).
  4. Judging: a panel of expert judges will decide a shortlist of three entries per category, one of whom will be the overall winner in each category.
  5. The Judges’ decision is final on all matters and no correspondence will be entered into.
  6. If the judging panel feels that none of the entries in a category reaches the standard outlined to them in guidance notes, The London Book Fair may (under exceptional circumstances) cancel the category.
  7. The Winners will be announced at The London Book Fair, 10-12 March 2020

Goodbye 2019, Hello 2020!

December 31, 2019

I know a lot of people send out holiday newsletters, but I never have. Does this count? This has been a stellar year for me and my family, a year worth remembering.

I started a new job in January of this year. I wasn’t really looking for anything but stumbled across a job ad that sounded like it was made for me. Kismet! After 18 years with the Palm Beach County Library System, I moved to the Eugene M. and Christine E. Lynn Library at Lynn University. I made the transition from public librarian to academic librarian and I couldn’t be happier. My boss is a treasure, my co-workers are smart, kind, and generous and they all made me feel welcome and appreciated. The student workers I supervise are amazing. Lynn University is a very special place to work, and I feel so fortunate to have landed there.

Coincidentally, my son, Daniel, also started a new job a week or two after I did. He found a terrific job with the New York Times and is so happy there! And just as importantly, they seem happy with him, too.

Six months after starting his new job, Daniel and Miriam got married, and of course I wrote about it here. It was a glorious day, a beautiful wedding that was exactly what they wanted, and how many couples get to say that! It truly was a joyous celebration.

My father passed away on Thanksgiving day. We were estranged for over 25 years, so his passing merely put an end to an already dead relationship.

Back to happier topics. I got my husband a 3D printer for his birthday and he has been making all kinds of things. I had a KitchenAid mixer that walked off the counter (don’t ask.) It still worked, but the knobs on the controls broke off, making it difficult to use. KitchenAid doesn’t sell replacements. Why sell a $5 part when you can sell a $300 mixer? Larry to the rescue. He printed me new knobs! He’s made parts for his Jeep and I don’t even know what else.

My daughter, Ariel, earned her A.A. degree in liberal arts in 2018. She’s visited Lynn University several times for various events since I started working there and really liked everything she saw. She applied for admission and was accepted with an academic scholarship. One of my benefits is that my family gets free tuition, so that frees up the other scholarship funds for another student that needs it. She starts in January, and I can’t tell you how happy it makes me that my child is excited about going back to school!

My beautiful kitty, Loki, is 11 years old now. He’s as sweet as ever, and I’m hoping he’s just hit middle age.

One of my benefits working for a University is that they shut down for almost three weeks in December. I haven’t taken that much time off for a vacation in, well, ever! Larry and I went camping in Fort De Soto for a few days. That’s in St. Petersburg, Florida, and our campsite was on the Gulf of Mexico. It was so beautiful, and the ocean sounded like a white noise machine all night. Or rather those white noise machines sound like the ocean!

My husband goes backpacking and camping in the Everglades, but I’m more of a glamping, car camping kind of girl. We had a big tent with a queen size air mattress. Comfy! That first night was so cold, it was in the forties, which is very cold when you’re sleeping in a tent.

There is an actual fort there that was built in the 1800s and a museum. It’s a beautiful park with beaches, two fishing piers, tons of picnic areas and even a couple of playgrounds. But it was all about the view. We had a picnic on Tampa Bay, while we watched dolphins playing!

Finally, I had two more eye surgeries this year and hopefully, that’s the end of my eye troubles. At least for a while! My vision is not perfect, but I can read, I can drive, and my night vision is much improved. The only issue I still have is working on the computer. It is tough but since that is my job, and pretty much my life, I am pushing through and hoping my brain figures out how to work around the deficit.

The biggest news story of the decade is a no brainer: the presidential election of 2016. I am still trying to recover. Guess which was the bestselling book of the decade? I’ll give you a hint: it was horribly written, was the first book of a trilogy, all three books were made into bad movies. Okay, I’ll tell you, but then you have to tell me what it means. The bestselling book of the decade was Fifty Shades of Grey. Really, what does it mean when a poorly written erotic romance sells more copies than any other book? And somehow, I think both these stories are related.

Thank you to all my readers for your constant support, your wonderful comments and emails. Thanks to the International Thriller Writers for supporting my site and your authors. They continue to offer so many great books to my readers! Thanks to Netgalley and Edelweiss for supplying egalleys, and to all those publicists out there who let me know about your latest and greatest books, and send them to my home.

I wish you all a happy, healthy New Year filled with love, joy, and great reads!

Cheltenham Literature Festival: 4 – 13 October 2019

October 4, 2019


The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival

4 – 13 October 2019


Full programme: | Images | Festival Brochure | #cheltlitfest
















The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival is delighted to announce the unmissable line up for 2019, marking the 70th anniversary of the world’s oldest literature festival, which is leading the way in engendering a love of reading in young people.


The Festival will bring more than 900 of the best writers, thinkers and performers of our time to the vibrant Regency town, setting the scene for once-in-a-lifetime conversations to take place over ten extraordinary days of unique experiences, critical debate and literary revelry.


From 4 – 13 October, the Festival Village will host an unparalleled literary line-up including this year’s recipient of The Sunday Times Award for Literary Excellence, Colm Tóibín, the new Waterstones Children’s Laureate, Cressida Cowell, the highly anticipated Booker shortlist, as well as the most exciting emerging talent on the scene.  Dynamic debut novelists include Candice Carty-Williams, Ronan Hession, Elizabeth Macneal, Jessica Andrews and Season Butler as well as the Festival’s showcases of the best new writing in Fiction at 7, Debuts and Cocktails and Proof Parties.


As part of the ‘Seven at Seventy’ anniversary celebrations the Festival welcomes Chris Tse, Kanako Nishi and a raft of international authors to the Cheltenham stage, as well as showcasing unearthed archive audio content, introducing a literary audio trail of Cheltenham, and street art courtesy of Cheltenham Paint Festival on the theme ‘Hurrah for Books’.


There will be up-to-the-minute political analysis fresh from the party conference season courtesy of David Cameron and David Lammy, with The Times debate – joined by Jess Phillips and Rory Stewart – questioning the future of our political parties, and The Sunday Times considering White House contenders with Adam Boulton and Sarah Baxter.


From current affairs to food, history to fashion, sport to art, science to travel, the Festival guarantees something for everyone with the fun extending long after dark with the eclectic Off The Page series of curated events, including a Game of Thrones quiz night, US story-telling sensation The Moth, jazz and poetry fusion group Tongue Fu, an evening celebrating the music of Joni Mitchell and a vibrant spoken word strand. And for one night only the irreverent Lit Crawl returns to take over the streets, pubs and bars of Cheltenham.


The perfect family day out, this year’s Festival includes a packed programme of world class authors and illustrators to inspire toddlers to teens, with The Woodland Trust Wild Wood filled with beloved characters, storytellers and activities, plus a Secret Seven Mystery Trail celebrating 70 years of the world’s favourite detective club. The Festival’s year-round education programmes, inspiring a love of reading and creative writing, also culminates in October with 9,000 school children on site taking part in Literature for Schools.


New partner Sky Arts will broadcast across the final week with live coverage, interviews and events from a bespoke Sky Arts Studio on site. The venue will be a free pop-in space where festival attendees can be part of the filming and take part in other creative activities. Elsewhere on site there will be free events for all ages around the Festival village, The Huddle, hosting an array of talks and brains teasers, including Daily Crossword, Cheltenham Writes and Very Short Introductions, and The Chatterbox, where guests can become secret agents by decoding mysterious messages around the Festival.


Booking for the Literature Festival opens to Cheltenham Festivals Members at 10am on Wednesday 28 August and general booking opens at 10am on Wednesday 4 September.





This year marks 70 years since Cheltenham Town Hall hosted the world’s first literature festival and started a global, cultural phenomenon. As part of ‘Seven at Seventy’ celebrations, the Festival welcomes Guest Curators Max PorterYomi Adegoke & Elizabeth UviebinenéDominic SandbrookTessa HadleyAnthony AnaxagorouLeslie Vinjamuri; and Robin Stevens. Lending their unique voices and wealth of expertise to the programme, events include Sandbrook’s selection of the seven most influential British novels of the last 70 years, Anaxagorou’s rising stars in poetry and spoken word, a series of mystery events by Stevens, and a curated acoustic portrait of our complex and troubled country today from Max Porter.


Seven high profile authors will be reflecting on their breakout book in a special series of Cheltenham trademark ‘Celebrate With…’ events: Howard Jacobson on The Finkler QuestionRobert Harris on Fatherland; Jessie Burton on The Miniaturist; Herman Koch on The DinnerTracy Chevalier on The Girl With a Pearl EarringAlexander McCall Smith on The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency; and Jung Chang on Wild Swans. There will also be seven showcases celebrating new writing talent, including Jessica Andrews and Ronan Hession, as well as looking ahead to the breakout names for 2020 such as Deepa Anappara and Evie Wyld.


Literature festivals around the world have joined the celebration bringing their leading authors to Cheltenham including Chris Tse, Wana UdobangKanako NishiEsme WangNicole FlatterySarah Henstra and Hernán Ronsino. The celebration of international literature continues with 70 global book festivals recommending one title they would like Cheltenham audiences to add to their bookshelves to form a ‘Reading the World’ reading list.


Building on last year’s inaugural ‘Podcast in Residence’ role, Literary Friction take on the 2019 residency and there will be seven unique podcasts featuring archive audio content from the past seventy years, as well as partnerships with seven further bookish podcasts.



Fiction fans will be spoilt for choice with a stellar line-up of literary superstars including Colm Tóibín, Ian McEwan, David Nicholls, Jung Chang, Ali Smith, Elif Shafak, Jojo Moyes, and Bernardine Evaristo. The Cheltenham audience will enjoy a celebration of the biggest books of the year such as Candice Carty-Williams (Queenie), Elizabeth Macneal (The Doll Factory), Bridget Collins (The Binding) and Damian Barr (You Will Be Safe Here) as well as new reads from Howard Jacobson, Victoria Hislop, Kevin Barry, Jessie Burton. George AlagiahTom Bradby and Peter Hanington will draw upon their frontline experience to share fiction as thrilling as their day jobs, Richard Roper and Beth O’Leary celebrate feel-good fiction, Deborah Moggach and Jenny Éclair examine the baggage of inheritance and family ties, Chris Power and Sarah Hall will reveal the art of the short story, plus last year’s Guest Curator Sebastian Faulks becomes our latest literary castaway as he returns with ‘Desert Island Reads’. There will also be the opportunity to hear from The Times and The Sunday Times Literary Editors, Robbie Millen and Andrew Holgate.


The Festival welcomes a host of killer women at the top of the crime and thriller genre including Patricia CornwellLouise DoughtyOyinkan BraithwaiteDenise Mina and Erin Kelly, with Jessica Fellowes and Kate Weinberg discussing the secrets to plot a thrilling mystery. For further suspense, Alex North and CJ Tudor explore the dark side of human nature; Herman Koch and Louise Candlish discuss the appeal of writing toxic characters; the husband and wife writing duos behind pseudonyms Nicci French and Ambrose Parry will be revealedand masters of the genre Mark Billingham, Christopher Brookmyre, Doug Johnstone, Stewart Neville and Luca Veste discuss the future of the crime writing.  


There is also plenty for historical fiction fans, including Philippa Gregory on her period page-turner Tidelands, Tracy Chevalier on her beautifully orchestrated new book, A Single Thread, set between the two Great Warsas well as Robert Harris (The Second Sleep), Stacey Halls (The Familiars) and Diane Setterfield (The Thirteenth Tale).



From George Eliot to Orwell, Chaucer to the Moomins, we are celebrating some of our most-loved classics as well as revealing the answers to burning questions such as: who are literature’s worst parents, which dystopian thrillers are most relevant now, and can words still pack a punch in the age of Twitter with Simon Schama. BBC Radio 2’s Book Club with Mariella Frostrup and guests will be exploring how novels have always been a revolutionary agent of social change ahead of the 300th anniversary of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, and Tessa Hadley, Colm Tóibín and Bernardine Evaristo are explaining the pleasures and motivations of re-reading. 


Acclaimed actors Christopher Eccleston and Sheila Hancock will be joining Allie Esiri to celebrate Shakespeare’s dazzling body of work, actress Maureen Lipman remembers the inimitable Joyce Grenfell and her Hurrah for Books performance at the first ever Cheltenham Literature Festival in 1949, Kathy O’ShaughnessyJuliette Atkinson and Rebecca Mead mark George Eliot’s bicentenary by delving into her fascinating life and work, plus Tove Jansson’s niece Sophia Jansson will share readings from the intimate letters of the beloved Moomins creator. Lara Prescott is joined by Boris Pasternak’s great niece Anna Pasternak to discuss the startling true story behind one of literature’s most memorable love stories Doctor Zhivago, and the Festival celebrates the life and writing of the much-loved literary figure Patrick O’Brian with his step-son Nikolai Tolstoy.



The Festival is thrilled to welcome a multitude of music superstars including the masterful Andrew Lloyd Webber, Blondie legend Debbie HarryStatus Quo front-man and founder Francis Rossi and WHAM’s Andrew Ridgeley who will reflect on his life-long friendship with George Michael. Mark Radcliffe shares how music can transform our lives, Glastonbury’s Emily Eavis reveals the untold stories from the festival and there will be an evening of musical magic to celebrate Joni Mitchell.


Screen icon Helena Bonham Carter will discuss her exceptional and singular career, and there will be secrets from behind the scenes with Richard Curtis discussing his love of The BeatlesOscar-winning Dustin Lance Black on his deeply personal story of coming out to his Mormon mother, plus screenwriter Julian Fellowes and producer Gareth Neame on the much-loved Downton AbbeyDick Clement and Ian La Frenais, creators of beloved comedies Porridge and Auf Wiedersehen, Pet will look back on their long careers, Daisy May and Charlie Cooper will discuss the BAFTA winning success of This Country, David Suchet will reflect on a career spent behind the camera, and beloved documentary maker Louis Theroux will share his strangest times in television. Comic Relief co-founder Lenny Henry will be leading the laughs, with more to come from the likes of David MitchellRichard AyoadeKaty Brand and Paul Merton.



In an exclusive Festival commission, Guest Curator Max Porter brings together Kerry Hudson, Niven Govinden, Momtaza Mehri and Rachael Allen with musicians Alula Down to create an acoustic portrait of our complex and troubled country today. Guest Curator, poet and Out-Spoken founder Anthony Anaxagorou presents his Dream Team of Mona Arshi, Jack Underwood, Caroline Bird, Wayne Holloway-Smith and Kei Miller. The Cheltenham audience will hear from further vibrant voices in the poetry and spoken work scene including Rob AutonMatt Abbott, Ben Norris, Rachel Nwokoro, Young People’s Laureate for London Theresa Lola, alongside Chris Tse, Paul Muldoon, Brian Bilston, Pam AyresJulia CopusJoe Dunthorne, new Poet Laureate Simon Armitage, and Scottish Makar Jackie Kay will be selecting her top ten of the most exciting BAME writers working in the UK today. The literary revelry continues after dark with a Game of Thrones Quiz Night, music from the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, some wonderfully and wildly misinformed insight from character comedian Christopher Bliss, and more from the much-lauded Bang Said The GunTongue Fu and The Moth.



David Cameron will appear in the first event for his memoir For the Record, discussing his life, career and perspectives on the EU referendum and the future of Britain’s place in the light of Brexit. Joining Cameron on the exceptional Current Affairs line-up is David LammyJess Phillips, Caroline Criado-PerezJames O’Brien, Gina Martin, Laura Bates, Nimko Ali, The Times editor John Witherow, The Times and The Sunday Times journalists Daniel Finkelstein, Rachel Sylvester, Matt Chorley, Sarah Baxter and Phillip Collins, with a glimpse behind the broadcast scenes from Emily MaitlisJohn HumphrysNick Robinson and Ed Stourton.


The Festival looks outwards to Erdogan’s Turkey with Hannah Lucinda Smith and novelist Elif Shafak, to Trump’s America and his approach to global affairs with Chatham House’s Leslie Vinjamuri, to China and opportunities for women with Carrie Grace, the challenges India faces with Robin Niblett and Champa Patel; and to Putin’s Russia with Mark Galeotti, Peter Pomeranstev, and BBC Newsnight International Editor Gabriel Gatehouse.


Mostly Lit podcast host Derek Owusu and Jeffrey Boakye consider the experience of black men in Britain today, and Guest Curators Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinené explore how it feels to be a black woman in a predominantly white space. Anthony Anaxagorou is joined by Mariam Khan and Chimene Suleyman to discuss how art and activism can be best combined to create positive social change, Jérôme Tubiana, David Constantine and Hashi Mohamed explore astounding accounts of human endurance and faith against overwhelming odds and terrible injustice, and Aeham Ahmad will be playing the piano on stage as he shares memories of performing in the streets of war-torn Syria.



Moving individual stories of the Windrush generation will be shared from Colin Grant and Amelia Gentleman, literary critic Bart Van Es and biographer and historian Jeremy Dronfield will chronicle how the trauma of the holocaust gave rise to astonishing stories of courage and survival, plus there will be further historical insight from Guest Curator Dominic Sandbrook, William DalrympleGiles Milton with Anthony Seldon and polling expert Deborah Mattinson asking who was the most disastrous prime minister in British history. Virginia Nicholson considers the experience of women in the 60s, The Favourite author Ophelia Field and Anne Somerset explore Queen Anne’s life, and the relationship between Mary Queen of Scots and Queen Elizabeth II is given a fresh take by author, historian and television presenter Kate Williams, plus novelist Katie Hickman will reveal the extraordinary lives of the British women who made their way to India and changed history. For ancient history aficionados, Mary Beard and Llewellyn Morgan will join author and classicist Peter Stothard to celebrate the power of Roman poetry on lifestyle and philosophy, whilst Lucy Hughes-Hallett, Daisy Johnson and Natalie Haynes will explore how we relate to myths in the modern life.



Cheltenham’s famous Art Deco restaurant The Daffodil will be transformed into a mecca of global foodie delights. Audiences will be transported around the world with mouth-watering Middle Eastern recipes from Yasmin Khan, sumptuous Moorish cooking courtesy of Ben TishDishoom chef Naved Nasir and co-founder Shamil Thakrar cooking up a feast of Indian delight, and native Russian flavours from Alissa Timoshkina. Festival favourite Tom Kerridge will be sharing his foodie tips for a happier lifestyle and Valentine Warner records his journey through grief told in recipes of love and memories. There will be flavour mash-ups from Bake Off’s Liam CharlesRukmini Iyer (The Quick Roasting Tin) will demonstrate the art of hassle-free cooking, Pam Corbin shares her pioneering jams, pickles and preserves and there will vegan delights from Rachel Ama (Rachel Ama’s Vegan Eats) plus Henry Firth and Ian Theasby Johnson (BOSH). Plus, Jancis Robinson (The World Atlas of Wine) will be revealing the art of pairing a delicious three-course meal with matched wines.




Queer Eye will meet Bake Off with Tan France and Nadiya Hussain discussing their upbringings and new memoirs and Paul Whitehouse and Bob Mortimer will talk life, friendship and the joys of fishing. Comedian Jen Brister (The Other Mother), Christine Armstrong (The Mother of All Jobs) and Matt Coyne (Man Vs Toddler) will share hilarious anecdotes and chart the ups and downs of sharing life with tiny humans.


Emily Dean and confirmed cat lover David Baddiel will be discussing tales of grief and recovery, The Yorkshire Shepherdess Amanda Owen will share tales from the farm, and Jordan Stephens, Clementine Inti Chavez Perez and Capser Walsh will discuss what it means to be a man in society today. Tom BradbyMarina Benjamin and sleep scientist Nicola Barclay will anatomise the cause, consequence and potential cures for insomnia, plus Guest Curators and authors Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinené (Slay in Your Lane), vegan chef Rachel Ama, pilates and wellness coach Isa-Welly and Amy Thomson will help the audience strike the perfect balance in our busy lives, ranging from our approaches to digital health, to what we eat.


There will be gardening tips galore from Anne Chambers, Vanessa Berridge, Clare Foster, Rowan Blossom and Caroline Donald, and the doyenne of English interior design, Nina Campbell, will impart her wisdom. Lovers of classic fashion will be taken on a beautifully illustrated tour through the V+A’s blockbuster DIOR exhibition by curator Oriole Cullen and Condé Nast chairman Nicholas Coleridge will reflect upon his thirty-year career. There will be an exploration of feminist art and fashion from V&A curator Jenny Lister and drag queen Crystal Rasmussen and drag king Daisy Hale will explain how the art of pushing gender boundaries has taken hold of pop culture. The Times Fashion Editor Anna Murphy advises on how not to wear black and three of the country’s top names in beauty – facialist Alexandra Soveral, make-up artist Hannah Martin and hair stylist Kiki Koh – will be on hand.



A host of sporting legends will grace the stages of Cheltenham this year kicking off with Welsh rugby titan Sam Warburton, and for cricket fans there will be England’s greatest batsman Alastair Cook, plus Prashant Kidambi and Philip Collins. The Festival will celebrate inspirational women who have pushed themselves to the limits of their endurance, including record-breaking ultra-running phenomenon Mimi Anderson, the first woman to complete the infamous Transcontinental Race, Emily Chappell and Lara Prior-Palmer, the youngest-ever champion and the first woman to win The Mongol Derby.



This year’s Art & Design series explores everything from the architecture to illustration, including a very special discussion about Lucian Freud with his daughter Esther Freud, revered British illustrator Charlie Mackesy on his favourite pieces, Turner Prize-nominated artist Tai Shani celebrates rebel female muses, and ‘Cold War Steve’ Chris Spencer explains why we need satirical art now more than ever. Grant Wilson and Naomi Wood will examine the Bauhaus movement’s cast of characters in its centenary year, Andrew Hill and Emilie Taylor take a look at Ruskin’s contemporary legacy, and Jason Webster and Claudia Hopkins show how Spanish art is inescapably intertwined with the country’s turbulent history. Kate Bryan shares the dazzling and explosive stories behind some of art’s most influential romantic relationships, Ossian Ward illuminates the Old Masters as well as the dramatic vibrancy of contemporary art, Marit Paasche and Clare Hunter recognise the political and protest power of sewing, Jackie Bennett studies the intimate relationship between artist and garden, plus Angela Summerfield and Christiana Payne look at the role of trees in inspiring some of our greatest artworks.



The Cheltenham audience will find enlightenment and fascination in all schools of philosophical thought, with Richard Dawkins expanding further on atheism in Outgrowing GodPeter Stanford exploring the reasons behind why so many of us still believe in angels, and historian Tom Holland describes Christianity’s transformative legacy on Western thought. Author Karen Armstrong will argue the importance of rediscovering global scriptures, and A.C Grayling will take the audience through the epic journey’s and traditions of Western and Eastern philosophy – from Buddha, Confucius and Socrates to Mill, Nietzsche and Sartre.



In this year’s Science line-up, Martin Rees offers a provocative and inspiring look at the future of humanity, and Arthur I. Miller contemplates on what it means to have original thought, creativity and consciousness in the age of machines. Rick Edwards and Michael Brooks will explore the science of death and mass destruction through some of our best-loved Hollywood blockbusters, and Angela Gallop, one of the world’s most eminent forensic scientists, will discuss her ability to reconstruct violent events and how she solved so many intractable cases. David Nott shares his extraordinary experience as a trauma surgeon in the world’s most dangerous war zones, Christie Watson reflects on twenty years in nursing, and Nicci Gerrard alongside Wendy Mitchell ask important questions about how we love, care for and value those who suffering from dementia.



An inspirational list of speakers will share their unique journeys including Sue Perkins on the Mekong, Adam Weymouth on his solo canoe odyssey along the Yukon River, Raynor Winn will revisit her 630-mile walk on the South West Coastal path, comedian Dom Joly will trace his hike across Lebanon, and Monisha Rajesh will recount her 45,000-mile adventure on the world’s most remarkable railways. Great historical adventures will be retraced by travel writer Alastair Humphreys who reflects on Laurie Lee’s iconic journey from the Cotswolds through Spain, and author and filmmaker Jacki Hill-Murphy recounts the achievements of early female explorers including Victorian nurse Kate Marsden’s epic trip across Siberia.


BAFTA winning naturalist, writer and television presenter Steve Backshall will share his exploration of undiscovered worlds and former British Army Officer and explorer Levison Wood will whisk the audience through the heart of Middle East. Writer Luke Turner  and journalist Emma Mitchell will demonstrate the healing power of nature, editor Clare Gogerty and explorer Erling Kagge will show us how to travel in a way that enhances your connection to the world, adventurers Mark Boyle and Ben Fogle will explore the joys without modern technology, plus writers Philip Marsden and Dan Richards will discuss fulfilling life-long travel ambitions and why we remain drawn to the wild, and The Sunday Times travel team, including Susan D’Arcy, will be sharing their expert knowledge.



Activist, journalist and curator Scarlett Curtis will be joined by an exciting line-up of inspirational contributors from her new anthology It’s Not OK to Feel Blue (and other lies) to discuss what their mental health means to them; Chief Survival Instructor to the British Military, John Hudson, gives lessons for everyday life taken from the first-hand accounts of near disaster experiences; Matthew Syed shares his radical blueprint for creative problem-solving; Ella Risbridger and Bella Mackie share how alternative therapies of cooking and jogging helped them in their mental health recoveries; and YouTubers Hannah Witton, Khalaf and Instagram star Megan Jayne Crabbe encourage discussions about body image, imperfections and being confident in your own skin.



The packed Family programme has more selection on offer than ever including the new Waterstones Children’s Laureate, Cressida Cowell, with a world of mythical creatures and a special event with festival friends revealing what lies inside their notebook pages. The incredible programme also welcomes the legendary Malorie Blackman and her highly anticipated new Noughts & Crosses novel, presenter Dermot O’Leary and illustrator Nick East with the latest escapades of Toto the Ninja Cat, and some horrendously horrid fun with Francesca Simon. There will be crime capers with Guest Curator Robin Stevens, adventures galore with Helen Skelton, Abi Elphinstone and Candy Gourlay, plus much more from the likes of Danny Wallace, Dougie Poynter and Konnie Huq.


For littles ones there will be family fun with multi-award winning Oi Puppies! duo Kes Gray and Jim Field, and the Festival will be marking the birthdays of some famous characters including Kipper, The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Elmer, as well as the 30th anniversary of We’re Going on a Bear Hunt with the great Michael Rosen. There will be family shows I Believe in Unicorns, The Rainbow Fish, The Greatest Comic-Making Show On Earth and Maisy Mouse, for spoken word and music lovers the Tongue Fu for Kids band will be performing, while Mark Llewelyn Evans introduces the thrilling story of opera.


Budding young creatives can take top tips from the best in the business with workshops on everything from fairy-tale animation to writing adventures and detective move making. Plus the Festival is hosting its first ever ‘Big Family Book Quiz’ to challenge book knowledge, creativity and nonsense know-how! And if that’s not enough for YA fans Juno Dawson, Holly Bourne, Matt Abbott, Jenny Downham and Dean Atta will be taking to the Cheltenham stage.



This year’s extraordinary ‘Literature for Schools’ programme includes Cressida CowellFrancesca Simon, Chris Riddell, Hilary McKay, Kit De WaalKiran Millwood Hargrave and Anthony Anaxagorou amongst many others, including Guest Curator Robin Stevens leading a series of mystery events. Spoken word artist Sophia Thakur will be performing with students from the Festivals’ year-round outreach programmes – Beyond Words, Write Now and Amnesty’s Words that Burn – in the Young Writers’ Showcase, and authors taking part in Reading Teachers = Reading Pupils – the Festival’s flagship education project supporting teachers with a national network of free reading groups – will be igniting creativity with workshops from Vashti HardyJoe Todd-Stanton and Emma Carroll. Plus the first of the new books selected for the 2019/20 programme will be revealed during the Festival!



Title Partners: The Times and The Sunday Times

Principal Partners: Baillie Gifford; Cunard; Sky Arts; Thirty Percy, University of Gloucestershire; Waterstones. Woodland Trust.

My son’s wedding day

June 29, 2019

My son is getting married today.

Daniel and Miriam met online, as is the way of the world now. It turned out that they lived just a block or so apart in Brooklyn. Daniel has always been cautious, but when he met Miriam a couple of years ago, I think he fell for her pretty quickly. The first story he told me about her was just a month or so after they met.

It was around Easter and Daniel had a hankering for one of those Cadbury Creme Eggs. They took a walk around their neighborhood and visited a few bodegas, but none had the elusive egg. He settled for some other candy bar and that was the end of it. Or so he thought. A couple of days later, a package arrived from Amazon. Miriam had sent him some of the eggs.

Daniel told me that story to illustrate how kind and thoughtful she was. She just kept on being that kind and that thoughtful as their relationship deepened. Her sisters both live nearby as does her cousin, and many friends. He became more and more immersed in her world, and she in his. Then they moved in together.

They came to Florida and stayed with us for a few days. He flew home with her to Chicago and spent time with her family. Her parents and sisters were going to be in Florida and we all met up for dinner. That was the first time Daniel had ever wanted us to meet a girl’s family. Her parents were back the next year, and again our families got together. I think we all knew this was serious.

All along, he sent me lots of pictures of their dating life. Dinners with her sisters or friends. Parties. Fun runs. Protest marches. The NYC Marathon (her sister ran and the whole family came out to cheer her on.) Concerts and other events. Holidays. They came back to Florida for Thanksgiving. They went to Chicago for Passover. They celebrated Rosh Hashanah at home, starting their own tradition. I had a big birthday and wanted to celebrate at Epcot Food & Wine, and they flew down for the weekend. They were a team.

We all fell in love with Miriam. How could we not? She is not only kind and thoughtful, she is brilliant, and beautiful, and when she smiles, she lights up the room. They share the same values and morals, the building blocks of a life together.

Last winter, they planned a trip to Paris. I asked Daniel if he was going to propose, and he said no. They had talked about marriage, he told me, but he hadn’t yet bought the ring. But Paris worked its magic on him and while Miriam was putting their “love lock” on a bridge, he found himself down on one knee. When she turned back around, he proposed.

The wedding plans were made, options discussed and explored. Miriam’s aunts threw her a baking shower at Sur La Table in Chicago. My daughter and I flew out for the weekend and got to meet more of her family and friends, and we loved them all. They fed us and cossetted us and made us feel like family.

Now it is finally here. Their wedding day. I couldn’t be any happier for them, and for us.

Miriam and Daniel, may you live happily ever after!