Panel-mania: choose from over 230 events

So you didn't make your Book Festival lunch reservation in the first three hours after the speaker was announced, and you won't be hearing Alexander McCall Smith on Thursday?

No problem. The full program of the 2005 Virginia Festival of the Book, now online and distributed around town, will reassure you. There are plenty of literary celebrities– and a few sleepers, too– to make next week exciting, entertaining, or educational, take your pick.

The basics: The 11th annual Virginia Festival of the Book officially opens at noon Wednesday, March 16, in the McIntire Room of the Downtown Library with ceremonial introductions and congratulations, proclamations by dignitaries, announcements of winners (including The Hook's fiction contest winner!), and a few words from UVA English professor Mark Edmundson, author of Why Read? Evidence that the festival means business: two book panels are going on at the same time.

Panels run every two hours from Wednesday noon through Sunday evening, with occasional lulls for resting up. There are 150 adult programs and 80 youth and family sessions ranging from workshops on screenwriting and songwriting to high-profile readings by David Baldacci and Linda Fairstein, Geraldine Brooks, Tony Horwitz, and Robert Creeley.

Special-interest tracks weave through the five days. Saturday is Publishing Day, with advice-oriented panels about writing, selling, and marketing your work. Family and Youth programs feature storytellers, young writers, and readaloud events, along with wackier activities to entice readers under 14. Saturday, the Charlottesville Ice Park becomes StoryFest Headquarters, with crafts, games, and visiting authors and illustrators.

The Business Breakfast at 7:30am Thursday at the Omni features Malcolm Gladwell, New Yorker staffer and author of Blink and The Tipping Point. It's already sold out, but Gladwell will also speak in UVA's Darden School auditorium at 6pm on Wednesday.

The good news this year is there are fewer events than last year, but more venues with ample seating– not as much frustration, and, one hopes, seats for all.

Last year three National Geographic photographers and their editor showcased a new book of the greatest photos from the magazine's archives. Located at Vinegar Hill Theatre, the event was standing room only, and some people were turned away.

This year, in honor of National Geographic's new volume of portraits, In Focus, a Sunday afternoon panel is on the docket. Again three photographers– locals Bill Allard and Nick Nichols, plus visiting staffer David Alan Harvey– will show pictures and discuss photographic aesthetics and techniques. But they'll speak in PVCC's Dickinson Theater, with plenty of seats for all comers.

What about that luncheon? It sells out faster every year. Five hundred lunch tickets went on sale September 22 and were gone in less than three hours. Considering that the luncheon is the festival's one big money-maker, why don't organizers make it bigger?

"There just isn't a larger venue, except for U Hall, or maybe the new arena when it gets built," festival director Nancy Damon explains. "We talked about having it at the Paramount and serving box lunches," she laughs. No sit-down situation in Charlottesville can serve any more than the 500 word fiends who jam the Omni ballroom, says Damon.

Recognizing how many booklovers were disappointed by the missed opportunity to break bread with this year's featured speaker– Alexander McCall Smith, author of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency and its sequels– Damon and her co-director, Kevin McFadden, organized first one, then two more events featuring Smith.

"First we set up a tea on Thursday afternoon," she says, "and we called everyone on the luncheon waiting list. The tea sold out from the waiting list, so we never could offer that to the general public." One hundred were invited to the tea. For those who still didn't make the cut, Smith will read in UVA's Newcomb Hall Ballroom at 6 that night.

Damon and McFadden urge people to snoop around the website and find the speakers who are less well known. "We have a lot of writers coming who may not be household names, but are great writers nevertheless," says Damon. History and contemporary culture are strong subjects this year.

One way to scout the offerings is to use the new improved topical program guides on the web. At you can download a brochure for each of 25 topics, from Science Fiction & Fantasy to Jewish Authors & Interests, Crime Wave to Teachers & Families.

But for those who just want a few pointers, herewith the inside scoop on some sure-fire hits.


Wednesday, March 16

 4pm. Talkin' an' Pickin'

"Stories of Old-Time Music and Bluegrass" with authors who have interviewed, organized, and performed bluegrass music for a long, long time. The Prism, 214 Rugby Road


4:30pm. Our Very Own SVU

Linda Fairstein, UVA law alum and former bureau chief of NYC's sex crimes unit, talks "Rape and Prosecution," the real stuff of which she spins her novels. Kaleidoscope Center, Newcomb Hall, UVA.


6pm. Music from the Horse's Mouth

Renowned cellist Steven Isserlis shares his children's book, Why Beethoven Threw the Stew and Lots More Stories about the Lives of Great Composers. New Dominion Bookshop, 404 E. Main St.


Thursday, March 17

 2pm. Holy Land and Hot Spot

Three authors with different approaches to Israel and Jerusalem: Helena Cobban on the Palestine issue, Daniel Lefkowitz on language and identity, Eric Cline on history's path to today. City Council Chambers, 605 E. Main St.


5:30pm. Washington in Person

David Broder, long a respected commentator on U.S. politics– NBC, PBS, the Post, and his own books– reflects on Capitol Hill and White House events. Miller Center, 2201 Old Ivy Road.


6pm. Words on Wings

Sophy Burnham, one of the writers who put 21st-century angels on the map, shares some of her miracle stories. Quest Bookshop, 619 W. Main St.


8pm. Attention, Book Club Members

Three authors whose works are perennial book club favorites: Elinor Lipman, Sharyn McCrumb, Tom Perrotta. Culbreth Theatre, UVA.


Friday, March 18

 10am. Kitsch and Better

America is a patchwork, as shown by these four chroniclers of pop culture: Paul Cantor on '70s TV, Teresa Riordan on makeup, Robert Poole on the National Geographic Society, and Mark Derr on dogs. City Council Chambers, 605 E. Main St.


10am. Husband and Wife Team

Painter Lincoln Perry and novelist Ann Beattie discuss the ways their work intersects and influences the other's. Miller Center, 2201 Old Ivy Road.


12noon. Race in the Commonwealth

Serious talk between Peter Wallenstein, author of a book on 20th-century Virginia law, and J. Douglas Smith, whose book on Jim Crow Virginia won the 2003 Library of Virginia prize. City Council Chambers, 605 E. Main St.


2pm. Health Care Controversies

Former New England Journal of Medicine editor Jerome Kassirer tells all: conflicts of interest between doctors, researchers, and drug companies. McIntire Room, Downtown Library, 201 E. Market St.


4pm. Dip, Dip, Swing, and Choo, Choo, Choo

Washington Post and National Geographic science writer Joel Achenbach talks about the American movement westward, harmonizing with author Andrea Sutcliffe, whose book is on steam. City Council Chambers, 605 E. Main St.


6pm. They Were There

Authors whose books recall Civil Rights conflicts firsthand: Dennis McFarland, Kenneth Robbins, and Clara Silverstein. New Dominion Bookshop, 414 E. Main St.


6pm. Cigarettes 'Til Dawn?

One of the Statler Brothers shares his memoir of small-town choirs and church potluck dinners. Splintered Light Bookstore, 128 Chancellor St.


Saturday, March 19

 10am. Crystal Balls

Dire predictions may fill the chat among Geoffrey R. Stone, free speech historian; Hank Shugart, global environmental scientist; and Tom Miller, travel memoirist. City Council Chambers, 605 E. Main St.


10am. Songs of Himself

Walt Whitman– the poetry, the man, the legacy– discussed by two poets and an archivist. This is one of several panels about the ultimate American poet-egoist. UVA's Harrison/Small Library.


10am. Out from Behind the Man

Glimpses inside the White House, thanks to four biographers who wrote about U.S. First Ladies: Kennedy, Madison, Hoover, and Ford. UVA Bookstore.


12noon. Honest Indians

Hear Native Americans and historians discuss "Myth, Legend, History, and Truth" about Pocahontas and the people who lived here first. City Council Chambers, 605 E. Main St.


2pm. Marital Bliss

Fiction and nonfiction writers probe the heart of marriage in a panel dubbed "That's Wife." City Council Chambers, 605 E. Main St.


4pm. Measure This

Whether we're counting quarks or measuring wind speed, recent scientific theories provide a foundation for describing the world. Two science book authors talk about the men and ideas behind relativity, psychoanalysis, and meteorology. City Council Chambers, 605 E. Main St.


4pm. Miss That Voice?

Morning radio familiar Bob Edwards in the afternoon? It just doesn't seem right. He'll be talking about his new book on Edward R. Murrow. County Office Building, 401 McIntire Road.


Sunday, March 20

 1:30pm. Little Women's Dad

Ever wondered about the absent father in Louisa May Alcott's classic novel? Novelist Geraldine Brooks has come up with an answer. UVA Culbreth Theatre.


3pm. Rainbow Rights

Authors including TJ Center director Robert O'Neill discuss the issues of gay and transgender rights in the 21st century. UVA Bookstore.