Between the Lines: Book Adventures

| December 1, 2012 | 0 Comments

Buon Appetito in Little Italy was the setting; lunch was a bowl of pasta with spicy tomatoes, mozzarella and basil—I was transported into an Italian frame of mind for our speaker, San Diego author Susan Meissner, who read, shared photographs, and talked about her newest novel, “Girl in the Glass.” The story is about Florence and three women from three different eras, going back to the Medicis and the Italian Renaissance. All twenty or so of us in attendance came away ready to pack our bags for Florence.

Readers love author signings and readings—I wrote about a terrific one last month—the opportunity to meet and hear favorites in person.

Adventures by the Book founder Susan McBeth (left) and author Susan Meissner.

Susan McBeth has taken that several steps further. Last year she parlayed her extensive experience working with publishers, agents, booksellers and authors to create and found Adventures by the Book.

Over the past two years McBeth has crafted more than thirty themed events, hosting authors of fiction and nonfiction, memoirs, cookbooks and how-tos at restaurants and other venues that add flavor and atmosphere to their topics. In embarking on her business venture, McBeth was sure others felt as she does. As opposed to those that feature the most famous authors or draw the biggest audience, she says, “My favorite events are those that connect people, plain and simple, because I believe that’s what books do.”

Earlier this year she hosted Madeline Miller, author of “Song of Achilles,” a fictional rendering of the Trojan War and winner of the 2012 Orange Prize for Fiction, with, of course, a Greek lunch spread. When Elizabeth George came to town to read from the latest of her string of crime novels, it was held on an ominous Friday the Thirteenth. “The Weird Sisters” is a delightful novel about a family that lives, eats and breathes Shakespeare. Author Eleanor Brown’s visit was co-sponsored by the San Diego Shakespeare Society. You get the idea!

A recent event with local author Teresa Link, whose “Denting the Bosch” is about friendship and sisterhood, was promoted as a “girls’ night out” at a wine bar. Other featured local authors include Drusilla Campbell, Kathi Diamant, Margaret Dilloway, Marjorie Hart, and Susan Vreeland. Zohreh Ghahremani read and discussed her “Sky of Red Poppies,” a “One Book, One San Diego” selection, at a Persian restaurant. Zoe thinks that “sharing Persian sounds, sights, and tastes helped my readers to become immersed in my story.”

I asked McBeth about her personal favorites. One of them was a “Radio Shangri La Adventure” last year with Lisa Napoli. “Radio Shangri-La” is a memoir about how Lisa gave up her career as a radio personality to move to Bhutan to help them create their first radio station. The “adventure” was held at KPBS and included a behind-the-scenes tour of their newly renovated studios. A group of teachers and librarians from La Jolla Country Day School attended and, as a result, the school has “adopted” Bhutan and is raising funds to build a library there. “Soooo rewarding!” said McBeth.

The programs aren’t limited to local venues. A couple of times a year McBeth orchestrates literary travel adventures. Last year’s “Adventure Under the Tuscan Sun” included tours and classes in Tuscany, art and food with author Frances Mayes and other Italian hosts. A small group went to Alaska this August as the guests of award-winning author and photographer Lynn Schooler; the event was so popular it will be repeated next year. And people are already signing up for next May’s “Springtime in Paris Adventure” with Amy Finley, author, chef and winner of the Next Food Network Star, who will guide the group from Paris to the French countryside, joined by other renowned chefs and authors.

McBeth is planning new adventures all the time—she has several lined up for early next year. You can check them out at I’m looking forward to the one on February 15th with British historical fiction writer Patricia Bracewell—an English tea, of course.

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