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A Virtual Book Talk? How’s that work?

Nancy Niblack Baxter, Senior Editor

Hawthorne partnered with two southern Indiana libraries to sponsor a book talk Saturday, November 14. The book’s author is Sandra Hurt, the book Priestess of Pompeii: the Initiate’s Journey, and her talk title “Turning Your Passion for History Into a Book: Priestess of Pompeii.” Sandra spent twenty some years researching the ancient city of Pompeii in the time of Julius Caesar (before the famous eruption).

The talks were to have been live at Sullivan and Vincennes Public Libraries, but as the Covid intensified, the author and both libraries decided to try something else: Zooming the talk.

Zooming is performing and transmitting the talk by the author and others concerned with the program virtually to those at home who register for delivery to their computer or cellphone. It takes a high degree of technical skill, beyond what we at Hawthorne Publishing can claim.

Jordan Orwig, the Director of the Sullivan library, volunteered to manage the technical details and we were off. He was assisted by Emily Bunyan, Director of the Knox County Library, and Melissa Rinehart, Assistant Director at Sullivan.

Sandra Hurt’s book is a novel about a group of families living and trying to manage businesses and homes in the thriving city of Pompeii. It focuses, however, on the life of a real person—a priestess whose spacious home, the Villa of Mysteries, is one of the most interesting sites today in the excavated city. Rufilla is a priestess; her image sitting at a dinner party is brilliantly restored in the villa, and it is obvious she is a priestess. Little was known historically about her; Sandy has created the story that world history has not given us.

Sandra’s book follows this young woman, who is also an epileptic, through her calling to become a priestess, her initiation in the rites of the gods, especially Dionysus, and her search for meaning through that spiritual commitment. Its theme has real meaning today: women continue to seek self -fulfillment personally. The book has had a strong launch with a regional focus.


Sandra Hurt

Sandra had prepared a detailed and colorful Power Point set of illustrations for her Zoom talk. The sacred cave of the Isle of Crete, famous pieces of sculpture, and the museums which she visited enlivened the narrative. Visitors could “chat” and ask questions about her journey to publication, and how one digs deeply enough with an historical interest to research and write a book. They purchased books through our website or on Amazon and that response was as good as for any direct person-to-person event.

Overall assessment: The technology can bridge the gap we now have between being confined at home because of a virus and intercommunicating. Zoom talks work quite well and will be part of the future.

Still, the excitement for an author looking out on, and seeing people in an audience, and the experience for the listener of in-room immediacy, of being near people, can’t be replicated on Zoom. We will be planning both types of events in the future. Sandra is at work on Book II.

Sandra Hurt’s book Priestess of Pompeii: The Initiate’s Journey can be purchased by clicking back to the website.