II love West Virginia. It's a beautiful place to live, where people care about one another and want to help others, where there are four distinct seasons and each has it's own beauty, and where my family calls home. I've lived other places (Alabama, North Carolina, Minnesota, Louisiana) and I've even done the big city life (Minneapolis, New Orleans), but nowhere else has ever been home except these mountains, and I'm pretty sure nowhere else will ever be.
Living in a smaller city has it's perks, but it also has it's downside. There's rare opportunity for a writer like myself to find work in that field (hence the full-time work elsewhere that keeps me away from my passion), there's less demand for the creatives who aren't well-known, and there's little communication that passes through to help, encourage, or uplift the struggling writer.
Enter the WV Book Festival. It has been absent for the last 2 years due to funding issues, but this year it came back full force. I began my day with a workshop on Memoirs, led by Cat Pleska and Fran Simone. Although I typically don't consider myself as this type of writer, their information and exercises were wonderful and revitalized my love for creative nonfiction.
After the workshop (and a quick lunch with my rescue mutt, Gimli), I perused the booths where authors, publishers, and other book-minded people sat. It was lovely chatting with two authors with which I was unfamiliar but who I'm certain are going to be fantastic reads (Darin Kennedy and John G. Hartness). To my utter delight, right beside their table was Gail Z. Martin, an author I became familiar with around 2008. All of these authors were friendly, kind, and genuinely happy when others took an interest in their work. I highly recommend checking them out and supporting them. Writing can be hard work, and they deserve credit for making a life of it.
After lunch was a fantastic workshop with Jane Friedman discussing self-publishing. It was a very informative discussion with some great ideas, and I look forward to putting into practice the things discussed in her workshop.
The pièce de résistance was a speaking engagement with Neil Gaiman. If you are unfamiliar with his work, I must assume you've been living under a rock or in a dark, lifeless cave. Sandman, American Gods, Anansi Boys, Coraline, Stardust, Good Omens, Mirrormask, Neverwhere, The Graveyard Book, and the Ocean at the End of the Lane are just a few of the gems in his catalog of amazing work. He has this enviable career that almost makes him seem off-limits to the likes of we mere mortals, but his demeanor is kind and witty, his heart for his family made clear through every story he related back to them, and his advice for writers was pure: Writers write. There's nothing more to it than that.
So thank you, WV Book Festival, for making this happen, and thank you to all the wonderful authors, publishers, presenters, and peers who came together for this event. A special thank you to the many sponsors who provided this free of charge. This was a great weekend to be a West Virginian.