Saturday, November 30, 2013

Baltimore Book Festival 2013 Review

[Ooops! Forgot to publish this one! The Baltimore Book Fair was September 27-29, 2013.]

Why would I drive seven hours down -- and a grueling ten and a half hours back -- to the Baltimore Book Festival when there is a perfectly good local festival less than an hour in Boston? Friendship, curiosity, and to see and meet a new group of authors and publishers. (And to connect to some of the people who drive up north to attend events that I usually attend.)

Because of the long commute, I knew I couldn't make any Friday night events, so I picked three from Saturday and three from Sunday, realizing that I might not be able to make all of them; it's so easy to lose track of the time at large events.

I made plans to stay with my friend, writer Roxanna Benson. After picking up her daughter, artist Laura Benson on Saturday, we used Baltimore's excellent transportation system to commute in from a suburb. That was the easy part. Because it was a weekend, the commuter parking lot was nearly empty. The subway was running on time, and not crowded.

When we disembarked, our adventure began. (Yes, adventure. The three of us chose to view our challenges as an adventure, and it's well we did.)

We could not find the place. Roxanna had printed a map that she found on the BFF site, and Laura remembered that the stop we wanted was State Center/Cultural Center. I had even downloaded the App onto my iPod Touch.

Leaving the subway stop, we didn't know which way to exit. Once on the street, we looked at the map and, using a cheapo compass I had dug out of my camping gear, we set off in what ultimately was the wrong direction. We would pass W. Madison, but for some reason it seemed to be perpendicular to the way it was shown on the map.

After more than an hour of walking around and asking at least four different groups of people for directions, Laura spotted a man who seemed like he was heading the same way we were. Fortunately, he was.

Arriving too late for the first event we wanted to attend, we used our time visiting the various stalls, including food stalls (we were starving by now!)

All three of us sat in on the "Manuscript Makeover" panel with Baltimore Review editors Barbara Diehl, Kathleen Hellen, Ann Kolakowski, Lalita Noronha, Seth Sawyers, and Dean Bartoli Smith, who described their personal practices on making their manuscripts go from draft to publishable. I usually attend panels given by authors in the science fiction, horror, and fantasy genres, so it was interesting to hear tips from non-genre writers.

After that we attended "No Holds Barred with Agents and Editors" with featured publishers Treva Harte, Editor, LooseId; Mary Sue Seymour, Literary Agent, Seymour Agency; Lyndsay Hemphill, Agent, ICM Partners. This was an exciting panel where members actually commented on entries by attendees. One had to submit 5 copies of 1 page only of a work you wanted evaluated. The panelists gave feedback on how they reacted to the submissions. Roxanna and I bit our fingernails as we waited to see if there would be enough time for them to read ours. There was. And in both cases, the feedback was encouraging, very encouraging. We were both dancing on air.

Unfortunately the euphoria didn't entirely compensate for our long walking adventure and we ended up leaving early, before the evening events. We were tired, but refreshed, and ready to write!

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