Sunday, June 10, 2012

Printers Row Lit Fest 2012

(We're going to pretend that it hasn't been a whole eight months since I posted, okay? I've been writing like crazy, and I hope someday soon you'll think it was time well spent...thanks for sticking with me.)

Yesterday I attended Chicago's Printers Row Literary Festival. Half outdoor flea market/half literary conference, the festival draws some pretty big name writers AND a ton of people who simply love to read. It's eccentric and informative and completely fabulous. I was lucky enough to attend a few panel discussions, and I'd like to share my impressions here. I love listening to writers talk about writing, but to be honest I was also hoping to learn something about how to be effective on a panel. In June `13 Suzy and I will be promoting our book, and I wanted to see how it's done. The ladies I saw yesterday really knew what they were doing--the audiences were seriously engaged.

Women's Fiction:

Panel 1: Starting Fresh with Stacey Ballis, Sarah Pekkanen, Lauren Fox, and Ann Bauer.

Stacey writes "Foodie Lit" which sounds completely awesome. She was funny and practical and could be heard in the back of the room. This is important. Sarah Pekkanen looks like a super model and has a smooth, rich TV voice, kind of like Jane Pauley when she was young. She talked about overarching themes, balancing motherhood and writing, and working well with editors. Her topics were so relatable and presented with humor and grace. I think everyone was charmed.
Lauren Fox was the only author who read from her book. She did this, in part, because she is naturally shy. I think she actually said many writers are "socially inept." (Um...yeah. I think a lot of us are better with the written word.) The excerpt she chose was funny and briskly paced. She read slowly enough so we understood but not so slow as to make us feel uncomfortable. Even though I got the feeling public speaking isn't on her list of favorite things to do, Lauren's quick wit and self-deprecating manner made her nervousness endearing. 

Ann Bauer told the story of how she came up with the idea for her book, The Forever Marriage. It felt prepared, but not scripted. We were riveted. I think every member of that audience thought, if she writes that story as well as she tells it, I am buying that book TODAY.

What I took away from this panel: Work to your strengths. If you know you aren't a good off-the-cuff speaker, let the writing speak. Pick topics your audience can relate to. Every audience loves a story, well-told.

Young Adult Fiction

Panel 2: Dark Days with Veronica Roth, Elizabeth Norris, Bethany Griffin, and Aprilynne Pike.

The room was packed with fans of these ladies--an interesting mix of teens and adults. The moderator asked lots of questions about the process of writing and pumped the writers for "behind the scenes" stories. These writers had four very different personalities, but I could clearly see one commonality--they all had the utmost respect for their readers. Aprilynne discussed fighting to include an epilogue at the end of her Wings series, because she felt readers needed closure. Veronica Roth discussed plotting a trilogy, and Liz Norris talked about the all-important first line (She writes it last, because if it wasn't perfect, she'd have never been able to write on.).

Bethany Griffin has the amazing ability to pause and think after being asked a question. This is not part of my skill set. If there is any amount of silence in a conversation, I fill it. With anything. Bethany took a minute to think about her answers, and when she spoke, her comments were thoughtful and offered a good deal of insight.

What I took away from this panel: Be genuine and honest without being gossipy. It's okay to discuss the writing process--no need to shroud it in mystery. And...uh...don't be a nervous talker. A few seconds of radio silence is okay.

So...check out these writers' books! Happy summer reading season!


  1. Love seeing your name on my feed! I've missed the writing world and glad you're popping back in when I'm trying to get back in myself!!!!

  2. If you would like to experience a little of Printers Row Lit Fest. Check out to watch our monthly "Authors Showcase" program. The July and August episodes are dedicated to the Chicago Lit Fest. See what you missed or review the fun you had.