It’s hard. We all know that by now. So I’m gonna tell you about some of the fun stuff.
If you are an aspiring writer, or even a published writer, and you have not been to any writing conferences or reading fests you are missing out on one of the best ways to recharge your batteries and recall that you’re an actual member of the human race.
Gathering together with fellow writers and/or readers–you know, people whose eyes don’t glaze over as soon as you say that you write–will allow you to forget, for a brief, shining moment, that you sometimes won’t allow the UPS man to leave until you’ve finished your conversation (is it still considered a conversation if the other party never says anything?) because you’re so relieved that he allowed you to leave the keyboard and you haven’t spoken to another person in four days.
They are humanizing events and good for your health (except perhaps your liver) though they are not covered by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida, which I found out the hard way. This year I was lucky enough to go to two of these events: the Lee County Reading Fest and the Southern Kentucky Book Fest.
Lee County is just a piece up the road (that’s about a half hour for you Yankees, oh, and Canadians? To Southerners, YOU ARE Yankees. I’ve already won this argument countless times, so don’t even try. Brits? Don’t even get me started.). Oh. Back to Lee County. Yes, so, it was my first public outing in approximately four years. I was nervous. I sat in the parking lot and called my husband to tell him I was coming home. There were threats. Being fond of my head remaining attached exactly as it currently was, I finally got up my nerve and entered the Author’s Reception, which, btw, I paid $35.00 to do.
Yes, it was difficult. My voice shook. But I met some wonderful people. Kelley DeCamp took me under her wing and proceeded to haul me around introducing me to everyone, including Carol Hudler, who took me to meet her husband, the friendly, funny, and talented author Ad Hudler (whose book All This Belongs To Me I reviewed a couple of weeks ago).
The next day, after the festival itself (at which I had several conversations with the incredibly generous George Pelecanos, yes, that George Pelecanos), Ad took several of the authors, including, Lorna Landvik, Valerie Wilson Wesley, Douglas Wood, Mary Casanova, and, oddly enough, Mary Badham, who played Scout in the movie To Kill A Mockingbird, to watch the sunset on Captiva Island and have dinner. He asked if I’d like to go.
Like I said no? We had fun, we were loud, we talked about more than where I lived and what kind of car I drove. They were other writers, and despite the fact that my book wasn’t yet out and I acted like a starstruck teen, they accepted me as one of them.
When the Southern Kentucky Book Fest came around I was less nervous. For one thing, I was going with a friend, Tasha Alexander, for another, I already had a taste of socializing with my people, and I wanted more. We dodged Civil War cannons on the highway, we stormed the TV station, we ate lunch in a diner with a tornado raging outside, and finally collapsed at the hotel where the convention was being held.
We were shortly joined by Bob Morris, J.D. Rhoades, Nathan Singer, and Kirby Gann. We went to the author’s reception and bothered Chuck Barris, we went out to dinner (well, Kirby hid in his hotel room and ate pizza and actually worked) and irritated the waitress, we went back to the hotel and met Rick Bragg, and Bob was banned from the bar for life. The bus driver for the Holiday Inn really liked us, though.
The next day Bob tried to get me downstairs where he was breakfasting with Pat Conroy, but the phones weren’t working, many books were bought and signed, panels attended, and more authors met, and we left late that afternoon, enduring a traffic jam so bad that I was seriously eyeing an empty Dunkin’ Donuts cup.
So, aspiring writers, writers who’ve just sold a book, writers who’ve sold a million of ’em already, do yourself a favor. Take a break. Get out there. Remember how to have a conversation in person and learn how to make your voice stop quivering when you do. And readers, go to a book/reading festival! Meet your favorite authors and find new ones.
The publishing industry is hard, sometimes I think it’s harder than it has to be. But the publishing process doesn’t have to be. Go to a conference, get filled back up, and you’ll have the energy and good humor to get back to work when you get home. Your UPS man will thank you.
Oh, and by the way, I’ll be at the Southern Kentucky Book Festival again this year. This time I’ll be on the other side of the table, signing my book.