Saturday, March 31, 2012

Live - Love - Read - Repeat

This tale is as good as any to return to blog writing. I am just back from the Festival of the Book, a 5 day, 222 set of separate events that takes place in Charlottesville, Virginia. Produced by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, the festival is an annual celebration of reading and literacy, now in its 18th year.

Events take place at numerous locations throughout town and on the University of Virginia campus, so parking and logistics become an important component of developing your personal, book-loving itinerary.

On Friday the 23rd, I attended the 2pm event at New Dominion Bookshop entitled Fiction: Family Riddles, Secrets and Stardom with the authors Tayari Jones, Jael McHenry and Alan Shapiro presenting. Tayari Jones's current novel is Silver Sparrow, her third. In the latter part of the program, after each author had read a selected passage from their work, it was time for questions.In response to an audience question Tayari detailed her difficulty in getting her novel published.

Her previous publisher had been bought by a larger company and she was informed they were no longer interested in "quiet" novels.Sometimes it can be easier getting agents and publishers interested in your first manuscript. If it is good they can tout you as the next Danielle Steel or Mary Higgins Clark, but at novel #3 it is quite clear you are you and not anyone else.

Having been published previously, Tayari believed she could get and advance on her partially finished manuscript. Inquiries were made, no one indicated an interest. She considered abandoning the novel, leaving it unfinished. She thought about the advice she would give a student and soldiered on, completing her story. No publisher showed an interest in the completed book either.

A writer's conference had been on Tayari's schedule for a while. Without a new novel and somewhat frustrated and embarassed by her inability to secure a publisher, this was not an event she was eager to attend. Obligation and responsibilities being what they were she went. In between scheduled presentations at the writer's conference a woman approached Tayari and told her how much she admired her first two books.

As the conversation progressed, Tayari opened up a little about her publishing dilemma. The woman smiled and literally took Tayari by the hand, saying "I have someone you need to meet." She guided Tayari across the room and made introductions to the representative that would eventually become Tayari's publisher.

They started an encouraging discussion and the representative asked "How do you know Judy?"

"Judy?" Tayari responded with a blank look.

"Yes, Judy that brought you over here, Judy Blume."

Tayari was stunned. She had never met Judy before had no idea of her identity. Looking up Tayari saw Judy was gone, melting into the crowd.

I hope my repeat and retelling of this tale is fairly accurate and you liked the story as much as I did.


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