Sunday, June 9, 2013

Printers Row Lit Fest 2013

I'm fond of saying that my one-day-a-year visit to sell books at the Printers Row Lit Fest is the most fun I can have as an author and not get arrested, and this year was no exception.
Photo by Rachel Madorsky
Once again, as I have since 2008, I had booked a slot for a day in the tent provided by the
Illinois Woman's Press Association for their author members.  The Lit Fest tent sales officially run from ten in the morning until six at night, but over the years I've learned that (1) people actually start cruising through looking at books from about eight thirty in the morning onward, and (2) competition can be pretty intense to get one of the tables that line up facing the sidewalks rather than the other tents.
So this year's adventure found me on the road from Wisconsin at a quarter to six in the morning, hoping to beat the rush. I got there so early, I think the "rush" was still home, asleep!  No crowds, no sitting in a long line to unload books at the tent, I was actually the first person at the IWPA tent, period. Even the tablecloths were still sitting there, all folded up, waiting to be spread out.  I took my pick of the tables, and let the morning unfold.

All set up before 8:30!!
As a writer, yes, I love to sell books at events like this. But boy, that is just a small part of the fun. There's the people-watching.  And the "dog watching," as occasionally folks strolled by with well-behaved canine companions.  There were a pair of silky, long-haired Dachshunds; and a big yellow lab; and a pair of Cairn terriers.  I even got to pet a beautiful, tiny, perfectly groomed Yorkshire Terrier, who was introduced as the "big brother" to a six-month-old baby in a stroller.

The weather was perfect for a change. It is an annual tradition for me to find myself fleeing from Lit Fest earlier than I'd like as rain starts to pour or tornados threaten the city, wrapping my books in plastic and racing to the car to keep them from getting wet. But there were blue skies the entire time, and no rain anywhere. I stayed nearly two hours longer than usual before I finally packed up and met fellow Wisconsin author Gale Borger for a cup of coffee to keep me awake for the drive home.

With Gale Borger
However, this being my home town of Chicago, "the Windy City," certain weather adjustments had to be made. I'd come equipped with a roll of duct tape...but the wind still proved to be a challenge. Luckily, Art Brauer had brought some bungee cords to keep things in place.

The IWPA tent was set up near a French chanteur softly singing as he strummed his guitar nearby, and my table faced the historic and beautiful Franklin Building on Dearborn Street. It was an altogether charming location!

Above the Franklin Building entrance

What a gorgeous front door!
The view down Dearborn Street
And, best of all, was just the chance to talk about writing and life with the folks who slowed and then stopped to visit. Some were published authors, some wanted to be writers, some were just looking for a good book to read or buy for a friend. Many life stories and tales of marriages and career journeys and setbacks and turning points were swapped on this delightful warm summer afternoon. One young man stopped by to thank me for the advice I'd given him a couple of years ago at a "live lit" event we were both reading at, which was to join the Chicago Writers Association. (I then enthusiastically passed that advice on to every young or "new" writer who stopped to chat for the rest of the day.) A gal closer to my age stopped to visit and to tell me that after listening to me chatter about blogging several years ago in a panel discussion about social media put on by the IWPA, she'd started her own blog. Some readers even dropped by just to tell me they'd enjoyed reading the books they bought from me at last year's Lit Fest.

I learned about an art fair in Michigan; was instructed on the value of providing memorable "giveaways" or trinkets at book fairs; and swapped stories of on-line dating with the author of MatchDotBomb, an entire memoir about her experiences in testing the meet-and-greet waters at mid-life after the death of her husband.
With Francine Pappadis Friedman
And wonderfully and fortuitously, I'd been trying to find some reading-based non-profit organization to donate a box of my earlier-edition books to, and discovered that the path from my parked car to the IWPA tent led right past the display for Open Books Ltd., a literacy promotion group based in Chicago. No need to run to the post office and address and mail the box, I went back to the car for the box of books and handed it off in person!

I'm not quite done with the Lit Fest yet. I got back home so late and exhausted last night that everything I brought with still needs unloading from the car. Books, cards, poster, ribbons, duct tape. (Though I did eat all the M&Ms...) But the memories of this year's Fest are sweet, and cherished, and enervating.  Can't wait until next year!!


SarwateR said...

Mary, it was wonderful to see you again this past Saturday. What a lovely recap of what was, as you pointed out, a perfect day. The music wafting over, the sunshine. Can't wait for next year!

Marion said...

Glad it was so successful! I sure do miss that event. So many wonderful and exciting people to meet...