This may or may not be a short blog tonight. It has been a long day and I am tired. I also cannot guarantee the quality of this piece. Again: long day and tired. Continue on at your own risk.
I love going to festivals and conventions. Usually we go to check out what is being sold or to see what all is going on. Sometimes you can see some neat stuff and meet some cool people. Today my wife, Cate, and I set up a booth at the Cayce Festival of the Arts. There were fifty booths in all with people selling everything from wooden toys to glass etchings to jewelry to paintings to pottery and so many other things, including three or four booths where people were selling books.
Before I really get into this, I must say if not for Cate this thing would not have gone nearly as well or been half as fun for me. She had her checklist of things we needed to do and have in order for this to go as smoothly as possible. And she worked her magic on the set up of the booth. To be completely honest, without her I would not have went. She thought this would be a good way to get my name more out there in the community.
After today’s experience, I believe she was right.
The morning started with a light rain. Yes. Rain. We were worried. Though the event was a rain or shine deal, water and paper don’t tend to mix all that well. There had been a big storm the night before, so we were expecting the ground to be a little wet, but not for it to still be raining.
A good thing happened, though. The rain didn’t last long.
We got our tent set up, but not the way we had originally planned. Again, rain and paper are not fond of one another.
Ummm…guess what? I was so tired last night that I crawled in bed and didn’t finish this blog. So, let me try and finish this today.
So we got the tables set up. I think that’s where I left off. Yeah, that’s it. Nice blue tent and tablecloths, the books where they need to be, The Brown Bag Stories in the coffin… The coffin? I didn’t mention that, did I? My brother-in-law, Chris, made us a coffin bookshelf as a display. It is totally cool and rough looking. We set it up near the front of the tent. It definitely attracted a few raised eyebrows and brought people over to our booth. It even startled a few folks, one woman in particular whose son pointed it out to her after she had walked by it. He laughed. The man she was with laughed. I laughed, as did the person at the booth with me.
But I’m a little ahead of myself here.
The rain stopped and the festival began, and right off the bat, we sold a copy of Cory’s Way. The couple that bought it was super nice and it felt really good signing the book and handing it to them. Then nothing for a while. It was early and wet, so people just weren’t coming out at first. But once the rain was gone and the clouds started to move on, folks arrived, and business picked up.
I met some really nice people and had some really great conversations. One woman asked me, ‘Tell me about you.’ She didn’t want to know about my books. She wanted to know about me, the person. I told her. It was a much different conversation than I expected. I met one person on the committee who immediately related to Cory’s Way because of the bullying aspect of the story. We talked for a few minutes about how he had been bullied growing up. He is a good guy and I hate that he was bullied growing up.
I met a couple of other authors, one with whom I traded books with. Her name was Jan Hull and she wrote the book Ceres Exley. We talked for a few minutes several times throughout the day. Very nice woman.
I also met Jack Gannon from J & C Wordsmiths. He listened to me talk to a woman purchasing a book, and then he introduced himself. He said some nice things about my presentation. He had a warm feel about him—a truly nice, genuine feel about him. We talked and he said something that gave me more confidence as the day went on. He said, ‘You’re doing it right. You’re telling them what they want to know and you have a great display in that coffin.’ Unfortunately our talk was cut short, but it was still a very nice and pleasant conversation.
We met another woman, a free spirited woman, who told us of other conventions and other things we could do to put out my work. She’s a poet and, like so many of us other small writers, she tries to help out in whatever way she can. She was a lot of fun to talk with.
There were others through the course of the day, coming and going. Some people bought books, a lot of people took The Brown Bag Stories, and why wouldn’t they—they were free.
By the end of the day we were tired, but had managed to do pretty good for our first ever festival/convention. We were about to tear down and pack up when someone walked up to the booth and asked if I were there. I was, but I was also about thirty feet away, throwing out some trash. I turned around to see this woman at the back of the tent and walking toward me. I recognized her immediately. Her name is Mary and she lives in Easley, South Carolina. She was with her fiancé, a very nice guy by the name of Brad. She had found one of my Brown Bag Stories a while back in a Starbucks. She contacted me and from there we chatted a little and I sent her more of the booklets.
Seeing her at the festival was a nice cherry on top to a good day. She made me feel really good about my work. Some of the things she said about the stories she had read lifted my spirits. Of course, her turning to her fiancé and saying, ‘he doesn’t look like a psychopath,’ made us all burst into laughter. No, I do not look like a psychopath. But really, what does a psychopath look like these days? We spent almost an hour talking with Mary and Brad and we even took a few pictures. It was a great end to a wonderful day.
The festival organizers were also terrific. Everyone was nice and helpful and constantly walking around checking on the vendors, offering us water and to sit at our booth if we needed to get some food or go to the bathroom. This may have been their first time doing this, but they did a great job of making the vendors feel welcome and wanted. Aubrey, Pamme, Clift and all the organizers and volunteers made the event so worthwhile and enjoyable. I didn’t get to tell them thank you before we left, but if they read this, I hope they know how much all the work they put into the festival was appreciated and not just by Cate and myself, but other vendors as well.
We eventually packed up and made our way home. I unloaded the car, and just like that, the event was over. We learned a few things about what we should do next time and figured out a few things that we did right.
But that’s not the point to this blog.
What is, you ask?
Did you notice the underlying theme throughout? People were nice. They were willing to listen to me talk about my work and myself and they weren’t rude. They asked questions and seemed to be truly interested in the answers. They were nice. I can’t stress that enough. They were nice. Of all the things that happened yesterday, it is the people who came up and talked and who were just genuinely nice folks that I will take away as one of the best experiences.
The Cayce Festival of the Arts, in my opinion, was a success. I don’t know how other vendors did, and I don’t know what festival committees consider a success, but in my opinion, when vendors leave with a good feeling and when they feel like they truly were wanted there, then, to me, that is success.
Because of this experience, I want to do this again. I want to go to other festivals and conventions and have this type of interaction with people. Do I think they all will be this well done? No. But I do know that the standard has been set for me, and it happened right in my home town.
Until we meet again, my friends, be kind to one another…