09 June 2015

Bay Area Book Festival

Berkeley, CA June 6 & 7

Eco Alley
How could it be that I hadn’t even heard of the Bay Area Book Festival until two weeks before it happened? After all, I live quite close by and yet the first time I read about it was in a pop-up ad on Goodreads. Apparently, it had been well publicized in the SF Chronicle, but who even reads that paper anymore? And even they only started carrying information about it less than a month ago. I must not be hanging out with the right crowd….the festival was quite well attended.
The book festival website boasted hundreds of authors and a ton of free talks about everything you could imagine: current affairs, culture, entertainment, memoirs, tech, spirituality, writing, publishing, and more. There were areas for children’s books, teen books, radical writers, and environmental warriors. Even after carefully going through the website program, and noting the talks I wanted to attend, I had no idea just how large and comprehensive it was to be.

Downtown Berkeley is relatively small but always crowded and a general mess to get around. And it isn’t what I would call a pleasant place to take a stroll – too grungy for my taste, especially when I recall years gone by when it was rather lovely. Having said that, with several blocks cordoned off for pedestrian traffic, thereby not having to dodge all the hazards that are generally present, it was quite enjoyable.

And here is where I found out just how cool the whole deal was. I turned the corner at Shattuck, onto Addison, (renamed Literary Lane for the weekend), surprised to see the street lined with booths of booksellers and authors. The first few booths held places like The University of California Press, and other small publishing houses. But just a few steps further along and I ran smack dab into a couple of ladies that sure looked like fellow independent authors.

sidewalk poetry downtown Berkeley
Lori Hart Beninger and SabrinaRawson stood side by side, books on the table, business cards out front. I quickly ascertained that they were in fact fellow members of the Tribe of Struggling Authors.

Huh? I could have had a booth at the Fair? I had thought it was just for the Big Guys and not folks like me. Suddenly, I no longer felt the pangs of intimidation I had experienced while reading about all the known authors and deep thinkers who were to be featured at the festival. All those self-doubts that had surfaced telling me things like who do you think you’re kidding….real authors actually get invited to give talks, quickly vanished. These women were definitely real authors and they were part of the Book Festival! It was absolutely wonderful to exchange thoughts, ideas, marketing tips, and experience with others like myself.
Maybe it was better that I hadn’t known of the possibility of having a stand at the fair because I now had the leisure to cruise around and talk to lots of other indie authors. I met Kristin Fulton, Barbara Hawkins, James Robinson, Alina Sayre, and Mandy Rowe, all of whom had wonderful books just waiting to be discovered by the world at large.

The plan had been to attend a bunch of the talks, but I soon realized it would be more of a hassle than I was willing to put up with. First, one had to stand in a block-long line to pick up the free tickets to a lecture. Then one would have to stand in a long line outside of a venue. Crowds, and the subsequent florescent lighting, sealed the deal; I stowed my list of events and simply continued to walk the circuit. 
Literary Lane
While walking down Literary Lane, I noticed a man with an official author’s badge around his neck, seated in front of a booth, holding a book. I glanced more closely and saw that it was John Scalzi, the science fiction author whose lecture I had wanted to attend.

In my younger years, sci fi was my preferred genre. I dreamed of being a spacer although, realistically, I knew that that could only really take place a few centuries after my expiration date. The next best thing was reading it, and I had big dreams of writing it. Somewhere along the way, reading sci fi got lost. Maybe it was because the books I picked up didn’t appeal to me, or maybe it was because no one I knew read it so recommendations were scarce. Whatever the reason, my sci fi fix turned to tv and movies.
I approached Mr. Scalzi and mentioned how I had hoped to attend his talk but would probably pass on it due to the long lines. He wasn’t bothered in the least. I told him of my love for sci fi books, but that I just hadn’t read anything in quite a while, and asked about his latest book, Lock In. As he began to tell me about it, I remembered why I love science fiction. I will be reading his work very soon. Someone that pleasant, who takes the time to talk to an unknown like me, (the lady who couldn't be bothered with waiting for his talk), has to be a good author. He also told me a little about his life as a writer which gave me hope for my own career.  What a very pleasant man! Heck, he was even kind enough to take my card.

Maybe next year, if I am still in the area, I’ll be on a panel….though I can’t imagine what panel….local girl makes good? I actually think I’d prefer to do what I did this weekend, just walk around and talk to authors and enjoy being surrounded by books, thoughts, and happy people.