- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 9, 2004

Thousands of bibliophiles and others gathered on the Mall yesterday to meet and talk with some of the literary world’s most acclaimed authors, illustrators, poets and storytellers during the fourth annual National Book Festival.

About 85,000 people attended the day-long event, which featured more than 70 award-winning writers. The book festival, sponsored by the Library of Congress and hosted by first lady Laura Bush, an avid reader and former librarian, was created to promote literacy and a love of books.

Families with small children, government employees and educators were among those who strolled along the Mall, from 7th to 14th streets NW, and stopped at a variety of pavilions that catered to children, poetry enthusiasts, fiction lovers and history buffs to name a few.

Deputy Librarian of Congress Donald L. Scott picked his spot under the white tent of “History and Biography” and listened while Rep. John Lewis, Georgia Democrat, recalled the struggle for civil rights and working with the Rev. Martin Luther King in his book, “Walking with the Wind.”

“Reading stimulates the imagination, broadens perspective and takes you places you may not be able to go,” Mr. Scott said.

Wearing a straw fedora and a T-shirt, Mr. Scott, a retired Army brigadier general, said some of his favorite authors include Mr. Lewis, basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Azar Nafisi, a professor and author from Iran who while living in her country was inspired by the writings of Frederick Douglass and Zora Neale Hurston.

“I’m walking around sampling [author’s talks] and I’m very pleased at the number of people who have come out to buy books” and attend the festival, Mr. Scott said.

Stephanie Atkinson of Atlanta sat glued to her seat while Mr. Lewis addressed the packed pavilion to discuss and field questions about his book and his life.

“This is the second year that I’ve attended this event,” said Ms. Atkinson, 37. “I was so glad to see Mr. Lewis since I’m one of his constituents. I just love D.C. The book festival is one of the best events.”

Ms. Atkinson, a librarian at the Atlanta Girls School in Georgia, said history and biographies fascinate her.

“Personal experiences and what people have lived through are very interesting to me,” she said. “As an educator, my job is to pass information on to other generations.”

Ms. Atkinson stayed to listen to Dorothy Height, president emeritus of the National Council of Negro Women. Miss Height penned her most recent book, “Open Wide the Freedom Gate,” last year. The doyenne fielded questions from the audience about her relationship with Eleanor Roosevelt and gave her opinions on how young women can become civically involved.

“Don’t think of yourselves as leaders of tomorrow, think of yourselves as leaders of today,” Miss Height said.

Other writers included Joyce Carol Oates and Pulitzer Prize and MacArthur award winner Edward P. Jones of Arlington.

At the Fiction and Imagination Pavilion, Barbara Taylor Bradford, author of “A Woman of Substance,” published in 1976, engaged readers by discussing comments from her editors about the length of her novels and other facts. She encouraged the audience to write despite criticism from others.

“To all those who want to write — I was 40 when I started,” she said. “You can’t let a failure stop you. You cannot let reviewers stop you. And never worry about critics.”

Mrs. Bradford’s first novel has sold 26 million copies worldwide.

A group of women flocked to her after she left the stage.

Diane Whitney of Illinois was among those who wanted to meet Mrs. Bradford and have her autograph her most recent book, “Emma’s Secret.”

“I’m thrilled,” said Ms. Whitney, who came to the District to attend the book festival and to see her favorite author.

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