Fast forward to this morning, when I showed up at 10:20, halfway through the first event I picked and they turned me away at the door: "No more, too full, too late." Tardy as I always am, I kind of expected that. I smiled and said that's okay, because to me, it is. There's a certain amount of letting the fates guide me at things like this.
Rather than having a jam-packed schedule, I'm okay with not making it to a couple things so I can wander the booths and get lost in the crowd, open to whatever I might find (or finds me).
This is the AJC Decatur Book Festival, the largest independent book festival in the country.
- After wandering the booths and sweating it up for thirty minutes, I found the library (air-conditioned, thank you!), where Margot Livesey would be reading from The Flight of Gemma Hardy and answering questions. For those who don't know, Gemma's story is Livesey's homage to Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte. Livesey joked that if you'd told her five years ago she'd be writing back to Charlotte Bronte, as it were, she'd have laughed it off. But once the idea came to her, she knew her first challenge would be two-fold: how not to irritate those fond of the original, and how not to exclude those unfamiliar with the story. She met the challenge by paralleling the structure, the situation, and the characters in the first chapter, and then in subsequent chapters allowing Gemma to become her own person in a way different from the character of Jane Eyre. In a way a young Scottish girl of the 1960s would have differed from a young north England girl in the early 1800s. Livesey also said, notably, that once she decided on the novel, she never looked at Jane Eyre or read about the Bronte's until she was done.
- On the way out from Ms. Livesey's reading and q&a, I ran into the girl (young lady?) (female about my age) who'd eloquently introduced her, Laura, who mentioned she was with Vouched Books. I introduced myself, we talked a little, and she told me which booth to find her at. After lunch, and another missed session because I just couldn't eat my Thai food that fast, I headed toward my next event and finally located the booth Laura was stationed at. We started talking and it turned out that besides a love of books and small presses, we both graduated from colleges within a half-hour of each other in rural Indiana, and we both have connections to my hometown, Champaign-Urbana. I wanted to support Vouched and the work they do to support small presses and emerging authors, so I asked her to recommend a book of poetry. -THIS- is what I love about people who are in the book business because they are passionate about literature: she was a font of intimate knowledge of each of the books on her table. She'd read them all, and even turned to specific poems, read one to me from one book, and pointed me to specific poems in other books. She seemed to apologize a little for being too sale-sy (my word, not hers), but what I saw was a careful reader and raving fan of the books she was selling. I can smell a pushy sales-person a mile away (they hover around the book festival, too), but Laura, my friend, you are not one of those.
- After buying The Trees The Trees by Heather Christle, I said goodbye to Laura and headed to the Local Prose stage, which is a prosaic name for where local readers and writers get to hear, question, and mix-and-mingle with fellow Atlantans who've had novels published. First was Kimberly Brock, author of The River Witch. Unfortunately, I came in late so I heard the end of her q&a session, but she spoke about setting the book in the deep south, on an island off the coast of Georgia, and how she decided to stick with the title despite the risk it might sound like the kind of book it's not (i.e. paranormal romance-ish, anyone? Thankfully, not The River Witch). Next came an author by the name of Zoe Fishman, who shared from her most recent novel Saving Ruth. In her introductions and the discussion that followed, I found myself relating to Ms. Fishman. She always wanted to be a writer, but felt she lacked the drive to actually write that first novel, so she signed up for a marathon & trained for several months. Once she crossed the finish line at 26.2 miles she knew, if she could complete a marathon, she could commit to writing a novel. Sound familiar? I know in the back of my head, I'm thinking the same thing: if I can run a marathon, I can write a novel. If Zoe can do those things and felt the same way I do, like I just don't have enough drive, then maybe I can run a marathon and finish a novel!
There's something about meeting those local authors that jazzed me up, like here we all are, in Georgia, not New York, and we're all writing, and it happened to them, and with hard work and consistency it could happen to me, too.
- To round out my evening in Decatur, I set my course for Eddie's Attic, to hear "A Room of One's Own," a three-course meal of live story-telling around that theme, based on Virginia Woolf's essay. If you've ever listened to The Moth, it's kind of like that. Only Atlanta has some of their own versions, one of which is Carapace. Today the three raconteurs told "true personal stories about men, women, and the making of art." Their stories were funny, poignant, told without notes, and above all, inspiring.
I wish I could include everything from today (technically yesterday, now), but I'm tired and I want to get well-rested for Decatur Book Festival - Part II. Come back in approximately 24 hours to catch the highlights of what me and my little green notebook find tomorrow (or what finds us!).