What do you call a gathering of writers? A neurosis? A penury? An ego?
This weekend, for me, it was called the Virginia Festival of the Book. We went last year when my husband talked about his book, and we had such a good time that we went again this year. Our kid was happy because he finally got to meet a childhood hero: Jon Scieszka. We stood in line after the lecture, and the man was absolutely lovely—so warm and friendly and engaging, even with the line snaking around the building.
I spent the time talking to authors about various approaches to publishing and promotion. Hope springs eternal, and all that. I did conclude that I definitely do not want to self-publish—partly out of ego, but more out of laziness. I have no desire to do all my own formatting, but at the same time I don’t want to pay a printer to do something I’m completely capable of doing myself. And maybe it’s my profession getting the better of me, but I don’t trust a process that doesn’t require the involvement of one single editor.
I did learn a lot about Things I Should Not Do when it’s my turn. Don’t pre-record your lecture and sit and watch it with the audience. Know what slide is showing and make sure your chatter relates to it. If you don’t know the answer to an audience question, don’t stall or deflect; admit it and offer to find the answer and email the person who asked—then redirect to something you DO know. Try not to say “uhhh” more often than any other word. Try to look like you are honored to be there, not like it’s an imposition.
I also learned that most audiences show up ready to laugh—I mean, unless you’re there to talk about the Holocaust or something. In most cases, if you give them the tiniest bit of help, they will respond with enthusiasm—even more if you keep it energetic and help the time go by quickly. Twenty minutes of funny and informative anecdotes goes by quickly. Twenty minutes of “uhh” is excruciating.
Beyond the festival, we also spent a lot of money at assorted bookstores, ate ice cream, and had an amazing dinner. Charlottesville is a lovely spot. I highly recommend it.