Monday, September 26, 2011

Salem Literary Festival!

The 3rd Salem Literary Festival was held this past weekend in historic Salem, Mass., with events taking place in various locations around the city. Events took place from Friday night through Sunday; the star of the show was Erin Morgenstern, author of the recently-published and much-fĂȘted book The Night Circus. Erin was the star of Friday night's cocktail hour and Saturday night's dinner.

I attended the Festival Saturday and Sunday. On Sunday I attended two panels, one featuring literary agents offering advice and tips. They gave their do's and don't's for writing query letters, emphasized the importance of researching individual agents and tailoring your query to each one, and defined different markets for fiction. "Upmarket women's fiction" was a category I hadn't heard of before; according to the panel, it refers to fiction about women that falls somewhere between chick lit and literary fiction. Next up was a panel with authors Brunonia Barry, Julia Glass and Katherine Howe, talking about writing about strong women in the context of fiction.
Barry, Glass and Howe at the Salem Five Community Room.
Both events took place at the Salem Five bank's community room, a beautiful room featuring model ships and nautical paintings. It used to be the bank's main teller area. You can see the vault behind the speakers.

The authors emphasized the difficulty of writing about womens' lives believably at different points in history, and the centrality of conflict and personal growth the stories they tell. Audience members asked questions about writing about women in different genres and about the panelists' own books and the choices they made.

On Sunday, I was honored to take part in a panel on book blogging, along with Kevin of Boston Book Bums, Dawn of She is Too Fond of Books and Therese Walsh of Writer Unboxed. (Sarah of Archimedes Forgets was scheduled to appear but had to cancel due to illness. We missed you, Sarah!) Local reporter and award-winning author Hank Phillippi Ryan moderated, and we talked about why we started our blogs, our approach to writing about books and the kinds of choices we make on our blogs and elsewhere in our social media activities. We recommended two books each to the audience (mine were Possession by A.S. Byatt and The Talk-Funny Girl by Roland Merullo) and had a great, lively conversation.
Hank Phillippi Ryan, Kevin, Therese, Me, Dawn
After our panel and lunch, Jeff and I decided to call it a day. I felt a cold coming on and decided to head home rather than risk running myself down. Thanks to the organizers for inviting us, to Ryan for doing a wonderful job as moderator and to everyone who came out to see us and support the festival all weekend long. It was great!