This weekend I shared a booth with two other local writers at the Twain Harte Summer Art and Wine Fair.
When I was asked to do it, it felt like a no-brainer. Having a table at an art fair sounded so glamorous to me, such a fun way to sell books. I couldn’t wait to do it.
But, yesterday morning, fifteen minutes into the experience, I turned to my husband and said in a low voice, “I made a mistake. I want to go home.” He replied, “The fair is not even open yet.” Which was true. It opened at 10:00 a.m. We had arrived early to set up and make sure that we could find parking. But the first people I saw walked by with their heads averted as if they were allergic to books. It was already hot. I loved the women writers who were also in this booth, but I am an introvert. I can have intense conversations with people and really enjoy it until I hit a wall. And the wall can come up really fast. All of a sudden, I will want to be off by myself, with the ceiling fan on, and a cat by my side, and say not a word to anyone for at least forty-five minutes. But for this fair, I had a commitment to be in that booth until 5:00 p.m. on both weekend days. It felt like it would be endless.
And there were moments during the weekend when time crawled. It was hot, the type of heat that if you listened to the news, they told you to stay in your house. Sometimes, when no one visited our booth, I wished I could take a minute to sit back and lose myself in my phone for ten minutes, but my phone was dying. I couldn’t use it for entertainment purposes. I had to save it for when a customer had a credit card transaction, and I needed to use the Square application.
So I had to hang out. I conversed with my writer friends. We grew close quickly. When you have hours of moments where you can talk, barriers fall away fast. And we had this central thing in common. We were all there because we had a calling to write. It’s not something that a sane person would do. It’s challenging, out of control, exhilarating. It makes you vulnerable in the world. There’s a part of your soul printed out as a book, and someone may pick up what you wrote, leaf through the pages, and walk away. Or someone can stop in front of your work and say, “I have to have this.” This weekend, I had variations of both of those experiences.
I learned things. There are people who say, “I don’t read,” which to me feels like, “I don’t drink water.” It’s difficult to imagine my life without books. It would be a sad state of affairs for me. Other people said, “I have a stack of books waiting at home.” A lot of people told me they didn’t have time to read. Then I would talk to them about audiobooks, how I listened to stories on walks, on drives, when I tried to get to sleep. I would say that, I was proud to have my first talking cat fantsay, The Loudest Meow, in that form. In the near future, all of my books will also be available as audiobooks. I left the festival this weekend more convinced than ever that audiobooks will be a big part of our future.
By the end of today, I felt like I wanted to do more festivals. My husband compared it to golfing, where you spend the day hitting the ball into water traps, missing putts, and generally falling short, but you can have one good swing, and it made all the difference. All the other mistakes and disappointments faded out of memory. From this experience, I will always remember meeting the young writers I met. It felt so good to see their excitement and hear their commitment to their work and to encourage them to keep going. For that alone, i would want to be at the table at these events with my books.