Monday, March 23, 2009

Shout Out to the Virginia Festival of the Book

Last week was Spring Break, that glorious one week in the Spring when kids get out of school, parents get to sleep in, and there may - if I'm lucky - even be a little adventure. This year, I was in luck. I spent the week in Charlottesville, Virginia, one of my old haunts. I love to get back to C-ville, as it is called by townies. It's got all the things I love in a town - eclectic restaurants, student life, TALL trees, an amazing assortment of people, and a lot of old friends.

This year, I went back because I'd been invited to participate in the Virginia Festival of the Book, as well as do a few school visits in the area. I took my girls with me. My oldest was born there in the throes of my dissertation. I gave birth to her and that heartbreaking work of not quite staggering genius - more like staggering sleepless chaos - in the same year. The two will be forever united and tied to C-ville, which means that, despite the tortures of doctoral woes, C-ville holds a very warm place in my heart.

The Virginia Festival of the Book makes C-ville all the neater. It began while I was in grad school, an amazing five day period filled with a smorgasbord of authors from all different genres talking about their craft. What's not to love???

I was honored (and a little intimidated!) to be a part of it this year. It's just plain weird to suddenly become a part of events I've only watched from afar as a lowly spectator. It was surreal to walk into schools in C-ville and be the guest speaker. Cool, but surreal.

If you ever get a chance to attend the festival, do. They have a dedicated group of people who put together the event each year. For children's authors, they create a list of participating authors and send it out to schools to help authors get school visits and schools get great authors. It also helps cover travel expenses for everyone. The event coordinators make sure to show up at the various panels and signings to say hello, make sure everything is going well, thank authors for participating, and put a face with a name. It was all very comfortable and friendly. I felt like I was back home, and appreciated. It was really a wonderful experience.

I also realized while I was there that Book Festivals are being hit by the economic recession as much as anything else. Corporate sponsorships haven't dried up completely, but they've lessened significantly. And yet, here was an event that brought people of all walks of life together to talk about storytelling, perhaps one of the greatest tools we humans possess, the ability to entertain with nothing more than gutteral sounds pieced together that create worlds, save princesses, try heroes, and keep detectives hopping. Storytelling challenges the mind, it opens the imagination, and it brings people together. It really is a pretty cheap but satisfying form of entertainment, that sometimes even teaches me a thing or two.

A hearty shout out to the folks that put together the Virginia Festival of the Book. I appreciate your hard work. I loved being a part of it. And I can't wait until next year!

16 comments:

PJ Hoover said...

Sounds like a blast! I'm glad you went!

beth said...

Wow! That sounds lovely...maybe I should go to that next year! That's not too long of a drive...

Barrie said...

I'm sure you were a hit!

Stacy Nyikos said...

You guys should all go next year. Panel...panel...do I hear a panel in the making???

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

How lovely for you--books are one of the best deals around, IMHO. Cheaper than movies, more lasting than fast food.
Cheers for book festivals! (Ours is next month!)

Tabitha said...

That's great you were a part of something so special to you. :)

I wish people would wake up to the glory of books as entertainment in this economy. They're cheaper than dinner and a movie, and can be enjoyed over and over again. :)

Vodka Mom said...

That sounds like a TON of fun. I love reading about this stuff- and hope that when i get MY children's books published I can attend stuff like that.

Now, where's a good publisher????

xoxo

Vodka Mom said...

and I bet they all loved you.......

American in Norway said...

Congratulations! What an honor.. sounds like a great time!

Bee said...

"C-ville" must have been a wonderful place to attend graduate school. I love going back to places that are really layered with memories.

There are a couple of fantastic book festivals in England -- (one in Oxford that I miss every year by being in Texas) -- and I always think that when I am liberated from school runs I will be an avid participant. Congrats for being a part of it.

Stacy Nyikos said...

Okay, Bee, I just have to ask! How is it you are in Texas every year during the festival in Oxford. That's just too curious a thing not to ask about!

Vodka Mom, in my perhaps jaded opinion, there aren't any general good publishers. The "good" publisher is the one who loves your work and is willing to print it!

Sarah Laurence said...

How much fun to return to UVA like that. I had to push my MA thesis’s defense ahead a month due to my first pregnancy. People would ask when I was due, and I wasn’t sure which baby they were talking about! It is a tragedy the way the poor economy is hurting the book world. You’d think readers would want to escape into fiction.

Kim Kasch said...

Cool. Sounds great.

Stacy Nyikos said...

Sarah, I felt the same way! It was like double-incubating. I finished the first 6 chapters of my dissertation, my goal before giving birth because the last 2 required new research. I turned them in on a Friday, went to bed, and woke up in labor, two weeks early! I guess my daughter was taking advantage of the slight lull in my internal stress! It all worked out, but man, what a year that was.

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Stacy Nyikos said...

Sarah,

Thanks for stopping by! I hope to see you more often!

Stacy