Two fellow members of the Anson County Writers’ Club and I traveled to Lumberton yesterday to attend the Book ‘Em North Carolina Writers Conference and Book Fair. (www.bookemnc.org) Karen and I had attended the last two years; it was Kaye’s first time.
The event features best selling authors telling their success stories, panels of experts on every imaginable subject connected to the craft of writing, and aisles and aisles of tables filled with books for sale. When we entered the A.D. Lewis Auditorium at Robeson Community College, a volunteer wearing a light blue Book ‘Em t-shirt asked if I wanted a shopping basket.
Yes, I did. Did she have a blank check to accompany it? Still, I saw people with baskets filled with books. It’s a good venue for writers and readers.
We had hyped the event to Kaye and were eager for her to enjoy it. All I can say is that there were parts that lived up to our expectations and some that …didn’t.
This says nothing about the organization of the event. It was well planned and run. The volunteers went over and above their responsibilities, one even driving us to a fast -food restaurant for lunch when we found we’d locked the keys in the car.
We met some amazing writers and even now are making plans to bring one of them to our own Carolinas Writers Conference in 2015.
It was the panel discussions that disappointed. We went into the room with high expectations, only to find that the “experts” were people who had self-published one book and were still amazed at their own cleverness.
Instead of answers to questions about plotting, panelists admitted they flew by the seat of their pants and hoped it worked out.
And too often, instead of four panelists sitting at the table, there were one or two, the rest having evidently found something better to do.
At one point, I had to fight the urge to leap to my feet and walk to the front of the room to volunteer to fill an empty seat on the panel. By that time, I had figured out I knew at least as much, and without being immodest, more than the people sitting there.
If I may make one humble suggestion to the Book’ Em organizers, it would be to vet their panelists before signing them. The other would be to gently advise them they are there to help others writers by sharing their expertise, not to constantly hype their own books. Yes, mention your book so we know you have the experience and know-how. Do not bring it up as an answer to every question that is put to you.
There were highlights, as I said. Susan Sloate’s advice on how to take advantage of the many marketing opportunities offered by Amazon was a treasure that made the trip worthwhile.
And, of course, we handed out information about our own upcoming conference, the Sixth Annual Carolinas Writers Conference, coming to Wadesboro April 5. (www.carolinaswritersconference.org)
The more conferences, the more opportunities for fun and learning for all writers and readers.
At least, that’s how I see it.