Lea Wait, here. Just returned from a book-related weekend.
Unlike many Maine Crime Writers … I wasn’t at Bouchercon. Instead, I was at the Bar Harbor Kids Book Festival. Attendance was a little lower than that at Bouchercon, the mystery conference that usually draws upwards of 3,000 people – since I wasn’t there, I don’t know exactly how many people showed up this year. But in Bar Harbor I was hanging around with forty other authors, comparing gripes and celebrations, and spending time with other book lovers: teachers, librarians, parents — and readers of books from picture books to young adult.
The Bar Harbor area is gorgeous this time of year,and I drove through parts of Acadia National Park twice — once on my way to and from Southwest Harbor, where I spoke to 5th and 6th graders on Friday — and once when I was distracted by the scenery, and made a wrong turn on my way home yesterday. Not a bad reason for a wrong turn.
During the weekend several people asked me whether I’d travel to visit their school or library (“Yes, if my expenses are covered,”) and then asked the usual question: do you write every day?
Now, I once attended a writers conference where my roommate got up at 4 every morning and wrote 1,000 words before the conference breakfast. I have no idea whether her words were brilliant or gobbledy gook. Probably they were a mixture of both, because that’s true of most writers. But I was impressed at her resolve and determination.
Because, no, when I’m doing appearances, I don’t get much, if any, writing done. (I’ll admit that because of various schedule vagaries, I did manage to do line edits on 200 pages while I was away this past weekend. But that’s unusual.)
To begin with, an appearance begins at least a day before I leave. There’s planning any presentations I’ll be giving. There’s packing — you probably won’t be surprised to know I don’t wear the same clothes for appearances as I do when I’m comfy and sitting in front of my home computer. Plus, of course, there are the small-sized toiletries to gather and pack, the coordination of the color of my chosen clothing with shoes and jewelry … and so forth.
In addition, I pack promotional items. Postcards. Book marks. Posters for the libraries or schools I speak at. “Show and tell” items to take to classrooms. This trip I talked about Noah Webster, and what it was like going to school in the 19th century. I took with me a dozen 19th century text books, period prints, a $3 bill printed in Wiscasset, merit cards “for good students” and so forth. I often take an edited (by my editor) copy of a manuscript, maps and sketches of my book’s location, and even 19th century kitchen ware to share with students.
(Nothing like handling a 19th century wrought iron skillet or iron to appreciate what women – or soldiers – dealt with in the past.)
Packed, I head out, directions and GPS available if necessary. I don’t have a cellphone, so once I leave my doorstep, I’m on my own. I’ve been known to get a bit lost. I’ve stayed in resorts, in less expensive motels, in very inexpensive motels, and in people’s homes. This past weekend I was in a house usually rented, but currently unoccupied, so volunteered as a place for an author. The bed was comfortable, but the absence of soap or toilet paper was noted, and made for another short side trip.
So a typical weekend begins. The author’s reception and (sometimes) dinner. This trip I spoke at a school on Friday, and lunched with the principal, the librarian, and several of the teachers. Very nice … down to the china tea cups we sipped from sitting around a cloth-covered library table. I visited a local bookstore. Then there were workshops, and panels, and signings …. and so forth. Lots of smiling and handing out promotional materials and hoping some of them would lead to other appearances — and, of course, to book sales.
After it was all over, I headed for home. I don’t know if you were figuring all that out, but I left home about noon on Thursday, and got home for a late dinner Saturday night.
Then — back to writing? Well, sort of. I also brought home two unexpected souvenirs of Bar Harbor: a migraine and a head cold. Of course, everything else I brought home had to be put away, the 300 emails that arrived while I was gone had to be read and (when necessary) answered. Snail mail, too. I’m lucky to have a husband who’d taken care of food for us, but laundry .. that’s my job.
I wrote thank you notes to the people I’d met this past weekend, and now I’m writing this blog.
By the time I get back to writing, I will have “lost” four days.
What I did is part of being a writer. But it’s not writing.
So – to everyone who asks, “do you write every day?”
The answer is — yes. If other writing chores don’t interfere.
Luckily for my next deadline I now have almost 3 weeks free before I head out again. And, yes — I’ll be writing every day until then.