Thursday, April 21, 2011

Reading Between the Wines

Reading between the Wines was a fundraiser for the Adult Literacy League. Sponsored by Bank of America, it was held at the Sheraton Hotel downtown across from the Bob Carr Theater. When I arrived I was given a program and a wine glass. I didn't have time to sample the wines but I placed the wine glass in a pocket of my folding stool just in case. Terry was there chatting with a client. We immediately went to a small private meeting room where Bank of America guests were given a chance to meet and greet Carl Hiaasen.

Carl was born and raised in Florida. He began his writing career as a journalist for the Miami Herald before writing his first book, "Tourist Season" in 1986. Carl's books highlight the many problems faced in Florida thanks to over development. I've read two of his books, "Stormy Weather" and "Basket Case" and they were both hilarious.

Chairs in the meeting room were arranged in groupings of six. It made it seem like there might be group assignments where we had to collaborate and write. I decided to sit on my own over by the cheese and cracker table. Carl spoke to the group directly in front of me for quite some time. Then he sat down for a quick book signing. Everyone lined up. The ten or so people in the room had each been given a copy of Carl's most recent book, "Star Island." I'll read it once Terry is finished. She loves Carl's books and happily posed for photos with him.

I started the sketch in the large hall before the audience filed in. Robyn Austin from WLOQ was the Emcee. She announced as different silent auction tables were closed out with a resonating gong. Joyce Whidden, the executive director of the Adult Literacy League, introduced a short film about what they do. Basically one in five people read at or below a sixth grade level. In Florida that number is even larger. Literacy has the power to reduce crime, unemployment and dependence on welfare. When the film stopped everyone in the room, several hundred people, stood and clapped. It was a heart warming moment that offered the hope that people do care. Perlis, the man who learned to read at the age of 42, was in the audience.

Carl Hiaasen was then interviewed by fellow journalist Bob Morris. Carl pointed out that writing and rewriting his work came easy to him because of the years writing articles for the Herald. He had deadlines for the paper and he would write even if he didn't feel like it. In the question and answer session, Terry asked why the women in his books are so much more mature than the male characters. He explained that men are rather simple creatures that usually just want one thing. The audience laughed. Carl often incorporated real life events into his books. He had found that real life stories are often too bizarre to be believed as fiction. As an example, he pointed to a horrible car accident where a mans leg was severed off. The leg was forgotten. An EMT later found it and decided to feed it to his dog. This is far to sick to be believed.

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