>Virginia Festival of the Book: Saturday

>Another long day at the Book Festival. This time I did make it for a 10am program: “Book Promotion for the 21st Century” moderated by Bella Stander, featuring Rebecca Skloot, Carleen Brice (whose blog White Readers Meet Black Authors I’ve mentioned here before), publicist Kelly Powers, and Jag Bhalla, who has written a clever book about idioms. This was a very good panel, and helpful. Anytime people are talking about book promotion it pays to listen, and Rebecca Skloot’s experience was particularly interesting (she spent years building a platform while seeking the right publisher for her book).

Then it was time for my last panel. This one was “Writing Contests — Making Them Work for You” moderated by Sally Honenberger, whose had a good deal of success in contests. Also on the panel were Hawes Spencer, publisher of The Hook, which runs a popular local writing contest, Meredith Cole, who has won a mystery book contest, and Rachel Unkefer, who has won The Hook’s contest, and is also on the Board of Writer House in Charlottesville. And me, of course. I’ve won or been a finalist in a number of short story contests, and a few of the stories in my book In an Uncharted Country earned recognition that way. I think we provided some useful information about where to get information about contests (my favorite sources are Poets & Writers, New Pages, the Writer’s Chronicle, and the CRWROPPS listserv).

I then had a few minutes at the bookfair (Splintered Light Books was selling books by festival authors, including mine) before I headed down to hear Daniel Pink‘s talk on “Working Smarter and Living Better” which I gathered was based on his book Drive. Pink is also a Northwestern Alum and we (the Northwestern Alumni Association) had tried to book him for our annual Leadership Development Symposium (I’m on the planning committee), but he had something else scheduled. Too bad, because his talk on what motivates people was terrific. I bought the book and look forward to reading it. I also got a big chocolate chip cookie out of it, as a reward for audience participation (demonstrating the biological urge of hunger).

I then trekked back to the Omni Hotel for the Agents Roundtable, but the room was packed, there weren’t enough chairs, and I’ve already got an agent, so I decided to leave. I had wanted to hear Jenny Bent, with whom I’ve had some nice correspondence in the past, but I needed a break. So I went back out to the mall, got a little bit to eat at the noodle shop, checked email, and rested for a bit before heading down to the Paramount Theater for the . . .

Authors’ Reception. I liked this event last year. Festival Speakers are guests, and others pay to come in and meet the authors. The food is pretty good, and there’s wine and other drinks. I mingled a bit and then saw Elizabeth Strout come in. She gave me a hug and I led her to the bar, where she introduced me to Lee Smith and Lee’s husband Hal Crowther, and I was pleased to be among such important writers. We talked for a long time (and I hoped my friends were watching). My friend Elizabeth McCullough introduced me a couple of Staunton residents I hadn’t met before, both writers and historians who teach at Bridgewater College: Jason Vuic and his wife Kara Vuic.

After the reception, we moved to the theater for American Accents. This program was moderated by Sarah McConnell and taped for the With Good Reason public radio show. The first reader was Lee Smith, who read from her most recent book, Mrs. Darcy and the Blue-eyed Stranger. Then E. Ethelbert Miller read from his new book, The 5th Inning. Next up was Liz Strout, reading from Olive Kitteridge. And last was Colum McCann, who read four short sections from Let the Great World Spin. Wow. What a panel! Then there were a few questions–some basic but good questions about reading influences, the intersection of the roles of teacher and writer, and the future of the book business.

On the way out, as the hordes were about to descend on Liz and the others, I had a chance to say a quick goodbye, and then I headed over the mountain (to a very worried dog, who didn’t know what to make of the fact that I was so late).

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