It’s Spring, and that means a raft of literary festivals, especially in the South. At last count, I noted eleven in this part of the country. Every state worth its name seems to have one – some as short as one day, some lasting several – in which writers and readers are brought together in joyous celebrations of the written word.
I’ll be involved in two during the month of April.
On Saturday, April 19, it’s the Alabama Book Festival in Montgomery. It’s a day-long affair featuring author presentations, workshops, book signings, food, music, and schmoozing. More than 50 authors, all with Alabama connections, will be there to share our work and enjoy the interaction with readers. alabamabookfestival.org
Then Thursday – Saturday, April 24-26, it’s the Alabama Writers Symposium in Monroeville, home of Harper Lee, author of one of the two truly iconic books in American fiction, To Kill A Mockingbird (the other being Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn). The Symposium honors an outstanding author and literary scholar each year, and this year the awards go to two longtime friends and truly gifted writers – novelist and screenwriter Mark Childress and historian Wayne Flynt. www.facebook.com/pages/Alabama-Writers-Symposium/
Writing, as I’ve said many times before, is lonely, painful work – an individual sport. We scribblers spend hours, days, years behind closed doors battling demons, writers’ blocks, and infected paper cuts. Then at some point we stagger out into the light of day clutching dog-eared stacks of paper and proclaim, “I just wrote THE END.” At this point, as I tell aspiring writers, art meets commerce. Writer meets reader. To have a reader express an interest in what you’ve just toiled over so mightily is the payoff. When organizers of a literary festival bring tons of readers together to express interest, that’s as good as it gets.
When writers gather, we talk shop: who’s written what, which agents are hot, who’s got the latest mega book deal; and we commiserate over the profound changes, for good and evil, that are taking place in the book business. We swap tales over manuscripts rejected, e-books launched, the pleasures and perils of marketing. The art/commerce thing.
But more importantly, we congratulate each other over having written, and we rejoice in the opportunity to look our readers in the eye and thank them for their encouragement and support. It’s a love fest.
And for readers, it’s a chance to meet, see, hear, touch the poor souls who labored so long and hard to bring forth works of poetry, fiction, memoir, history – all of the written things that entertain, inform, educate, and even disturb.
If you love good writing and reading, seek out a literary festival near you and go. You’ll find yourself among folks of like mind, you’ll have fun, and you’ll make a bunch of deserving writers mighty happy.