By Heidi Simmons

Out numbered by nonfiction authors, but nonetheless appreciated, RMWF fiction writers and poets brought color, humor, imagination and a hyper-reality to the weekend event.

At the same time Senator Barbara Boxer talked about her career, compassion and fearlessness in politics, the “Women in Fiction” panel discussed similar issues pertaining to the life of women writers. 

Moderated by the colorful Patt Morrison the panel featured authors Geraldine Brooks – The Secret Chord; Karen Joy Fowler – We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves; and Lauren Groff – Fates and Furies.  They discussed the differences in writing for male and female audiences, and the changing attitudes toward women authors and their characters.

Groff said that more women then men buy, read, and publish books today more than ever.

Author of City on Fire, Garth Risk Hallberg said that he loves long books because he hates for a good story to end.  His book is 944 pages!  Hallberg shared that he was always an outsider in North Carolina and felt drawn to New York City.  As a kid he noticed that everything he read came from New York.

After the 9/11 terror attacks, he saw New York in a vulnerable way and knew he had a story to tell.  Overcome with fear that he was too young and inexperienced, he realized the fear was his call to get to work.  The story takes place during the late 1970s.

Reed Farrel Coleman, author of Where it Hurts, told his personal story of being a poet and realizing, that with a wife and kids, he could never just be a poet and support his family.  Going back to school at night he took a class called, “Writing the American Crime Novel” and boom!  That was it!  He knew what he wanted to do. 

Coleman is known for his Moe Prager series and is now writing for the Robert B. Parker estate.  Coleman writes the Jesse Stone series and is quick to say that he has not met Tom Selleck.

Colman revealed that the Parker estate and publisher allows him total freedom to write the stories like he wants.  He says it helps that he has the same editor as the late Parker.

Witty and personable, Coleman thanked his wife for sustaining and supporting him.  Mrs. Coleman sat in the front row.  He said the best part of being a writer was that he got to be a “house dad.”

Author Carl Hiaasen was a smash as he told the giggling audience the crazy story of his latest book, Razor Girl.  Hiassen and Dave Barry shared a stage the first day of the Festival.  They discussed the joys and quirks of being odd Floridians. 

Sunday, Hiaasen admitted that he likes pushing the literary boundaries — and his characters — over-the-top.  He noted that one of his characters, a redneck, racist, reality TV star, came very close to the real life “Duck Dynasty” Patriarch.  Hiaasen said his editor would have made him take out the character today because the crazy character too closely resembles the real guy.

Hiaasen is working on another children’s book and is not sure if the Andrew Yancy character will come back again.  But, you could almost see the wheels turning in Hiaasen’s head as he said it.

Other fiction writers included author Hal Gershowitz who talked about his historical novel The Eden Legacy

The Fateful Lightning, a novelization of the Civil War by Jeff Shaara was a popular event with history buffs, as was Robert Hick’s, pre Civil War story The Orphan Mother.

How great is it that the RMWF not only includes great fiction, but also showcases poets!

Matthew Dickman — All-American Poem, and brother, Michael Dickman — Green Migraine, are such different books of poetry you wouldn’t know they were identical twins. Yet, read in between the lines and you start to see the bigger picture of their lives growing up together.

Congratulations and kudos to the Fourth Annual Rancho Mirage Writers Festival for having something for everybody and thank you for loving books of all kinds!

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