Well, I finally made it back home despite the miserable weather yesterday afternoon. My stint as an author and panelist at the 10th anniversary of the Texas Book Festival is at an end. Austin had great weather all weekend, so there were plenty of attendees. David McCullough, author of 1776 and many other fine novels, spoke to a full house. Dan Rather apparently decided he didn’t need to show up for his signing. And Lemony Snicket popped up on every TV news show I watched. I finally saw that yellow C-SPAN bus and climbed aboard–even came home with my own blue and white C-SPAN BookTV book bag. So I guess it was a successful weekend.
I realized sometime over the last few days that we writers probably have any number of benchmarks that we may not even realize until they happen. I spend a lot of my weekends either watching or listening to BookTV on C-SPAN 2, so I watch a lot of authors do presentations, give speeches, or sit for hour-long interviews. In the fall, BookTV does a great job of visiting the many book festivals that dot the states, particularly those at the state level or those that have achieved a certain status. The Texas Book Festival is one of those book celebrations.
This was my first appearance as a panelist/speaker at an event at this level, though I’ve done my share of speaking engagements for groups, conferences, classes, workshops, and organizations. However, the Texas Book Festival is the first major book festival that I’ve been invited to attend and participate as a panelist. I also learned that a member of the selection committee had seen our book, Exploring Texas History: Weekend Adventures, and suggested we be invited . . . and that’s probably the best way to receive an invitation.
We were treated royally. When we arrived at the hotel, we were each greeted with a nice basket of goodies from Austin’s famous Whole Foods Market. The moderator for our panel was the associate editor of Texas Highways magazine. The author’s hospitality room in the capitol had great food and provided a welcome respite, and the festival assigned a volunteer to guide us to the designated room in the capitol building where we spoke and then to the book signing tent afterward.
The best part happened when we entered the room and actually found quite a number of people already there waiting to hear the four of us talk. At the end of the talk a man came up to where we were sitting and asked if we would sign our book. (He was supposed to wait and go the booksigning tent.) He then said he wanted to stay for the next talk but wanted us to sign his book as he had come to our talk expressly to hear us. For an author, life doesn’t get much better. Naturally we signed his book. Those who took the time to stop by and ask us to sign books were gracious, eager to read our book, and full of praise for the panel we’d participated in. These are those rare moments when you actually come face to face with readers and hear their thoughts on what you’ve written, and you finally have that moment when you know that you have, indeed, connected with your reader. All those hours of writing, days of rewriting, months of research pay off in those brief encounters–and in large part they make it all worth while.
A writer may write to understand the world or to make some sense of himself, but when a writer publishes, it is to take it one step further to communicate those thoughts and ideas, to share a vision. It’s a wonderful day when you know you’ve made that connection.