Most writers I know would rather stay home or in the corner of their favorite library or café to write. But once in a while we all need to get our introvert selves out there. Me included.
Last Saturday, I joined more than one hundred authors who participated to the annual Amelia Island Book Festival in Fernandina Beach, Florida.
It was my first time and I was filled with anxiety. What if I got lost on my way to an unknown place? What if I didn’t find a parking spot close enough to the venue? What if I had to make several trips to unload my books and my material? What if nobody stopped by my booth? What if I spent the next eight hours alone?
“What if” is a good question to unstuck our brains and unleash our imaginations but totally worthless on the road.
This is what really happened on Saturday.
I almost got lost. There was unexpected fog and roadwork. But I made it way ahead of time to the Fernandina Beach Middle School where high school students unloaded my trunk and carried my books, my material, and even my lunch to the table I would share with another children’s book author. Meanwhile I parked under an oak tree laced with Spanish moss.
Inside the school I met volunteers who welcomed me with warm smiles and led me to the multipurpose room, already buzzing with activity. Authors were unpacking and organizing their table. Most had great promotional displays. Mine were modest in comparison, and yet everyone congratulated everyone’s books. My right and left side neighbors were super friendly and shared their chocolate and mint candies with me.
Starting around ten o’clock, visitors, many with kids of all ages, swarmed the place. Most stopped by my table and many bought my books. I spoke with all of them and was so grateful for their interest, curiosity, and warmth.
We live in a world that focuses too much on what goes wrong. Many things go wrong and we need to address them. But many things go right, too. Lots of people are hungry for stories, for them, for their children, their grandchildren, and any child in their lives and beyond their lives. Stories remain a universal human link that ties all of us.
Saturday was the proof (if I ever needed one) that books are alive and well alive.
An awesome addition to this kind of event is also the chance to meet other writers. Although we love the safety of our caves, we also know that we can be ourselves with people who share the same passion for stories and won’t judge our awkwardness.
The camaraderie between authors who write for children and teens is a well-known fact. The generosity when it comes to sharing our struggles, successes, and dreams is genuine.
At some point, I felt a little lightheaded. No wonder: It was one o’clock and I ate breakfast around six. I took a lunch break (Volunteers could man authors’ tables during breaks. How cool is that?)
I stepped outside, blinded by the light. I sat on a stone bench near a grouping of trees. My shoulders relaxed under the warmth of the sun. It was a crisp day for Floridians, I heard. Perfect for me. Despite the beautiful day, I ate my sandwich faster than I had planned.
What if I missed any of the fun?