The March 15th book talk at the Library of Virginia (LVA) was a fantastic experience for a first-time author! As proof that the Richmond Theater is still an intriguing topic to Virginians, we filled the lecture hall with somewhere in the neighborhood of 125 people. (When I arrived an hour early, people were already coming to find seats.) Not bad for a Thursday during the work day, eh?
Following the noon lecture I had a book signing, and the LVA bookstore sold out of all their copies of The Richmond Theater Fire! (Good thing I had an extra box in my car.) Additionally, the Historic Richmond Foundation (HRF) partnered with the Library to offer tours of nearby Monumental Church–the former site of the Theater, consecrated as a church and memorial to the victims in 1814. Both tours (one before, one after the talk) completely filled and had wait lists. A staff member wrote today to say that they’re still “basking in the success” of the day’s events. It was a lot of fun.
My favorite parts of the day?
1. Meeting the attendees. I think everyone in Richmond is related to a Theater fire victim or survivor. (Or family lore says so anyhow!) And how wonderful is it to meet people who share your insatiable interest in an obscure historical event?
2. Receiving a wonderful gift: a transcript and photocopy of an original letter dated December 29, 1811. In it, a woman in Richmond relays news of the fire to a friend in Spotsylvania County. Mr. Lewis, the lecture attendee who brought the letter, found it in a family collection and generously shared it with me. What a treasure! (It recounts that one of the survivors twice attempted suicide after losing his wife and son, which I had suspected but was not able to confirm.) Even after writing the book, I keep discovering new facts. That’s why my victims and survivors list is online–so I can keep it dynamic and add new information as it comes in.
3. My college roommate, one of my favorite “theatre people,” came to the talk with her lovely mother and we lunched al fresco afterward.
4. Spending time with the staff at the LVA and HRF–they have been so supportive and their efforts on behalf of preserving Virginia’s fascinating history are most admirable.
5. The weather. 84F and sunny on the Ides of March? Yes, please.
The day wrapped up with Dr. Brownell’s interesting lecture (the last of HRF’s Winter Series) and another book signing. Pictures to follow!