Runkel to be featured as part of Author Talk at library
Friends of LaGrange Memorial Library will host the first of this season’s Author Talks at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the library.
Deedie Runkel will discuss her latest book, “Scone By Scone, Tales from an Inkeeper’s Life,’’ followed by a question-and-answer session and a book signing.
She and her husband, David, ran Anne Hathaway’s B&B and Garden Suite for 15 years, but their path there was not a straight one.
Over a lifetime in Baltimore, Philadelphia and Washington, Runkel opened a camp for inner-city kids, including her own; employed Saul Alinsky tactics to improve lives in an increasing racially segregated city; promoted public libraries and legal aid for older people, and worked to reduce world conflict through the Peace Corps and the anti-nuclear war organization Peace Links.
At age 60, the couple both found themselves unemployed in Washington. After exploring their work options for a year, they decided to embark on a new career.
‘’Lurking deep inside my soul was a sense that we’d be great at innkeeping,’’ Runkel said, although they had no experience in the field. ‘’Our only real preparation had been playing host for years, and I’d been collecting salts and peppers, with the excuse that someday we’d need them.’’
They wound up buying a struggling bed and breakfast that caters to theater lovers attending the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon.
Their introduction to their new life was quick.
‘’We arrived in town one day. The next morning before 7, I had my first lesson in scone making, we bought the place at 9 and welcomed new guests at 3,’’ she said. ‘’We had signed away our life and gotten not only the building, but the guests in their beds and the milk in the refrigerator.’’
They had little idea of what was in store.
Shifting from public service to serving the public proved daunting, as the couple’s previous experience had not included working together 24/7, profit-and-loss statements or serving gourmet breakfasts, among many other things.
But they knew they could cook, make a bed and always loved meeting and getting to know new people.
In this book, Runkel shares what it’s like backstage at an inn, through stories of the myriad situations an innkeeper faces.
Whether it’s producing an impromptu wedding one afternoon, discovering that a guest was her host 20 years ago in a remote village in Africa, or introducing actors to early morning breakfast, nearly every day brought another fascinating story to Runkel’s door.
Runkel comes from a family of readers and activists whose American roots go back to Quakers who settled in Philadelphia at the time of William Penn. Her father was both a local politician and the author of an unpublished book on the Molly McGuires, 19th century women activists who fought for better conditions for Pennsylvania coal miners.
Runkel majored in English at Penn State University, where she met her husband when they both wrote for The Daily Collegian school newspaper. She earned a master’s degree in fine arts in writing from the University of California/Riverside.
Her first book, an autobiography titled “Boxes: Lifting the Lid on an American Life,” was published in 2010. Her opinion pieces and articles have appeared in The Philadelphia Bulletin,
The Washington Post, The New York Times, Friends Journal and other publications.
Her talk in LaGrange is free and open to the public.