Monday, April 19, 2010

CityLit Festival Highlights

On Saturday, April 17th, my husband and I found ourselves standing at the front doors of the Enoch Pratt Free Library, waiting for the clock to strike 10am, and signal the beginning of my very first Book Convention.

I found out about this event quite on accident, as I was perusing the other literary blogs out there in the world wide web-isphere.

As the vendors and DIY authors and publishers set up their tables, I stood in the back and soaked it all in. Prepared with a pamphlet that outlined the days itinerary, having highlighted the panels and readings I was most interested in attending, I watched as Central Hall began to fill up.

Shy, in the presence of my hubby (who, truth be told, is not much of a reader, and would rather have stayed home), I zigzagged my way through the tables, glancing at the books that were displayed, seeing what might catch my eye. I had assumed the books were going to be free for the taking, but that was not the case - most authors and DIY's and publishers were selling their books at about $10 a pop.

A few business cards swapped hands, and we decided to make our way to the first panel of the day.

I sat in on the DIY Comics, Zines, and Chapbooks panel, which was hosted by Marianne Amoss of the Urbanite. She was holding discussions with Neal Shaffer, Pat Tandy, and Christopher Casamassima. Sadly, there were only a handful of people sitting in, but I enjoyed listening to them talk about self promoting, word of mouth - the use of Twitter and Facebook, and other social networking means to get their products out there - and the overall powerful message of "don't let people tell you what you can't do! Go out there and do it!".

I crossed the hall and got comfortable as Carol Maccini introduced Masha Hamilton (author of 31 hours) and Thrity Umrigar (author of The Weight of Heaven). Both women took turns reading from their novels, and then opened the room up for questions. Carol had read both novel, and made some very interesting connections between the two - religious/spiritual undertones, strong flawed lead male characters... I had the opportunity to ask both novelists what the writing process was like for them - How long was it from the beginning of the idea to the first rough draft, and then how long was the editing and revising phase? I also asked them how close the final, printed version was to the original draft.

From there, I bounced back to the other side of the hall to witness my first 510 reading. It was hosted by Michael Kimball (who has agreed to send me a copy of his new paperback "Dear Everybody" for review!!!!), and featured the following authors who read a 10 minute section of their novels for our listening pleasure: Geoff Becker ("Hot Springs"); Andy Devine ("Words"); Dawn Raffel ("Further Adventures in the Restless Universe"); Sam Lipsyte ("The Ask"). There were no questions from the audience in this particular reading panel, however, Devine and Lipsyte's snippets were hilarious, and Becker's sneak peek was lovely.

The final reading was performed by Elizabeth Kostova, author of The Historian, and her latest release The Swan Thieves. After reading from the book, she took questions from the audience, which ranged from how she researches her novels, to whether she considered writing a straight history novel, to advise for writers trying to get published.

I got to ask Elizabeth the final, and in my opinion, best question! I wanted to know what she thought of the new digital craze, eBooks and eReaders, and how she thought they affected the future of writing and publishing.

It turns out that Elizabeth is not a fan of digital books, and she predicts it will get harder and harder to get by as a writer as the eReader fad grows. She mentioned how her publishing company would not allow a contract without approval to release her new novel digitally, though they are going to wait 3 months to release the eBook version, in order to give the hardcover a fighting chance.

Elizabeth also made the comment about how a book becomes an extension of your body, and that she can't imagine "an old Kindle will smell the same as an old book". I loved that!! Elizabeth Kostova is a book smeller!!

Overall, I thought the event was well worth the 3 1/2 hour trip, and overnite stay in the Hampton Inn and Suites Hotel! It is definitely going on my yearly Must-Do list, and I encourage you to check it out and put it on YOUR Must-Do list as well.

CityLit Festival 2010

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