Festival of Books – final inspirations

Last night’s capstone event – a greatest hits of the Festival, it seemed – left a lot to be desired. However, the desire to be in the company of great writers never waned, and the weekend overall was an incredible success despite the disappointment.

It was supposed to be billed as a “Reading for the Ages,” a title I could only figure came from the fact that a Pulitzer Prize winning author and a children’s author would share the stage and read together. The panel had little in common aside from the fact that they had been the most popular writers and biggest names at the festival: Pete Dexter, Sonia Manzano, Terri Jentz.

Our Pulitzer representative didn’t show for whatever reason, and his spot was filled in by the always popular Bill Holm, a Southwest Minnesota State University teacher that I recognize from going to school there, though I never took any of his classes. Had I known my place in life in college, I might have taken writing classes from him. Instead, I just admired his bushy beard from afar.

Organization was not at its best, and our moderator seemed to enjoy his own voice more than the voices of the scheduled speakers. The authors all read, and then a series of odd, incredibly thought provoking (and therefore, conversation killing) questions like “What is Grace?” followed. The authors were all visibly tired from a long day and the reading suffered. Bill Holm discovered that, since he had arrived just a few hours earlier, he had no hotel. He abruptly left. After one question from the audience, the panel was cut short, 40 minutes early, and book signing began.

It left a bad taste in my mouth, I’ll admit – this was the key event of the day, the panel that wraps everything together, the embodiment of the Festival of Books tagline, “Where Writers and Readers Rendezvous.” I had looked forward to seeing Richard Ford. He wasn’t there, and one thing led to another.

But what it lacked organizationally, it made up for inspirationally.

The entire weekend was a case study in immersing a body in a desired trait in order to soak up its magic. And if there’s anything I learned this weekend, it’s that I have no greater desire at this point in my life than to become a writer. Not just an advertising writer, or a blog writer, but a published author, to be invited to book festivals and go on tours and have that one defining work, that novel that unfairly justifies an author’s existence.

I have everything I want in life. Except this. And the desire is so strong that I’m nearly bursting at the seams – like seeing a gorgeous girl from across the room and instantly knowing that there’s a connection, yet being unable to garner the nerve to talk to her. The vision keeps me awake at night. And I still continue to search for the answer even though I know it’s obvious. I know exactly what I need to do.

This weekend taught me one lesson. Shut up and write. And I thank the entire Festival for that.

As I fell asleep in my fourth flour suite – a room overlooking downtown Deadwood in an exhilarating Swearengen sort of way, I kept coming back to one thing that was said during the reading. When answering the question, “Why do you write?” Pete Dexter summed it up perfectly by saying, “You can’t hide who you are.”

If you’re born to write, you just have to go do it. And all of us who were inspired this weekend can’t hide it any more.

This was lovingly handwritten on September 30th, 2007