Thoughts from the 2016 Boston Book Festival

fullsizerender-1Hey all, last Saturday I went to the Boston Book Festival and attended some great panels that discussed books and writing. I live tweeted soundbites all day @anniemcg13, but thought it would be neat to make a post with some longer and more organized thoughts about what I heard. The two topics that stuck with me most were creativity (how to get some) and tips for writers looking to publish. If you’re a writer, or interested in writing, this post is for you!

“Being Creative” panel with Pagan Kennedy, author of Inventology, and Alexa Clay, co-author of Misfit Economy

Although this panel talked mostly about creativity as it relates to problem solving and innovation in a business setting, some of the ideas were certainly relevant to writing.

For example, Kennedy brought up the idea of how you go about being creative. She explained that creativity is “baked into observation.” It’s a process of aimless playing around until you find something. And certainly, a lot of the writing process has to do with solving problems: how do I get the main character from point A to point B smoothly? How do I get my source to open up and tell me all the dirty secrets of his past? How do I tell a zombie story that isn’t just a repeat of the hundred thousand ones that came before it? In order to find the solution, you might need to get a little creative

Clay told a story that relates to this idea: once, she dressed up as an Amish woman and went to a technology convention to ask questions. Aside from it being hilarious, she said that doing this allowed her to dig deeply into simple concepts and ask simple questions that would have sounded strange coming out of a tech-savvy person’s mouth. This seemingly silly adventure, to me, sounds like that “aimless playing around” that Kennedy was talking about. It was implied that from this experience, Clay gained some insight that she would never have gleaned if not for her Amish LARPing adventure.

So what is the takeaway? I guess it would be to experiment. Don’t expect to get it (the sentence, the interview, the plot, the detail) right on the first try, and don’t be afraid to do something unusual or strange in order to reach your goal.

“Your Book as a Business” panel with independent publishers Charlotte Pierce, Deidre Randall, and Eddie Vincent

The second panel I attended was a discussion about all things publishing, and more specifically, how to get the word out about your book. This panel was more of a tips-here-and-there kind of deal, so here are some of those tips:

  1. When looking for a publisher, know what you want from your book and choose the publisher type accordingly. What do I mean by publisher type? Check out this website for more details, but it has to do with services and what kind of relationship you want with the entity that will be publishing your work. For example, there’s vanity publishing, in which you pay the company to publish your book and that’s basically it. There’s also subsidy publishing, in which you partner with the entity to get the job done, and a few more. It all depends on what you, the writer, are looking for.
  2. Create an author platform, an expression of passion and interest, before you even start writing. In terms of nonfiction, for example, you could establish yourself as an authority or knowledgeable voice in the field so that when your piece comes out people will trust you. Another point that goes along with this one comes from a question that one of the panelists asked the audience, which was: how many of you hate social media? After waiting a bit for people to raise their hands, the panelist replied with: well, get over it. The point here is that social media is an important resource for writers to get the word out about their work. Sure, it’s all well and good to get published with a huge name like Penguin Random House, but for the most part, modern writers will need to act as their own marketer and spokesperson. Get the word out ASAP!
  3. Finally, check out The Literary Marketplace for a big old list of all the literary agents who exist in the whole world (okay maybe just most of them).

A few more things…

The last panel I attended was a discussion with science writer James Gleick about time travel. Although there weren’t any writing tips to glean, I wanted to share a neat soundbite: “The best time machines we have are books.” Indeed!

And lastly (I promise this time) can you guess this book? No cheating! 🙂 fullsizerender-2

About Annie McGovern

MA in Science and Medical Writing; Creative Writing BA; consumes books and science for sustenance (and tea); questionable Korean language skills; end
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