Book Fest: Just Like the First Day of School

I showed up late to the Brooklyn Book Fest on Sunday, thanks to the 4 train, so I missed my 11am session. With my self esteem already wilting, I now had two hours to mingle, meet people, and take in my favorite, but scariest event of the year.

I grabbed the extensive directory and took a deep breath. I was already overwhelmed again. I decided that I should just take a single loop around the vendor stands and see what I could see. I had prepped myself and I thought I was ready to kill it this year, but after just the first 20 booths I felt like I had entered the cafeteria in grade school without my friends.

Everyone was already engaged with one another. They were talking and laughing and exchanging witty banter like they were in one of the few remaining sitcoms worth watching. Feeling a heavy stone slide across my chest, I stepped back out into Joralemon St. where the fest bled into the regular world. I texted my boyfriend Jeff, who was at work and actually busy, that I felt like a failure. I do this to feel sorry for myself publicly and then move on. After putting my phone away and awaiting the buzz of his reply, I took in the fall weather. It was chilly and grey even though all the weather sources had claimed it would reach 79 that day. You can’t escape a fall breeze.

After noting that it was in fact a September day, I tried to rally. I figured I had a responsibility here. I told all of the 10 people who read this blog that I was going. I had to report something. I was held accountable now. I couldn’t be a loser. I went back in, with my insecurities also tucked in my purse. They were out of sight, but where I could reach them if I needed them.

I decided that instead of just entering these weird literary barracks and snooping, I should seek out rags, mags, and publishers that I knew, that I admired, and that I may want to submit to one day (when my words don’t read like bags of rocks being thrown over a ten foot wall). That’s when I locked eyes on The NewerYork. I’ve swooned over them on this very site because they are so awesome. I have been a huge creep by admiring them from afar, so to meet the founder and a team member in person was a happy thrill. I already own the latest issue but took it upon myself to purchase the 2nd one and I was rewarded with a matching journal! A journal for my weirdo stuff!

It was with this amazing experience and reminder that I need to enter their November contest, that got me excited to be at Book Fest. Finally, I was feeling this thing! I would go on to find some amazing self-published artists and writers and buy a book on Creative Non-Fiction writing from… Creative Non-Fiction. Now there is a place to get my essays published. Something to work toward.

The sessions were interesting and gave me a lot to think about when it comes to my writing and what I want to write about. Hearing Lopate read and speak in person was my ultimate fan-girl moment and Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts had a lot to say about Harlem and how she came to document it. She too mentioned that Lopate’s The Art of the Personal Essay was her textbook in school. This made me smile thinking about all the great essayists that Lopate has groomed with that text.

The Hometown Fiction session made me think about where I grew up in a context outside of my own stories. I’ve been thinking a lot about the town as a whole; it’s history and its current news as topics on their own. What’s going on there now that might be interesting to study, explore, and write about?

Jeff joined me for the Comedians as Authors segment. Susie Essman did not show up, which broke Jeff’s heart, but it was still fun to hear from Bob Saget and John Leguizamo. I always forget how amazing and accomplished Leguizamo is and how many forms he works in. I’ll be reading his work in the near future. #ghettoclown

I hope I’ve enticed you to attend the event next year. There’s nothing like being surrounded by those you admire AND like facing your fears. When it comes to my writing, I feel a little bit more confident every day. That’s something I’ve desperately needed since I picked up a pen 21 years ago.


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