Last weekend, I attended the South Dakota Festival of Books in Brookings, SD. For two days, I talked about writing and books with dozens of writers and book lovers from South Dakota and surrounding states. I sold a few books. I sold some t-shirts and stickers (you know you’re a writer if you “get” the motto on my t-shirts and stickers, “BUT FIRST, WRITE“) and handed out plenty of business cards.
But the most rewarding, worthwhile experience at the book festival? It was the conversations around creative projects I had with total strangers.
There was the young college student who had finished her first novel and wondered what advice I had for publishing it. There was the grandmother whose 13-year-old granddaughter loves to write and is looking for ways to meet other teenage writers. There was the retired English teacher who is writing full time now, submitting her work to various publications, and being rejected left and right.
“I am collecting a lot of ‘No’s’ right now,” she told me matter-of-factly. “It’s my job.”
I wanted to sound the victory music for her. She understands that, when it comes to publishing your work, rejection is the name of the game. She collects no’s, and she keeps writing. That is the mark of a writer.
Toward the end of the second day, two women approached my table, curious about my book coaching services. When I asked what brought them to the festival, one replied, “My grandmother is receiving a state poetry award tonight.”
My heart swelled for her. Here she was, about to share an unforgettable moment with her grandmother.
Then, she told me the reward was posthumous.
Her grandmother died before she was born. She never knew her.
Except she did. How?
Through her grandmother’s written words.
It was a perfect testament, I thought, to why writing matters. There are many reasons why writing matters – many reasons why we write – and writing to connect with generations who come after you is a tremendous one. This young woman, this granddaughter, at the Book Festival, grew up with her grandmother’s poetry, her grandmother’s words. Because her grandmother wrote, she was not a stranger to her granddaughter, even in death.
Have you ever thought about writing that way, as a way to connect with or encourage those who come after you?
Public events like the South Dakota Book Festival are excellent opportunities to meet new people with similar interests, collaborate with like-minded people on projects, be exposed to new ideas and possibilities. I came home with a full heart, a racing mind and a fresh energy to keep at the work I’m doing.
Have you attended a conference or other public event lately that you would recommend to writers in our community? Please share!