Friday, June 27, 2014

You Got the Write Stuff

Last weekend, I had one of those weekends that you look forward to for days and then you blink, and BAM! It's over. While any gorgeous weekend on Nantucket is a gift from the weather gods as a way to repay you for the worst winter ever, these few days were especially noteworthy for me as it was my first Nantucket Book Festival. I missed it last year, and so I was really looking forward to get my book nerd on all weekend long. 

Nantucket is famous for having a festival of some kind almost every weekend from May until August. Unlike many of the others, most of the events during Book Festival are totally free, which is great, because if there's anything Nantucket is known for, frugality is not one of them. 

But about the festival. Guys, it was amazing. Seriously. As someone who has loved reading for pretty much my entire life and writing almost as long, it was so inspirational to hear from all these different people who are from all different parts of the country and walks of life that are all joined by this common thread. Prior to the festival, I picked up a program to determine which programs would be the most worthy of my time. Turns out, the answer was all.

seriously, I wanted to clone myself so I could go to everything. 

Since I appreciate a good theme and always try to dress for the occasion, I planned out my #ootd and accessories for the weekend accordingly.

h&m denim jacket / forever 21 top / j.crew skirt / payless heels / ily couture bracelet / kate spade clutch

l to r: kate spade pencil necklace / forever 21 typewriter necklace / scrabble earrings  / kate spade book clutch

On Friday night, I started the weekend off with the Opening Kickoff: Reading in my Writing Life with Geoff Dyer, Ben Fountain, & Dani Shapiro at the Unitarian Meeting House. The event began with the Young Writer Award, in which they gave out prizes to the best writing submissions from a contest among local students. I got a bit nostalgic for my early days, entering writing contests and submitting pieces for my school's literary magazine. It remember what it was like when I discovered that I loved writing and that feeling that I got at a very young age when I was sharing my stories.

All three authors talked about how reading is directly related to their lives as writers. Dani Shapiro gave what I thought was the best advice that evening, which is that you should start every day with good words in your head. She wasn't implying that you needed to read a chapter of War and Peace before breakfast. It was more about how beneficial it could be to all of us if the first words we saw in the morning weren't the subject lines of our email or the collective unimportance of A.M. Facebook statuses (which I am often guilty of both of). It's about setting the tone for your day, and how much more positive your outlook can be if you start it off inspired by something. Immediately, I knew I would be showing up for her session the following day- I couldn't wait to hear more. 

The next day, I woke up bright and early, and while I didn't start my day off with any inspirational prose, I did step outside my comfort zone with a little 8 A.M. yoga. I know, right? It's like, who am I anymore?

Since we're sharing, I'm not going to lie- the main reason I signed up for this session is because it was free and I figured it would probably be the only time I would ever get to work out at the super schmancy Westmoor Club. But as an added bonus, the class was being taught by yoga instructor/author Sara DiVello, who I loved hearing her story about leaving the financial corporate world after thirteen years to pursue her dream to teach yoga. She teaches yoga at a few places in Boston and if you're in the area, I highly recommend taking a class with her, especially if you're an inexperienced yogi like myself. I had to skip out slightly early to make it to the next session I wanted to attend, but I made a mental note of her book and the subsequent signing later that day and promised myself I would go back and pick it up. 

I hightailed it back into town for Writing the Creative Life, Part II (I missed Part I due to yoga) at the Atheneum, where I got to hear Dani Shapiro and Katrina Kenison share their process about writing, specifically memoirs. I was mostly interested in this because I feel like blogging is almost memoir style writing, and I always debate myself on how much detail I should go into about real people and real scenarios, and they both spoke about dealing with that. The biggest point I took away from it is that relationships with people are always more important than anything you will ever write, but how you want to approach that fine line is ultimately up to you. 

Next I attended Emerging Writers: A Conversation with Michael Schulder. There was a whole thing here about stealing books that I didn't quite understand but was supposed to be a good thing. The best part about this session was being introduced to four really cool writers that all came from completely different genres: Molly Antopol, Cynthia Bond, Tim Horvath, and Anthony Mara. They all shared their many different words of wisdom about the craft, and how you always want your readers to feel like that they time they spent reading your book was worth it. I didn't pick up any of theirs this round, but as soon as I finish the ones I did purchase, these are next on my list. 

This is where you know my love for the written word runs deep. At 4 PM, there were two conflicting events that I really wanted to attend: From Page to Stage, a music & performance themed session, and Books, Bubbles & Bites with a food writer + free champagne at Cru, one of the hottest restaurants on the water. My friends were set on the Bubbles, but me? I followed my heart and went with the books. And I'm so glad I did, because it's where I was first introduced to Megan Stielstra, who I immediately fell in love with and plotted ways in which I could convince her to be my friend (I started by purchasing her book of essays, which I thoroughly recommend).

By this point, I was so full of inspiration and words but majorly lacking in nourishment, so I headed home to recharge and grab dinner before heading out for the evening's final events, which grabbed my attention immediately when I saw them on the schedule: Authors in Bars and Book Fest Open Mic. Both are exactly what you think they would be - all the super cool people I had just been listening to during the day, who were now in front of me in line at some of the island's local bars and restaurants. And they were so nice and approachable, it was almost like being around celebrities except for the were totally appreciative of you fanning all over them. I didn't take any photos of the actual people that I chatted with (too busy fanning), but just to prove that we were there, here's my friend Claire at the bar with everyone's empty glassware. 

Most of the festival's events were packed into the busy Saturday schedule. There was a brunch on Sunday with Jodi Picoult that sold out pretty much immediately (and was also more than my husband would ever allow me to pay for things I don't eat, like eggs) and a pig roast at Cisco Brewers (which sounded fun, but wasn't really my scene). Plus, I was kind of mentally exhausted from the day before, and I just wanted to relax and soak in all that I had learned in the last twenty-four hours. I did venture downtown to some of the signings of people that I wanted to meet and didn't get to the day before, and then spent the rest of my afternoon alternating between chapters of my new lot of books (I couldn't decide which to read first, so I simultaneously read them all). 

The weekend closed out with the only session that I actually paid for (and with a $20 price tag, it was totally worth it). It was a panel at the Dreamland Theater called Books to Film, featuring seven authors whose works have been or are currently being adapted for the screen, either in film or television. Between Ben Fountain, Ben Mezrich, George Pelecanos, Nat Philbrick, Lisa Genova, Chris Seufert and Jodi Picoult, this easily could have been a marathon event, but alas, it was only an hour. I picked up a lot of juicy info, like the fact that authors really don't make all that much money for selling the rights, and that they have literally no say in what happens to their story (as Picoult so eloquently put it, "writing a book is like having a child. You tend to it, you nurse it, you try to give it a good life and hope that it grows up to be something great. And sometimes, your baby turns into a prostitute"). 

And just like that, it was over. Of all of the festivals this island has to offer in the high season, this was by far my favorite and the most accessible for the average Nantucketer. I left invigorated, inspired, and just ready to read and write as much as I possibly could (in addition to my healthy Real Housewives schedule, of course). 

I thoroughly recommend that if you love books and you can escape to Nantucket for a weekend, you hop on the Hyline and get out here next June. I know I'll be there with bells on.