Welcome to the first part of my day at NC Literary Festival. This post will include an overview of my experience, as well as some general thoughts and observations based mainly on author sessions. I also attended two panels (a forensics panels and a First Books panel) and will post about those tomorrow – otherwise this was going to be around 2000 words long.
Last week I was alerted to an event happening practically in my backyard with rather short notice. I quickly rearranged a couple of commitments for Saturday so I could attend the NC Literary Festival at NC State’s absolutely beautiful Hunt Library. The actual festival had free events happening Thursday-Sunday but most of what I was interested in was scheduled for Saturday so I joined Jane, a fellow writer, for a day of panels and authors.
In all, we attended two panels and parts of four author sessions. I found the panels were far more informative as a writer. The author sessions, consisting of two authors each, were very inconsistently (un)structured. Generally they involved one author introducing the other, both reading a bit of their work, and then they would ask each other questions. I was really there to be inspired to write and perhaps pick up a few tips about that, not to discover new reading material or worship at the feet of already-published authors, so those sessions often fell short for me. Still, I did come away from the author sessions with some lasting impressions:
- Maria Arana: She read a passage from one of her books describing smells that stay with you throughout your life, particularly a specific spice blend I believe it was from Peru, and the language used was so very particular and vivid that I felt that I could smell it despite having never experienced it before.
- Karen Joy Fowler: As silly as it may sound, I was really taken with how well-spoken she was onstage as she answered questions from Therese Anne Fowler (it was a three-named Fowler convention up there). I’m able to put words together coherently on a page, especially if given time to edit, but I find myself tongue-tied when actually speaking. She rarely paused, umm’d, or you know’d. Yes, I was jealous! Also, fellow UC Berkeley alum!
- In the Fowler/Fowler session, which was held in the main floor auditorium, I noted how many more women were in attendance compared to men. I was going to say that it seemed a lot more of the authors were women as well – until I took an actual count. Apparently it’s just that Jane and I managed to attend an overwhelmingly female selection of speakers. A quick count of the authors listed in the program guide shows 43 versus 40 in favor of the men. But when I’ve recently been hearing that most books read are written by men, it seems encouraging to see so many women in the audience and a fairly equal representation of authors.