Well, convention season has kicked into high gear. If one were looking to avoid writing, just for example, one could jet off to – Romantic Times, Book Expo America, Mayhem in the Midlands, American Library Association, Thrillerfest, RWA National… to mingle, network, party with hundreds of favorite and soon-to be-favorite authors, librarians, booksellers, DLers, 4MAers, MWAers, ITWers, Sisters, and readers.
Authors are strongly advised to go to conventions and festivals to build their careers. There is no question that the networking is gold. And except for having to continuously “sparkle”, as Margaret Maron puts it, it’s so easy to network at these things. All you have to do is relax and walk around and just run into the people you need to run into. Really, it works. Reviewers, booksellers, your publicist, the author whose incredible book you were reading just the night before, extraordinary friends you haven’t seen in ten years – they’re all there in a very contained space and you will drift into them if you just go with the flow.
Some people call that work. But what it really is, is magic. What it is – is Faire Time.
I learned the concept of Faire Time, or Festival Time, over the years of my interestingly misspent youth, hanging out at the Southern California Renaissance Pleasure Faire –a month-long semi-historical recreation of life in an Elizabethan village, except with sex and drugs and overpriced irresistible craftish – stuff.
(Wait, what am I saying? Of course they had all of that going on in those real Elizabethan villages, too…)
I’ll be lazy. Let’s see what Wikipedia has to say about festivals:
Among many religions, a feast or festival is a set of celebrations in honour of God or gods.
Hmm, sounds familiar, doesn’t it? A set of celebrations in honor of gods – and goddesses. Take a look at the guest of honor lists for any of the above- mentioned conventions. Gods and goddesses of the mystery/literary world? You betcha.
Festivals, of many types, serve to meet specific social needs and duties, as well as to provide entertainment. These times of celebration offer a sense of belonging for religious, social, or geographical groups. Modern festivals that focus on cultural or ethnic topics seek to inform members of their traditions. In past times, festivals were times when the elderly shared stories and transferred certain knowledge to the next generation. Historic feasts often provided a means for unity among families and for people to find mates.
Now, does that sound like a convention or what?
Maybe it’s that first, religious purpose of festivals but I do notice this unifying principle of “Faire Time” or “Festival Time” in full force at conventions. There is an element of the sacred about a festival – it is out of the ordinary, out of simple chronological time, out of chronos – into kairos (again, from Wikipedia): “a time in between”, a moment of undetermined period of time in which “something” special happens.
And here’s an interesting bit:
In rhetoric kairos is a passing instant when an opening appears which must be driven through with force if success is to be achieved.
Synchronicity and opportunity happen with such regularity at these convention things that they’re really more the rule than the exception.
It is my absolute conviction that much more important career business gets done at conventions and festivals than anywhere else because it is being done in Faire Time – a suspended moment of opportunity.
And that is not even mentioning the creative and personal inspiration of being in that state of suspended time with so many passionate worshippers of the book. By the end of a convention I will always know the next right step to take, professionally and creatively, just as clearly as if it has been spoken to me. All it takes it to ask the question.
And one of my favorite things about conventions these days is running into aspiring authors who I met and connected with at previous conventions – only to find that they’re now published or about to be. It reaffirms my whole faith in the process.
As many of you have witnessed, I love the total debauchery of these gatherings, but I’m never unaware of something also sacred under all that revelry.
I’m sure that all of us have stories of improbable connections and synchronicities at festivals, and I’d love to hear them today.