A recent article in SALON, Better Yet, Don’t Write that Novel, lamented that NaNoWriMo is a month-long event for writers and doesn’t celebrate readers. Laurie Miller lauds the efforts of some reading challenges as being more rewarding than the intent of NaNoWriMo. Although I mostly agree with what she has to say, I don’t see a problem with people spending (wasting) their time trying to write 50,000 words in a month. I’ve done it before. The results were less than desirable and I ended up with a mess that is difficult to edit into something readable. Many of the comments to this article mention programs that do promote reading such as One City One Book, National Reading Month, Canada Reads, etc. The recent READCON put on by the Highplains Library District in Weld County, CO had something for both readers and writers. Three of the members of my writing group attended together.
The morning featured a number of writing-related sessions. Later in the afternoon a talk on self-publishing and how to do it right was presented by Jessica France from indieBook Library. This hour was an overview of a longer session on the intricacies involved in putting your own book out there and making it successful.
The first event the three of us participated in was a Zine Workshop, introducing us to a new concept. A volunteer from the Denver Zine Library gave us a very brief introduction to zines and allowed us to browse through a representative sample from the collection. Then we made our own. The majority of participants at this small workshop appeared to be high school-aged. Creating our own small booklet utilizing discarded library books and out-of-date issues of magazines was fun. Interestingly enough, the three of us, all writers, used mostly pictures and few of our own words to create ours.
Another event we did not attend involved creating bookmarks and a third was a contest to design the best library in Minecraft. A quiet space for those who where NaNoing was also available.
All of the planned events were free, but many were ticketed. A Steampunk tea–costumes encouraged–looked well attended and as if everyone was having a great time. Unfortunately, we hadn’t planned ahead and were only able to land one ticket. Our lunch also ran over, making us too late to attend. Instead, we toured the Bookmobile, something I hadn’t done since childhood. For at least one of my friends this was the first time she’d been in one. Each of us won a prize–a screen cleaner, a book, or a DVD, just for taking the quick tour. Each branch of the Library District had also created a display celebrating a genre of literature. Most of the displays included a small treat, an interactive feature, and a book list or two.
Sessions on establishing book clubs, a “whodunit” webinar, photo contest, reading recommendations, and more were presented for readers. The highlight of the event, though, were the talks by authors, including a local authors’ panel. This panel ran the gamut from a nationally known bestselling author to a self-published YA author. Two guests of honor were Craig Johnson, author of western mysteries, and the multifaceted Mary Doria Russell. This was what had interested me in READCON in the first place. I’d read The Sparrow when it came out as well as the follow-up book. After that I was vaguely aware that she’d written other things and had the idea she was writing historical fiction, but I’d never bothered to check out her other books. She was a delightful and funny speaker, as well as a gracious signer of books. I wished she was, if not in my writing group, at least my friend. Her talk about Doc Holiday convinced me to buy the book, Doc.
The last event we attended, and the other main reason we decided to make the trip to Greeley, was the book signing, which was accompanied by samples from two local breweries. I hadn’t expected the beer to be free. Since it was, we were able to purchase another book or two from more local authors. I enjoyed both the amber and chocolate porter samples from Wiley Brewing. Books pictured: Doc by Mary Doria Russell. Murder at the Brown Palace by Dick Kreck, Antler Dust By Mark Stevens, Backwards by Todd Mitchell, Living with Your Kids is Murder by Mike Befeler.
I attended two writers’ conferences as well as a writers’ retreat this year and in many ways I enjoyed this event the most. Possibly it was because it was free. The shortness of it might have helped, or the fact I attended with two friends and met at least two new local writers. Possibly it was the lack of pressure; no agents to worry about impressing. As a non-overly gregarious introvert, I often watch as others butt into my attempt at conversation or negate my tentative beginnings. There was none of that here. It was all about the book. The lines to have books signed were either nonexistent or very short. Mary Doria Russell was completely approachable and gracious in responding to questions. (At an SCBW (not yet i) conference I once stood in a long long line to have a book signed only to have the author, who was chatting with a friend the whole time, look up when I got to her and say, “Oh, I’m not signing anymore.” I’d really admired her writing, but her less than friendly dismissal completely reversed my feelings. Possibly I should have blamed the organizers. They could have announced that after a certain time/number of people/some other marker the author would be done. I agree she had to eat lunch; the problem was the arbitrary and almost nasty way she decided to stop that bothered me.)
The High Plains Library District is to be commended for this fine program. Many of us will be looking forward to attending again next year. Oh, and the teeshirts were great. I loved the color on the front and the design on the back and that they were heavy and black.