Monday, September 19, 2011


Book lovers, start your engines!  It’s time to reserve your front row seat, or any seat in the house, at Woolsey Hall in New Haven for a special treat:  a chance to meet and greet three superb authors in the world of first class writing today:  Jodi Picoult, David Baldacci and John Grisham.

This trio of top flight writers will be gathered for one great event on Wednesday, October 19 at 8 p.m. for “Mark My Words,” with Malaak Compton-Rock as moderator, who is an author in her own right, a public speaker, an advocate for many charities and causes and the wife of comedian Chris Rock.  Don’t miss this unique program, a fundraiser for the Mark Twain House and Museum. The Mark Twain House and Museum is dedicated to the author who wrote many of his most beloved works, including "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" and "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" while living in the now fully restored Hartford home.  He resided at 351 Farmington Avenue, Hartford with his family from 1874 to 1891 and the house is now a National Historic Landmark, open for viewing.  Go to for more information.

With a writing career that began in 1992, Jodi Picoult is known for penning books about medical and ethical issues, in such a way that even a King Solomon would have difficulty balancing the scales of justice.  She writes in many voices, alternating chapters as she views an issue from a mother, father, child, attorney or friend’s perspective.  Her novels often have a surprising twist in them, that catches her off-guard herself. “I know the beginning and the end but I don’t know the path it will take and, oh my god, I am often taken by surprise.”  Her characters “arrive in my head and I get paid to hear their voices.  I see them.  It’s organic.  But they make decisions on their own and I can’t stop them.”

 Picoult knew she was going to be a writer in fourth grade when a teacher she “really hopes is dead now” assigned that dreaded “what did you do over summer vacation?”  She wrote from the point of view of the piano she practiced on every day and got an “F” for her efforts.  Her mother had her teacher changed and she went on to get degrees from Princeton and Harvard.  She wrote her first novel “Songs of the Humpback Whale” while pregnant with her first child.

 Her novels, eighteen to date, have been translated into thirty-four languages, in thirty-five countries.  Her latest “Sing You Home” was released this March and is about Zoe, a music therapist, and the issue of gay rights.  It is accompanied by a CD of music and songs to be played with each chapter.  Most of her books take nine months to produce, much like the gestation of a baby.  Picoult admits to being a New Hampshire farm girl who “writes as a mom and wants to do justice (to her characters) and give them a voice…When I write, I am writing for me, a story I need to tell, not for my readers.  I want to ring true as a storyteller.”

 Picoult considers her books “a love letter to New England…to celebrate small towns and that charming lifestyle.”  She once complained to her mother that she had no anguish, drama or incest in her life so how could she become a writer?  She realized quickly that she couldn’t write what she knew because she “knew absolutely nothing.”  Lucky for her readers she successfully tweaked that axiom into “write what I am willing to learn.”  As Jodi Picoult has learned and researched, her readers are the beneficiaries of books that are heartwarming, thought-provoking and excellent reads.

 Thanks to that fourth grade harridan, the teacher who by giving a young and precocious Jodi Picoult an “F,” and set her on a writing career path to inspired greatness.  Let’s hear it for talking pianos everywhere.

A Virginian by birth, David Baldacci has served as both a corporate and trial attorney as well as authoring nineteen adult novels, two novels for young adults, seven original screen plays and numerous articles for newspapers and magazines. 

As a writer of mysteries and political thrillers, Baldacci scours our nation’s Capitol for intrigue and conspiracies and secret missions but he can travel internationally as well. Just start turning pages of “Split Second,” “Simple Genius,” “First Family” and “Hell’s Corner” for vivid characterizations and plots that will keep you up late into the night on Washington politics and their inner workings or “The Whole Truth” that puts Balducci at the world’s door for suspense.

His latest release “The Sixth Man” reunites his favorite team-up of Sean King and Michelle Maxwell as they try to help an attorney assure the release of an alleged serial killer.  When the attorney is found murdered, King and Maxwell find themselves in an all-out chase to find the truth.  The confrontation they face can have dire consequences for their partnership.

Baldacci who graduated from law school and practices law within the shadows of the White House naturally gravitated to Washington as a source for many of his novels.  In an interview, he remarked,” It’s sort of an energetic place; it just seemed like a lot of fodder.  I like to call Washington the only place that can raise your federal income tax and declare war.  It just seemed like there were a lot of story ideas from there.”

An Arkansas boy who dreamed of being a professional baseball player, John Grisham took accounting at college, graduated law school, practiced a decade in personal injury and criminal defense and then served in the state House of Representatives in Mississippi.

His career as a writer took root when he heard a twelve-year old rape victim give testimony in the courthouse and imagined what might have happened if the girl’s father had taken justice into his own hands.  For three years he got up at 5 a.m. to write what resulted in “A Time to Kill.”

This avocation suddenly became a new career when he penned a tale about an eager young attorney whose perfect law practice is anything but in ”The Firm,” which was soon followed by “The Pelican Brief” and “The Client.”  As a master of the legal thriller, Grisham now writes one novel a year, all international bestsellers, translated into 29 languages, nine of which have made their way to the big screen.

Soon to be released, one week after the talk at Woolsey Hall, is “The Litigators,” a juicy tale of a small, select law firm of two, Oscar Finley and Wally Figg (think the Odd Couple) who stumble onto a potential legal goldmine.  They will attach themselves with a few clients to a class action lawsuit against a wealthy producer of a cholesterol drug that causes heart attacks and come away rich or will they?  Follow the theatrical legalese as this “boutique law firm” tries to enter the big time.

For tickets ($25, 45 and  65), call 888-736-2663 or 203-562-5666, go to the Shubert Theatre box office or online at  Woolsey Hall is 500 College Street, at the corner of Grove Street in New Haven.  A book signing with all three authors will take place that morning from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at The Study at Yale Hotel, 1157 Chapel Street, New Haven.  Only books purchased at R. J. Julia Books in Madison can be signed.

Be inspired  as these much admired writers talk about Mark Twain and their own adventures with pen and ink.

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