NOTE: I don't post to this blog super-duper often anymore, because I'm busy writing, well, books. (Read more about that here.) For more up-to-date, day-to-day ramblings, visit my Facebook page.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Writer Wednesday: Tips for Kidlit Fests

Yesterday I wrote about the great experience I had at the University of Central Missouri's Children's Literature Festival. I haven't been to loads of writers' events, so I can hardly be called an expert. But I've learned a few things that I've noted down to remind myself of, and I'll pass them on to you too.

1. Think About Your Clothes.
No, really. I don't mean, Think about what you'll look good in; think about what purpose your clothes will serve. I've noticed that authors presenting to kids don't normally dress up much. Nice jeans are perfectly fine, and you'd better like your shoes a whole lot, because they'll be working hard for you. During presentations to kids, I wore my tennis shoes--they're comfortable, casual, and they send the right message, i.e., I'm not your teacher. And I stand up in them for session after session as well as tromp up four flights of stairs and all over campus in them. I wore a kind of snazzy-looking top with the jeans, but a quirky T-shirt would've been okay too.

I also packed something a bit nicer for the meet-and-greet/book signing. If it had been warm enough, I'd have worn this pretty lavender sundress, but as it was, black jeans and nicer shoes, another snazzy top. And layers! Some rooms will be sweltering (especially with 75 little bodies jammed in with you), and some will be cool.

2. Do Your Homework.
If you can, learn something about the other writers before you go. I looked up all 30 websites of the authors at the UCM Fest. I tried to note a few books they'd written. I even copied their photos and info into a document. I didn't refer to it like crib notes, but just doing that cemented their faces in my brain and made introductions so much easier.  
 
3. Get Involved in Everything.
I'm not a joiner. I'm an introvert. I don't mingle, I don't do small talk. And yet for this event, I turned all that on its head. I'd have happily holed up in my hotel room after a day of presentations, but instead I did the quirky shoe-store-visit-followed-by-bar tradition established at this festival. (We bought shoes, then went drinking. It's a thing.) I got to know my fellow writers. I ate no meal alone, not even coffee. I hung out in the lobby after dinner and chatted. I exchanged email addresses. Why? Because if you're part of the group, you're more likely to get invited back. And the added bonus is that other writers get you. You'll get advice from experienced folks and share bewilderment with fellow newbies. Writers are great people, and you don't get to see them that often. Take advantage of every opportunity. You can collapse when you get home.

4. That Said, Know Your Limits.
I did socialize far more than I was used to doing at UCM, but I also allowed myself a blissful period of alone time each day. I woke up early and read a book or went over my notes. I took a few deep breaths in the bathroom before starting the day's presentations. I enjoyed the silence of my room after 9:30 pm. Fill yourself up. You'll be glad you did.

5. Be Gracious. And Then More So.
Help out the others. Offer a ride or an extra pair of hose. Let Writer X know if the kids you saw gushed about her presentation. Buy other folks' books at the sale and get them to sign them. This isn't to earn points; it's about being a human being. Even the "famous" writers you meet have insecurities and may be nervous about doing presentations or speeches. Everyone has faced the blank page and the blank stare of an audience.

6. Follow Up, and Soon.
Send out those "glad to meet you" emails right away. If you promised someone a signed book, get it to her. And always send a thank-you note to the festival organizer. She worked long and hard to make the event worthwhile. And if she's anything like UCM's Naomi Williamson, she's worth her weight in Judy Blume books.

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