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!