Midwest Literary Festival Rambles…Part I

9:33am Stupid Amoco BP. What the heck is this prepay thing you have to do now? Trying to get my card to work at two pumps makes me storm inside the store in exasperation to prepay the cashier and tell the lady at the food counter that I want a breakfast panini. 15 minutes later….I’m still waiting for that panini when the lady comes from the back. “Oh gosh! It’s still in the grill!” Burning my mouth on hot cheese, I get to the Festival just in time for a traffic backup into the parking garage.

11:20am After some frantic scrambling, I find the first workshop in Waubonsee Community College: Who Does What in the World of Publishing? fifteen minutes before it ends. I still get a lot out of it, for instance, learning a bit about literary fiction vs. commercial fiction and how bloggin can be used as a marketing tool. Good stuff.

11:35am Mouth is feeling pretty dry, but I first head over to the Twilight Tales tent to see if my friend Chris is there, as well as check out some of their stuff. The folks there were quite eager to tell me about themselves and urged me to browse the books they have. I’d be more impressed once I get my tongue to stop re-enacting last summer’s drought. I’m jonesing for some hot tea mighty bad.

11:45am Find a corner bar that sells hot tea for a buck. Mmmm…hot tea….

11:55am Juggling my styrofoam cup and the festival schedule, I pause to enjoy the jazzy sounds of the Papo quartert playing on the music stage. With three electric guitarists and a saxophone/egg player, it transports me to an alternate world where I play bass for the all-girl band “Unbelievably Pregnant”. This gets me thinking about bass players in general and how, according to a Kids in the Hall episode, they always get short-shafted.

12:00pm I wander back into the college to peek my head into the Finding Your Voice track, but I heard stuff like that before, so I wander back out. I decide to amuse myself listening to various authors read from their works at the Twilight Tales Tent.

12:07pm I break down and actually buy a couple of things at the Twilight Tales Tent.

1:00pm Still no sign of Chris.

1:16pm Getting hungry.

1:22pm I go get a brat, but the foodstall is out of brats. Won’t get any more for fifteen minutes. Seeing that all I have is four dollars on me, I decide to wait and read On Writing Well by William Zissner.

1:30pm Still no brats.

1:42pm The brats finally come. I stuff my face.

1:45pm I notice at the tent next to me, a few people go in and out, chat with the guy in a casual blue shirt who pours them a glass of wine and offer appetizers. Jokingly, I ask if they’re free. The man said, “Sure! Why don’t you come over once you’re finished eating?”

1:46pm I saunter into the tent and chat with the man in the blue shirt. Turns out that he’s the mayor of Aurora, Tom Weisner. We chat about how long the festival’s been taking place and his communication officer comments on the free city-wide Wifi (“I got Yahoo! This rocks!”) He pours me a glass of Zinfindel and I sip on it while nibbling a chocolate covered strawberry.

2:15pm I head into the North Island Center across the street from the college. This is where I had my coversation last year with Tad Williams. Inside, swarms of people migrate to tables where scores of authors sign their newly purchased books. The writer inside me hops up and down in a caffienated flea dance (Authors! Authors! Authors! Authors! Authors!)

2:30pm I sit in on the Writing for Children workshop. Quite digging it because there are two, count them, two black women on the panel, a picture book writer and a literary agent. I learn quite a lot about the children’s writing market. Later, I come up and talk with the women, plus the moderator. I even get to pitch my Walking Boy story to the agent. Her response: “Send it to me marked ‘requested materials’.” I leave grinning from ear to ear.

4:00pm I go into the Short Story panel.

4:22pm I ask a simple question about character vs. plot driven stories and all hell breaks loose. Fists shake in anger. Curses fly through the air as the panelists argue with each other. When they start comparing Casablanca to Armegeddon, the moderator throws up her hands. “Come on, people! We gotta get back on track!” I shrink in my seat, rethinking on asking them on how to start a short story.

4:45p I ask it anyway.

5:00pm I sit in the foyer, my mind turned to mush. A lady comes up to me and says, “Are you the one who asked about the character/plot driven story? Great question!” I can still hear them swearing in my head. I decide to head home for the day.

5:17pm I’m driving around downtown Aurora, trying to figure out the one-way streets. I realize that I’m swearing under my breath…

More to come…


Early Morning Musing before I head to the Festival

Bees circle around my boy.

He knows about bees because he sees them a lot in our Dr. Seuss books. But this is the first time he is confronted with their lumbering, yellow striped bodies as they hover around him and his fire engine pushcar. Daniel’s amazed and delighted. “Bee!” He calls out to me.

“Yes, bee,” I reply, frozen in midlunge to grab him away.

But Daniel doesn’t know how to fear bees. But he also doesn’t blindly grab at one. He stands perfectly still, watching as the bees hover close, their feelers waving, inspecting. Then, they give a collective shrug and fly off to cluster on the white starbursts of my Chinese Chives.

My son says, “Bye-bye, bees!” Then, he runs and actually leaps off our patio onto our sea of grass. Hardly a cause for concern, because our patio is at ground level, but the fact that my son treats our lawn as his own swimming pool gives me another reason to marvel him. First, this kid shows me how to behave around bees, not by screaming and flailing my arms, making a stinging imminent, but remaining still to showing them: no, I’m not a flower. Move along…move along. And then, to leap into our lawn, putting all his childish joy in his legs and hurling himself into the last bit of summer, taking advantage of the sun and blue sky and the warm air scented with a grassy onions.

I want to leap through life like that. I think God commands us to leap into life like that.

Daniel, who still has trouble with the mechanics of straight jumping up-and-down, squeals and runs to the patio again to try out his newfound skill. But our neighbor then chooses to come out on his own patio (much higher than ours). Daniel spies him and decides to greet him by lifting up his shirt and showing off his diaperless bottom. “Hi!”

A son and a moon on a warm summer’s day. Ah, life is too full of bliss.