JOANNA ELM, Author, Journalist, Attorney

Meeting James Patterson at The Palm Beach Book Festival


It’s Squib Saturday. Time to share the best, most interesting (or most entertaining, or most outrageous) tidbit of information I’ve gleaned from all the stuff I’ve read –or done. This week: I Discover The World’s Bestselling Author is Also A Super Nice Guy.

How do you introduce an author who has sold more than 300 million copies of his thrillers worldwide to a standing- room- only audience at a book festival?  This is how Lois Cahall, founder and organizer of the Palm Beach Book Festival, did it last week at the Harriet Himmel Theatre, City Place, West Palm Beach.  She told the audience that at one point while organizing the third annual book festival, she realized she had booked only non-fiction writers to appear on the festival panels. “So, I went out to look around for someone who writes fiction,” she said, ” and I found this guy.”

No Introduction Needed

“This guy,”  of course, needed no introduction when he showed his face on stage. It was James Patterson, the only author to have five new hardcover novels debut at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list in one year. He also happens to be the Festival’s Honorary Chairman. He also happens to be the favorite author of a group of ladies I met a couple of weeks ago in a home which is run by The Lord’s Place, an organization that aids the homeless. I wrote about that meeting and their stories here .

Patterson Meets the Burckle Place Ladies

Upon learning that the ladies loved his books, I and Pamela McIver, my friend, tennis partner, and former Lord’s Place board chairman brought ten of the ladies from the home at Burckle Place as our guests to the Festival — and to get a book signed by the bestselling author.

Lois Cahall (left) Pam McIver (back to camera) and Patterson

As it turned out, with a bit of help from a Festival organizer, the ladies found themselves at the head of the line of fans waiting to have their copies of Patterson’s latest, The Black Book, signed. Hence, they were the closest to him when Lois Cahall led him through the crowd to the signing table. I was determined to get as many photos of Patterson with the ladies (for their own personal albums) and was snapping away when a theatre security guard muscled in on the action telling me to stop the photo-taking.

Patterson wasn’t having any of it. “Snap away, snap away,” he encouraged me, before adding something about being “anti-authority.” Consequently, he created an unforgettable day for our guests — and for me!

Getting Kids To Read

Author Patterson signed dozens of his books at the Festival

For the past decade, Patterson has been devoting more and more time to championing reading among kids. He has donated millions of dollars for that purpose. He told the audience : “It’s up to parents, not teachers, to get their kids reading. If you can get your kids to the dinner table; if you can get them to stop trekking mud through the house, you can get them reading.”

“So what worked with your son, Jack?” asked moderator, author and teacher, Ed Boland. “The taser,” replied Patterson without missing a beat. Then he explained more fully: “Jack wasn’t a big reader. One summer, my wife and I told him he was going to have to read every day of the summer break. We got him the books. By the end of summer he’d read about a dozen. His  SAT reading score came in at 800. You’ve got to get kids to realize there are a lot of books that are more fun than the movies.”

How He Works With Co-authors

Finally, during the Q and A session with the audience, Patterson gave a little insight as to how he collaborates with his co-authors. “Nothing wrong with collaboration,” he replied, “think Rodgers and Hammerstein.”  Asked to explain how the collaboration works, he added: “I write a 50-70 page outline, chapter by chapter. I get the co-author to contribute. Then, I get the pages from them. Then, it’s either ‘hurray’ or ‘we’re off the track.'” When I get the all the chapters in [from the co-author] I write  the last draft.”


Next Week: More from Palm Beach Book Festival 2017 including: How TV and Movie Star R.J. Wagner chose the writer for his memoir, I Loved Her in The Movies.


Photo Credits: From top to bottom:; David Burnett2013/





  1. Great wrap-up of a fabulous season here in Palm Beach! See you in the fall. I look forward to reading your summer squibs and keeping up-to-date on what you are up to! When we’re not talking on the phone that is. 🙂

  2. Yep! Got a couple more reports from the Palm Beach Book Festival to come including a report on the author who wrote her first book at the age of 90, and got the special honors award at the festival! I glanced through the book at the festival. It was really nicely done!

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