The Woodstock Writers Festival
When you're engaged in a solitary profession like writing or editing, it's good to get out of the cave every once in a while. The Woodstock Writers Festival, which took place last weekend, offered a terrific opportunity to do just that. There were workshops, panel discussions, dramatic readings, and book signings galore. All in all, it was a book lover's nirvana.
I edit a lot of memoirs, so I like to read a lot of them, too. There was a terrific panel of memoirists Sunday morning consisting of Dani Shapiro (Slow Motion and Devotion), Marion Winik (First Comes Love and The Glen Rock Book of the Dead), John Bowers (Love in Tennessee), and Shalom Auslander (Foreskin's Lament), who has been called the David Sedaris of Orthodox Judaism. (Don't try to figure that out. Just read his stuff.) The panel was moderated by the inimitable Laura Shaine Cunningham (Sleeping Arrangements and A Place in the Country). I now have a couple of months' worth of memoirs to read, and I can't wait. Also included in that stack of waiting books is Martha Frankel's Hats & Eyeglasses. Martha gave an incredibly entertaining and useful talk on Sunday afternoon, the ostensible subject of which was Marketing Through the New Social Media, but really she talked about everything from social networking etiquette and publishing practices to family and relationships. She was warm and generous and a hoot to boot. I'd heard great things about Hats & Eyeglasses, and listening to Martha talk and then thumbing through her book, I can see why.
Later on Sunday CEA colleague Sandi Gelles-Cole and I attended a panel called The Heart of the Business. Shaye Areheart (of her eponymous imprint at Random House), John Baker (former editor of Publishers Weekly), agent Barbara Braun, and Robert B. Wyatt (former Avon, Random House, and St. Martin's editor and now author of two novels) joined forces to discuss the current state of publishing and to answer questions. Barry Samuels -- co-owner ofThe Golden Notebook, Woodstock's beloved indy bookstore -- moderated. I left thinking that if you didn't want to be represented by Barbara Braun and published by Shaye Areheart, you'd be nuts. I bet most of the people in the audience felt the same way.
Almost forgot. Two of my authors -- Susan Richards (Chosen by a Horse and Chosen Forever) and Gail Straub (Returning to My Mother's House) -- were also featured at the festival, and that, of course, was one of the highlights of the weekend for me. Publishing is a strange and frustrating business, but when your authors get the recognition you feel they deserve, all the frustrations are somehow worthwhile.
So whether you're a writer working alone at your craft or an editor doing the same, I encourage you to occasionally leave the comfort of your warm, dark cave and blink your way into the company of others similarly engaged. There are all sorts of reasons to attend writers' festivals; being in the unbeatable company of fellow writers, editors, and book lovers heads my list.