A festival that floats on my calendar annually, which I have not yet had the opportunity to attend, is the Virginia Festival of the Book held in Charlottesville, Virginia. This year the festival takes place March 22-26th and hails speakers such as Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad” fans rejoice!), Jennifer Abbott, Kwame Alexander, and many more. Read the full list of speakers. One of our readers has attended the festival and many months ago she pitched me a post about it. Now we’re here! Her guest post is below and the festival is just three weeks away!
Verbs and Vindication at the Virginia Festival of the Book
By Jennifer Worrell
When Valerie Tripp, author of the American Girl series, said that excess description in children’s books borders on “self-indulgent,” I swear I heard my own personal creative muse crack open a beer in salute. I attended Tripp’s session on the differences between writing for boys and girls at the Virginia Festival of the Book’s Publishing Day in Charlottesville, Virginia, some years back. Fred Bowen, the Tripp session co-presenter and author of two series of sports books for kids, agreed. Both said that metaphors had better explode to “earn real estate on the page.” Hallelujah, pass me the verbs!
As I traveled through various presentations from authors, editors, and agents throughout this annual spring festival, the same theme followed me. During a session entitled “Dancing with the Manuscripts,” writers could submit the first 100 words of their manuscript ahead of time. The moderator read each submission aloud during the forum. Four representatives from the Moseley Writers’ Group served on the critique panel at the front of the room and held up a green card if they wanted to read more or a red card if the writing had problems. They consistently “green-carded” submissions that dropped readers right in the middle of the action with vivid language that moved. Those stories that launched into a description of the setting or some other story element generally ended up with a red card. The Moseley Writers also requested that authors use fewer “be” verbs and completely annihilate the word “it.” By this part of the day, my muse had finished a case of beer and had a good buzz going.
This year’s Publishing Day at the Omni Hotel in Charlottesville promises to be just as informative for experienced and new writers alike. The Virginia Festival of the Book begins on March 22 with programs, readings, and special presentations by poets, novelists, and other creatives around Charlottesville. Publishing Day, my actual jam, starts at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday, the 25th with the Lit Fair. Literary magazine editors and publishers will line the Atrium at the Omni until 4:00 p.m. to showcase their products and network with authors. Writers who present their work are also available for book signings at the Lit Fair.
Speakers like novelists Laura Lippman, Brenda Drake, Ann Garvin, and Tom McAllister will share their words of wisdom about writing and book promotion throughout the day on Saturday. Crime novelists and romance novelists will dominate many of the meetings, although there will be other presentations about children’s writing. The Moseley Writers will return with a session entitled “How to Hook a Reader on the First Page.” Attendees may again submit their manuscripts for public review. I nearly sucked the seat cushion up my hiney when I heard them read the first few words of the piece I submitted. Talk about nerve-wracking! Lucky for my ego, my work had enough action because I got a green card with several suggestions for improvement.
Another Publishing Day session that’s not to be missed is the Agents’ Roundtable. Representatives from big agencies with lucrative clients have attended past forums. They discuss the publishing market, pitching and query letters, and take questions from the audience. The agents also allow time at the end to speak with some audience members individually. I actually made some contacts that way; one agent asked for my manuscript. Talk about addictive! My muse nearly passed out!
If you’ve felt stuck in your writing, you need some advice, or your muse simply needs to party a little, you might consider a weekend trip to Charlottesville for the Virginia Festival of the Book. Early spring blooms, wineries, and gorgeous Blue Ridge foothill scenery make the whole place a creative mecca of sorts. Just be sure to bring your business cards for some inevitable networking, your idea journal, and a truckload of aspirin for your muse. You’ll want to be prepared for the literary hangover that is sure to ensue Sunday morning!
Jennifer Worrell has been teaching in both the elementary and middle school classroom for 22 years. All the while, she has been writing for a variety of publications including Trailblazer, Women in the Outdoors, Practical Horseman, Daily Press, Virginia Wildlife, The Virginia Journal of Education, and TeeterTot. She also creates high-quality instructional materials for the classroom which she shares on Teachers Pay Teachers. As the wife of an outdoorsy guy, a stepmother, and a biomom, her humorous and poignant perspective enables her to create powerful content for clients and for her own blog. Find her on Instagram @connectwithjenn, Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn.