What do you love about literary festivals?
Books? Fanfare? Vendors? Author talks? Meeting authors? Perhaps you enjoy chewing away on that gyro as you browse through a collection that local bookstores have on display or sipping ice-cold lemonade as you stand in line to buy the latest release from your favorite author?
But have you wondered what a writer’s journey entails? Many writers spend months and years creating a story, then writing, re-writing, revising and re-revising a book armed with more knowledge of craft and technique at each stage (hopefully!) until the book is finished. (OK, maybe not years for some, but definitely for me considering I’m working on a series slated for release in 2019). Then you spend more time – perhaps months or years again – with a critique partner? A critique group? Or a professional editor to fine-tune and re-calibrate the book so that it’s balanced. It’s not a simple stream-lined process from point A to B to C. There are loads of roller-coasters along the way. Sometimes you’re up on the pinnacle of (what you think is) success, only to come snaking down because the character, plot, narrative, pacing, etc isn’t quite there. Or they are but they are but not working well together. Or – worst case scenario – not there at all. Or – you get the idea…
No matter how many people brainstorm the book with you, no matter how much professional advice you get, in the end you, yes, YOU the writer, have to sit in that chair, solve the story problems and plug away at the manuscript. There are no short-cuts, my friend.
Which is precisely why a book isn’t just another product in the market. A book reflects the journey of one (or more) dedicated writer(s) who refused to give up on the story when there was nothing to stop him/her from doing so.
So when I first attended the Decatur Book Festival, in Atlanta, Georgia, 6 years ago, the largest independent book festival in the USA, I couldn’t believe the list of authors registered to speak. I was super excited and marched in with an agenda. A plan!!
How couldn’t I?
The diversity of panels, the number of panels running at any one time and the huge turnout was something you had to see to believe. Now, it wasn’t my first experience at a literary event, I’d attended numerous writing conferences before where swags, giveaways, post-card-size covers of new releases, pens, chocolates, bookmarks and curios flooded the Goody Room.
But a literary festival like the DBF was a whole new ball game. Books and everything book related blanketed the downtown area of Decatur. From book stores, to vendors of old books, stalls snapped up by newspapers, local publications and periodicals, to bakeries and sweet shops with cupcakes crowned with miniature marzipan books, literature was not just words on a page. Literature had become a celebration in full bloom.
Authors, big and small, were given a dais on which to share their experiences and their success was show-cased to the world. The public mixed, mingled, shook hands, had their books autographed by their favorite authors and walked away with a prized possession. A BOOK!
In all the glitz and glamour, this year I tucked the agenda in my handbag and walked around the venue with my mentor and close friend, USA Today Bestselling Author, Kathy Lyons / Jade Lee. For the first time ever, I didn’t attend all the sessions I’d highlighted (in advance) or run from panel to panel, hoping to hear what every author had to say. I attended Kathy’s and author, Tracy Solheim’s incredibly interactive panel, another panel hosting New York Times Bestselling author, Karen White, hung out with more authors like, Sally Kilpatrick, Nicki Salcedo and chatted with aspiring authors, book sellers and presidents of writing clubs.
So what if we all wrote different genres, represented a different culture or spoke with sincerity about our diverse and multi-colored storytelling? Under the umbrella of a litfest we enjoyed – truly enjoyed the festival for what it was – the diversity of our voices & perspectives.
A celebration of writing, reading and turning over a new page.
The coming-together of people who love books.
Reading isn’t just about being glued to a page. It’s about un-gluing your mind, opening the sealed pages of yesterday and giving your perspective a fresh script to write, re-write and revise.
How would you celebrate your passion for literature?