Midwest Literary Festival ramblings…Part II

And it continues…

11:05am I tear out of church hoping to try to make the tail end of the first workshop, Working with Computers. I only made it for the last five minutes, but turns out, I needn’t have rushed. The woman I sit next to gives me a rundown of what the talk was about, mostly about how to use Excel to organize submissions and outlines, and how to backup documents. Seeing that I customized Outlook for my task list/submissions tracker, and I use Writer’s Cafe for outlining, I’m way ahead of the game. I did miss out on her thoughts of blogging, but she has her talk on her website, so I plan to check it out.

12:30pm I hasten to the room next door for Jane Friedman’s How to Publish a Novel. Jane Friedman is the editorial of the Writer’s Digest books, including the yearly Writer’s Market, so she’s a Very Important Person to listen to. Although my Willow book is nowhere near ready for the stuff she teaches, it’s still good stuff. Most notes I’ve ever taken at this Festival.

1:15pm While waiting in line to ask Ms. Friedman a couple of questions, I finally talk to this guy who’s been roaming about the Festival grounds. He’s in all black: black shirt, black backpack, black skirt, black socks, black boots. I’m pretty sure the skirt is bait just to talk to him, so I bite. “Why the skirt?”

“Kilt,” he corrects. “It’s because I’m Scottish.” He then proceeds to plug the Novelist’s Bootcamp he’s holding at the Schaumburg Library next week. Seeing that I was at that library last week, I instantly make the connection. I take a card and while I don’t make promises to attend, I do make a note to check into it.

1:30pm While waiting for the next workshop to start, I wander to the Twilight Tales tent. They know me by name now. Chat a few minutes, then I follow the sound of steel drums and calypso to the music stage. I browse the book tent next to the stage and buy a cookbook.

2:00pm I’ve been waiting for this workshop all day: Science Fiction, Horror, and Fantasy, is there any space left on the shelf for speculative fiction? When I find the room, to my disappointment, none of the writers are exclusive Fantasy writers. They dabble all over the genres. Worse, it looks like most of them are from the Short Story panel from yesterday. The room is pretty narrow and cramped–I have to crawl under a table to get to a seat. And the classroom sits pretty much on the street, right across from the music stage, so steel drums are drifting in. I steel myself for a lousy time…

…but instead have tremendous fun! None of the surrealness is present in today’s panel, and though there’s still a lot of wisecracks, it’s obvious it’s due more because the panelists know and are comfortable with each other, instead of grabbing for laughs (I’m still trying to scrub the severed dog’s head image from yesterday). I’ve also learned two very invaluable things–that every story could have different genre elements–if you get rejected in one genre, try another. And that authors, even well respected and famous authors, still deal with rejection (had a long talk about that, in fact). It made me think a lot on what I classify as my stories and how I can expand my marketing of them. Out of all the workshops, I think this one is the most beneficial.

3:00pm A rumble of thunder shakes the room. We look outside to see clouds hovering over the sky.

3:07pm Another rumble of thunder. The calypso music falters, then stops. Some people start pulling down the tents outside. Some people sneak out of the workshop, frowning at the darkening sky.

3:22pm I’m deep in conversation with the panelists and another writer. He’s a stay-at-home father of two children (4 & 2) and he wants to know how to balance writing with finding markets. I tell him how I juggle stuff with Daniel while the panelists rattle off websites and mailing lists. We’re all writing down notes and talking about writing with children running about, how to do as much as you can and keep at it.

3:27pm I stare in dismay from the college lobby at the street being pelted with rainwater. The next workshop’s in a couple of minutes. I thank the panelists for all their insights, and they plug Twilight Tales, where they are members. Okay, okay. I get it. I’ll check it out. I hoist my book wrapped in its plastic bag over my head and make a mad dash for the building across the street.

3:33pm I’m wet and freezing cold, but that doesn’t stop me from enjoying Writing About Music: A Conversation With Jim DeRogatis. Actually, the workshop isn’t really about writing about music per se–it’s more a guy doing a Q&A with Jim DeRogatis, music critic of the Chicago Sun-Times and co-host of Sound Opinions, which used to be on WXRT and is now on Chicago Public Radio. And I confess, the only reason I came to this workshop was just to listen to him. He’s awesome. Learned a lot about the Chicago Music scene, Dylan, Kanye West, the slow death of radio, the evil overlord record companies, and Underground Christian Music. I didn’t even know there was Underground Christian Music. You know what would be even cooler? Underground Christian Worship Music. That would be so awesome!

But what really blew my mind was the woman across the aisle from me. She’s an older black woman and she’s asking all sorts of great questions: How do most garage bands deal with sudden success? Does Dylan ever reveal his ‘true’ self, or is it all just a joke to him? I am overawed by her questions and talk to her afterwards. Turns out, she’s writing a fiction book on rock and roll. Is that cool or what?

5:15pm Due to the rainstorm, the streets are prematurely cleared–nothing remains but the sandbags that anchored the tents and scattered Festival papers. It’s quite anti-climatic, but I still feel somewhat good. And as I dash between rainbursts, I’m already planning on what to do next year.

More thoughts to come…