Do you hear that?
No, no, ignore that ridiculous cricket. (Bah! Why must he interrupt my morning?) I wish you could hear how quiet it is here. The only sounds around me are the hum of my computer, the occasional passing of a truck, and the click-clack of my keyboard. It's glorious!
Know why? I'm home alone. Misterwrites is at work, bigwrites is at school, and littlewrites is with my parents for some one-on-two time. I very nearly don't know what to do with myself. Do I use this chance to catch up on chores, uninterrupted? Surely not. Do I focus on some writing, uninterrupted? Or take a good book to my favorite chair and devour it? Yes, both of those sound nice. Maybe I'll do them each through the course of the day...
After my post about the Omaha Lit Fest, Joanne asked me to share some of the things I took away from the event. Thanks for expressing that interest, Joanne. Here you be.
The first panel I attended was called Plagiarism, Fraud, and Other Literary Inspiration. The participating authors, though touching on varying topics within the broader scope, seemed always to come back to yes, plagiarism, but most often the recently-seen (and unwelcomed) practice of touting fiction as memoir. (Think James Frey, A Million Little Pieces.) Where is the line drawn between the author's truth, as a creative writer forming their own world, and the "truth" they're selling their readers? Obviously no blunt answer was given, but I gleaned from debate that we're all held responsible for what we write... be it fiction or non-fiction... and how we relay what we've written to our audience. We're held accountable for both presentation and representation. How do you feel about it?
Next was If You Haven't Got Anything Nice to Say About Anybody, Come Sit Next to Me: "writers and artists on the responsibility to offend." An odd choice for me, because I seek to offend no one. Ever. But rousing conversation ensued, when panelists talked about what offends them as readers, but also what they've experienced with offended readers of their own works. This is from where my broad generalization that the ambience was so liberal came, because while topics and words were thrown around with ease and comfort (sex and a certain "f" word, the latter for which I have absolutely no need), and the authors discussed how quick "society" is to over-react or become uncomfortable. And I was offended. Not the kind of get-up-and-leave, or let-them-know-and-cause-a-scene kind of offended, but I found it distasteful. That said, it reiterated to me where my comfort level lies. What am I comfortable discussing as a writer? As a person? How will I uphold my values and morals through the words I write? What about you?
**Please visit the comments screen and scroll to #10(ish) for my example of the type of offenses relevant to this discussion**
The third panel I attended was How Does That Make You Feel? Writers on Psychology. Here, panelists talked about their works, even reading excerpts, and how they found peace and healing through the process - and hoped to help others find the same. Most were memoirs, with topics such as abuse and addiction, though one author read from her novel (in which therapy played a role). What I learned from this hour was that, regardless of what we write, there's a certain catharsis involved. Whether we need personal healing from the content within or simply find the process of putting words and stories together therapeutic - and the idea of others reading our words and stories - we all feel something deeper. Your thoughts?
And last (for me) was Pretty On The Outside: Designers, Publishers and Writers on Book Cover Design. I admit, I only stayed halfway through this one, since, in part, that niggling feeling was starting up; the one telling me I had sweet daughters to get back to... The panelists showed us their books, and talked about their involvement over the finished look of their covers (both from big houses and independent pubs). It was kind of a premature topic for me, since I don't even have representation yet, but I found it interesting nonetheless. It sounded as though authors can get quite a bit of say in conception and design of their book's cover - which I thought neat, since I've always had a particular idea in mind for Bliss Lake (my novel). But what I got most from this discussion was that authors need to be involved. There's no reason you shouldn't, especially after you've sold your book and your role has transitioned into marketing, be proactive in each of the steps for publication. Maybe this is common knowledge, maybe this is stuff one's agent and/or editor would make clear, anyway. But it was something I'd never thought of before... and it makes sense. Our job isn't over once we've procured representation, or even a publisher. We still have to heavily involve ourselves... if for no other reasons than to insure we've represented ourselves well, that we're comfortable with our book's outcome, and that it will be at its best, all said and done. Do you agree?
And that, my friends, is what I learned from the Lit Fest. I should mention, the Fest was absolutely free. I merely showed up and gained entry. And I suspect they're all that way. If you've interest in attending such a festival, search google for "literary festivals" in your nearest big city. I'll be curious to see what you yourself gain from going...