It is late on Wednesday.
There are two days between me and the Williamsburg Book Festival.
This is my first book festival, although Looking for Lydia; Looking for God was released in July of 2015.
For the first few months, I surprised everyone by becoming an energetic and fairly skillful marketer. Then life showed up, as it will, and my marketing slowed to a crawl. I kept writing–my Sunday blogs, occasional guest blogs for friends, and elaborate outlines and notes for my next book. I searched for opportunities to write. Writing, I have discovered, comes naturally. Marketing does not.
And so I find myself, on a Wednesday night, trying to remember how to use The Square, wrestling with my banner stand, searching for my poster with its tabletop easel.
I am rusty. I have forgotten how to talk about my book.
A significant bonus of this particular festival is that I will be meeting an author whose work I admire and whose novel, Thanksgiving, I reviewed on this blog. We will be sharing a table. This provides one of those rare opportunities to actually meet one of the people I’ve “met” only online in this strange new world of the Internet.
Mary and I already occupy a common ground as writers and a more intimate one through her fine book. Now we will occupy, for the space of one day, the same piece of earth. Two books, two writers, a couple of computers, a table in Virginia. Magic.
It is Saturday morning. My son arrives promptly at 7:30 so we can make the 45-minute drive to Williamsburg and be there when the Stryker Center opens. Mary and her family will have driven in on Friday and I expect to see her early. She has promised to bring a tablecloth.
As we begin to unpack, she comes through the door and I recognize her immediately. Very quickly, our table is ready to go and we sit back and take a deep breath before the show begins.
Our books complement each other in both cover art and content. As it turns out, our personalities are also a good match, and we begin immediately talking in earnest as if, as Mary put it when we were all heading out, “I have met a good friend who feels like she has been a friend forever.”
We have both arrived with a team-me with my son, Mary with her husband and three children. They do their duty then disappear to enjoy the rest of what turns out to be a large festival.
Our table is strategically and intriguingly located directly across from the table where the keynote speaker, Rita Mae Brown, will be signing books. We get some traffic from the lines waiting for her signature.
Mary and I share a publisher, Koehler Books, and before long I have discovered two more Koehler authors. This clearly calls for a group photograph.
In the past two years I have been astonished by the large, thriving, and supportive community of writers online. We come in all shapes and sizes, write everything from memoirs to novels to cookbooks, and–for the most part–are eager to help and support one another wherever we can. I found my first website consultant through a recommendation by someone on the Koehler Author Forum on Facebook. I found Koehler Books when a writer for The Virginian-Pilot was putting together an article about me and the research I was doing for what turned out to be Looking for Lydia. We had initially connected on LinkedIn.
But today Mary Arno and I were not sitting at home in our comfortable sweats typing into our laptops. We were out in the real world, and it was a long day. We did well, but I was feeling it by 4:00 when we were packing up. Don’t ever be fooled into believing that writers find their work smooth sailing. Writing is hard work. Finding a publisher in today’s market, especially for first-time authors, is close to impossible. Mary and I got very, very lucky. We found John Koehler.
In addition to reviewing Mary’s book on my blog, I have written nearly twenty other reviews, all for writers I only know on the Internet. It has been a real pleasure to write each one. And for as long as I am able, I will continue to write them. My mantra has become “Authors Supporting Authors.” There are a great many books out there. Good writers are an endangered species. To borrow a phrase from a friend, we need to stay in the middle of the herd. I am finding it an awfully good herd.
You can buy Mary Arno’s Thanksgiving on Amazon
Looking for Lydia; Looking for God is available on Amazon
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Buy a book. Write a book. Support an author.