Jodi Picoult

Jodi Picoult

NEWPORT — Jodi Picoult, one of America’s most popular authors, entertained a crowd of more than 200 Saturday night at the Newport Opera House and no one went home disappointed.

A resident of Hanover, Picoult was in town to receive a $2,500 honorarium as the winner of the 2019 Sarah Josepha Hale Award.

And she didn’t shortchange anyone with her thoughtful talk based on her latest book, “A Spark of Life,” focusing on women’s reproductive rights.

When she concluded her talk, Picoult stepped down onto the Opera House floor and posed with many people for picture-taking sessions. She also autographed her books that were sold Saturday night.

Picoult has written 26 books and the last 10 led the New York Times best-seller list as soon as they were released.

In addition to her talk filled with facts she gathered prior to writing “A Spark of Life,” Picoult answered 10 questions written on cards by patrons at the Richards Free Library in Newport prior to her trip to Newport.

During her appearance, Picoult stressed the importance of researching subjects before she even starts writing a book. “I researched one for a full year before I started writing,” she revealed.

The question and answer period was the first time written questions were utilized in for the Hale recipient to answer. Picoult got an A-plus for her responses. And when she concluded, the audience also rose and gave her a standing ovation.

Based on two of those questions, Picoult said her favorite book was “Small Great Things,” which was also her hardest book to write.

Her speech told about her research for “A Spark of Life,” which takes place in a Mississippi abortion clinic during an armed assault.

“Laws are black and white, the lives of women are a thousand shades of gray,” she related.

“What will happen if Roe v. Wade is overturned?” Picoult asked. “It will probably go back to the states,” she quickly responded to her own question.

“To me, a seven-week pregnancy is already a baby; in America we legislate rights and 88 percent of abortions occur in the first seven weeks,” Picoult said during her talk.

“Nobody wants to have an abortion. How do we reduce the number of abortions that occur? Don’t get pregnant,” Picoult stated.

Prior to her appearance at the Opera House, Picoult joined 70 of her fans for dinner at the Old Courthouse Restaurant in Newport.

Saturday’s Newport visit was actually the second time Picoult had appeared on stage at the Opera House. Her initial appearance was about 20 year ago.

Picoult said she was not born in New England before offering her final thought of the evening. “Thanks for making me an honorary New Englander,” she said with a smile.

Picoult was introduced by Deborah Stone, a professor at Brandeis University, and one of the eight members of the Board of Judges that select the Hale winner.. “She is the best writer in the country,” Stone said.

Other members of the Board of Judges include John N. Berry III, editor, Library Journal; Ernest Hebert, novelist; Michael Hermann, owner, Gibson’s Bookstore; Nancy Marashio, Chair, Board of Judges; Kendall Wiggin, Connecticut State Librarian; Susan Kenney, fiction writer, and Michael York, New Hampshire State Librarian.

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