Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Notes From the Third Row: Nantucket Book Festival, Part II

A bit more about my activities at the Nantucket Book Festival in late June. To get the whole story, visit my previous post.

Also heard, seen, experienced...

> At a panel on The First Novel, four debut novelists whose books are gathering heaps of positive press, awards, and reader response, renewed my faith in the joy of savoring the breakthrough literary moment.  Among NoViolet Bulawayo, Alex Gilvarry, Madeline Miller, and Vaddey Ratner, none had depressing tales of having submitted to dozens of agents or collecting impersonal rejections. Indeed, this seemed like a group with a Midas touch, but all sounded grateful, a little stunned at their books' successes, humble.

All four talked about being so very committed to their writing and persevering long before submission even became possible --  one ditched an entire draft and rewrote from scratch; another worked on multiple drafts for 10-plus years; another wrote on even though the idea of anyone else being interested in the subject matter seemed laughable at times; one wrote in secret, not sure the manuscript would ever be done.

> I am now surprisingly interested in Bunker Hill (the book) and Boston's role in the American Revolution, thanks to historical nonfiction author Nathaniel Philbrick.

> One of the highlights of my time there was strolling the local authors' tent on the library lawn, where traditionally published authors shared table space with self-published. Many had written (and photographed or illustrated) books about Nantucket's people, history, culture, art, geography, seasons. Without a podium, microphone, and timetable, conversation swelled. Here, I picked up a signed book for my weather-geek son, met an affable poet and his lovely daughter, extended a blog post invite to a war memoirist, and bought a novel almost purely because I was intrigued by the artisanal expertise of the main character (sure, the author is a friend of a friend, but I don't part with book money just for that reason!)

> Finally, how cool is it that the owner of Nantucket's two bookstores, who is the founder of the Festival, asked all authors to sign the inside of an orange Penguin Volkswagon Beetle?

This is part of a very occasional series in which I pass on some tidbits I've gleaned from sitting in the audience at one literary event or another.

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