The Story Between the Stories #006 – Hey, what’s the deal with book festivals?

I’ve always loved books, as far back as I can remember. But book festivals? I never even knew there was such a thing. Then I became an author, and still didn’t know about them. Finally, I decided to actually get serious about my writing and my books; that’s when I found out about book festivals. A part of me likes to think that I would have loved attending them, had I known about them earlier; but most of me knows that the introverted guy that actually runs my social life would have balked at going, and would have probably read a book instead. Knowing what I know now, I can say I would have gotten hooked if I’d tried it. I’m definitely hooked now that I know a little more about them, from the other side of the table.


Jay on the other side of the table. Taken at the Sudden Insight Publishing booth at the 2016 LA Times Festival of Books.

Now, this isn’t a tutorial from a professional that can help you hone the already keen edge of your presentation; if you want that, check out Adam Dreece’s blog. He is a big inspiration for us over here at Sudden Insight Publishing, an amazing author as well as an accessible and helpful role model. His blog is full of keen insights into this world, and many others. All I can do is give you the impressions of a beginner, and tell you how things looked through my wide eyes at the two events that Dawn and I have attended so far.

I mentioned the introversion thing, right? It makes for good artists across the board, generally; but it’s only the first step in bringing the art out of the artist. There’s a reason we have to get it out there, whatever it is, and that’s because it’s meant to be shared. It’s not meant to be shoved down any throats, or forced on anyone; but it does need to be available to those who will really dig on it if they get the chance. Yet the same things that make us good at our art make us bad at talking about it, or ourselves; or so we introverts often think. I would like to propose that it might be a smaller hurdle than it appears. The thought that pulled me out of myself during the last event we attended was the same thought that prompted me to write this, and I’d like to share it with you.

I’ll write this as if it were to an author, one considering their first book festival or disappointed with their last. I think it can easily be translated to speak to any artist, or anyone longing to become one, while giving anyone else who might be curious an idea of what it is to sincerely peddle the outpourings of one’s soul.

I remembered the books I had read as a kid, sitting there and waiting for people to come talk to me the first morning of the festival. I thought about how the authors had anchored themselves and their ideas somewhere deep inside of me, and how I had imagined meeting them sometimes. It was always a nervous imagining; shy gets multiplied when anxiety is added to the equation, after all. Still, I loved the thought of thanking one of my favorites face to face, or all of them; now that they’ve become my heroes, I still love the thought. And what did that make me think of? That’s the thought I’d like to share.

See, I know why I love the writers that I love. They speak to me like they are already inside my head, and somehow always have been, echoing thoughts I’ve already had and suggesting possibilities I’ve never considered with immediately familiar voices. They write about hope, and deeper meaning; and they do it with both gravity and humor. Even just thinking about the way my life has been changed by my favorite authors gets me choked up; if I tell you about their books, I will surely do so with tears in my eyes. That’s how much they mean to me, these people I have never met.

I’m not saying that anyone feels that way about me, or that a whole bunch of folks do. What I’m saying is that a relationship like that is worth pursuing; it benefits the artist, the person appreciating the art, and the art itself. The thought that I might meet one person at the L.A. Times Festival of Books that might feel that way about me someday changed my whole outlook on the event. I realized that we were there to do more than sell books; we were there to learn, and to reach out. I started looking at everyone closer, searching for the members of my soul family. It suddenly became a challenge to not smile, and I was wiping away tears between conversations. They were everywhere! I might not have gotten to talk to them all, but that’s okay; we’ll be back.

(As an aside, I cry when I’m happy or inspired or uplifted. When I’m angry or sad, I solve the problem or stew in my own juices; I don’t cry. My girlfriend loves me, but she still doesn’t get this; when Prince moved on yesterday, I let the tears flow while I talked about him. When she asked if I was okay, I had to explain again: I’m feeling grateful to him for realizing his dreams, and sharing them with us; I’m overwhelmed with the perfect and unique way through which he expressed his life. Of course I’m crying; Prince was fucking awesome. He still is, no matter how you look at it. That makes me very happy. My happiness leaks out of my eyes; remember?)

See, writers are a different kind of artist. Again, you’ll have to translate this to your own art if it isn’t writing; I’m not trying to put down any form of expression, just exploring my own. In writing, there are only words; and those words only come from one place. Words are not easy things to hide behind; they act as horrible shields, and they’re worthless if they don’t come together in a way that feels stark and genuine. Part of reading a great book is stopping in the middle and thinking to yourself, ‘wow, how did you get the courage to write this down?’

I had someone ask me pretty much just that at the festival, and it was all I could do to not leap over the table and hug the guy. It was one of the many great reminders I got over the weekend, informing our decision to beef up our festival schedule next year. Of course, more sales came when I realized where I was actually supposed to be focusing; this is my legacy, my destiny. It’s easy to relax and settle in for the long haul when you remind yourself that the long haul is your dream coming true.

Don’t get me wrong; it’s not about ‘if I just reach one person…’; it’s not about building a bridge, or making a connection, though these things are important. It’s about being honest with yourself about that unique thing you do, the best part of who you are; and about how much you can do to give it life in every way possible. It’s about honoring that part of yourself that you worked so hard to make into something you are proud to share, and honoring the people who might just be moved by it like you were when you made it. It’s about making sure that the minds that think like you get the chance to realize that you think like them; as an artist, that’s your job. The thing you create is the thing that you love the most, the thing that ignites your passion and fuels your drive…but you must be just as driven to learn to share it as you are to perfect the process that it takes to create it. Your art deserves nothing less, whatever it is. Even if you’re a socially awkward introvert. Like me.

Hey, thanks for reading. Sorry for ranting.

All the best,
J.K. Norry
Author and editor:
Sudden Insight Publishing
Founder, member:
The Secret Society of Deeper Meaning’, est. 2016

One comment

  1. Michael Stern says:

    Not a rant. As an introvert, I imagine that your first contacts at the festival must have been a huge hurdle to scale. But you did it. Cool.

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