On Saturday morning at Crittenden County Public Library in Western Kentucky, we’re presenting what I consider to be the most enjoyable of literary events, as both an author and a fan of great writing: Meet the Authors.
For three hours, nine authors will talk with visitors, share their stories and experiences, and participate in three different panel discussions. Best part of this: The panel discussions are unscripted and unscheduled. Event host Regina Merrick of Crittenden County Library (a fine writer and blogger herself!) is going to simply call a spontaneous panel discussion several times during the event – and off we’ll go, to discuss a topic that she presents.
We’re going to have quite a cast on Saturday. It includes:
Jennifer Kennedy Dean – Life Unhindered! and many more
Robert Barlow – At the Water’s Edge, America’s Next War Between the States
Mike Guillerman – Face Boss
Michael Freeland – Blood River to Berlin
Molly Harper – Nice Girls Don’t Have Fangs, Nice Girls Don’t Date Dead Men, Nice Girls Don’t Live Forever
Robert Yehling – The Write Time: 366 Exercises to Fulfill Your Daily Writing Life, The River-Fed Stone, Writes of Life and more
Tom McKenney – Jack Hinson’s One-Man War
Chris Evans – South of the Mouth of Sandy
Samuel Beachy – Guarded by God: In the Midst of an Earthquake
But wait a second … didn’t I just participate in a Meet the Authors, of sorts? Oh yeah – two weeks ago at the Tucson Festival of Books. At that event, I became a fan, as some of my favorite voices and authors strolled through the room … Luis Alberto Urrea, Joy Harjo, Michael Gelb, the wonderfully irascible Elmore Leonard, Kim Addonizio …
Which leads to my point: attending a Meet the Authors is a tremendous experience for working writers, recreational writers, students, teachers, prolific readers and published authors alike. In fact, I consider it one of the most valuable things a writer or reader can do in the course of their life’s journey with words. Here are 10 quick reasons why I think all of us should attend Meet the Authors events when they circle through our communities:
1) To meet the authors of our home areas. They are remarkable sources of information and insight – and probably some books you’d like to read. They’re also the types of people that will intrigue students – and perhaps spark a dream.
2) Always navigate to the local history authors – the best source you can ever turn to if writing a history book that includes that particular area. Or trying to find out about the secret little tales of your locale.
3) To hear how authors craft stories. I may have written eight books and ghosted five others, but I will not stop asking this question when I meet authors. In their responses, we can literally craft our own stories better – and experience them better as readers.
4) To realize you’re not the only one having trouble writing. We all have trouble; we all struggle; we all want to throw our computers out the door like footballs (and some have!). Yet, the successful author is the one who dusts himself or herself off one more time than he/she falls – and their secrets to continuous writing are the tips I want to hear.
5) To hear how authors read. I swear, if teachers and students – and adults who have trouble reading – would learn the tricks authors use to read (after all, they are gathering valuable material for books), the literacy problem in this country would be reduced greatly. We turn reading into an adventure that involves hunting, digging, seeking, imagining, exploring, discovering and realizing new things. Who wouldn’t want to read if it were presented this way?
6) To learn the latest from the book business. This is mostly an item for writers, but the publishing industry is in a state of flux now, that it is incumbent upon every working writer to know what’s going on. Many participants in Meet the Authors are on tour with new books; they certainly know the latest buzz.
7) To make new friends and stay in touch. Befriend your favorite local authors. Communicate with them; share ideas with them; grow a friendship with them. It’s a very special rapport that feeds both people.
8) Hear some crazy stories from the writing life. We don’t all lock ourselves in offices 24/7 and glue ourselves to a computer (unless we’re on deadline). Many writers enjoy some of life’s greatest adventures in the course of their work – some of which makes it into their books.
9) Hear the back stories. Before we write books, we spend months or years developing the material. What are the life experiences or back stories that preceded the writing of a poem, essay, song or novel? I always ask for back stories; it provides instant inside perspective to the story. Readers should always ask this question when mingling with authors.
10) Celebrate the written word. What better way to celebrate the written word than to mingle with the authors at a party? Then go home and either read something new, or write those stories or thoughts you’ve kept sequestered for years!
Make it a point to attend a Meet the Authors in your community, or a group reading at a local bookstore. For my Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky friends … see you Saturday in Marion!