The third annual Gaithersburg Book Festival is Saturday, May 19 and city councilman Jud Ashman—the festival's founder and chairperson—took some time to talk with Patch about the event and its evolution.
On Monday, Ashman answered questions about the event's history, genres, and authors. Part II of the interview continues below:
Gaithersburg Patch: The short story contest features quite a few local, high school authors. How many entries does the Gaithersburg Book Festival get for the contest and how are the finalists selected? If you've read any of the finalists' stories, do you have a personal favorite?
Jud Ashman: In just its second year, our high school short story contest attracted 141 entries from D.C. and 13 counties in Maryland and Virginia. We have a group of local volunteers who read through all the submissions and select the top entrants. This year they selected 13 stories. Those 13 finalists’ stories then are given to our “round two” judges—who are two authors who are among our featured authors.
This year our round two judges were Brad Parks, award-winning mystery author (“The Girl Next Door: A Mystery,” “Eyes of the Innocent” and “Faces of the Gone”) and Jennifer Miller, author of “The Year of the Gadfly.”
As for my favorite: Before I answer, I’ll say that I was absolutely blown away by all of the finalists! The fact that this area has been able to cultivate such talent has to give you some sense of pride—and also confidence in the everlasting vitality of the written word. My favorite was “To Hear the Angels Sing” written by R.E. Potter.
Gaithersburg Patch: To someone who's never been to the GBF, how would you describe it and give your best sales pitch for them to attend?
Jud Ashman: Here’s what I’d say to anyone who reads any kind of books at all: Go to the website and spend a few minutes looking over our featured authors. There’s no better sales pitch I can give than to simply point out the amazing list of writers who’ll speaking and signing on May 19. Truly a chance to meet your favorite authors and discover some great new ones.
And here’s what I’d say to non-readers: you don’t have to read books to enjoy our festival. Pick your favorite topic. Now, imagine having a conversation with one of the world’s foremost experts on that topic. If you like sports, for example, it doesn’t get better than hearing John Feinstein tell stories about your favorite athletes.
If this election year has you interested in politics, we have Linda Killian coming to discuss her research on independent voters and how they can shape the election.
If you like the History Channel, how great is it that you’ll have a chance to meet one of the world’s great historians, Adam Hochschild, as he discusses his latest book, “To End All Wars.”
And, if you like Comedy Central, we have a whole slew of authors who will have you in stitches.
Gaithersburg Patch: If you could pick any three authors over the course of history, dead or alive, to host at this event. Who would they be and why?
Jud Ashman: This is obviously an impossible question to answer, but if I were reading someone else’s attempt to answer it, I’d take points off for Shakespeare, Dickens, Homer, or anyone in that category. It’s too easy!
So, here are my three:
- Ernest Hemingway for fiction because he’d enrich our literary senses during his presentation and then have a beer with us afterward.
- Winston Churchill for non-fiction because, in addition to being perhaps the greatest leader of the 20th century, he was a terrific writer, a legendary orator, and endlessly entertaining. We’d also be able to give him one last round of applause for getting it right about Nazi Germany.
- And for our Children’s Village: Dr. Seuss. That’s the easiest choice here, because, really, who would you rather have in the Children’s Village than Dr. Seuss? It’s not even close!
Editor's Note: This is part two of a two part Q&A with Jud Ashman. Part one appeared Monday morning. In addition, interviews with a Montgomery County author and student entrant in the book festival's short story contest will appear on Wednesday and Friday of this week.