|This photo is from 2011, but I like it|
Every year at this time I pack up my old kit bag and head down to Tucson Arizona to work the Tucson Festival of Books. TFoB is a giant gathering of nearly 400 authors of all ilks, all participating in panels, talks, signings, presentations, and workshops. Nearly 120,000 people normally attend over the two day period. That's pretty good, considering that the population of Tucson is around 585,000. The festival draws readers and writers from all over the desert Southwest, and has almost reached the size of the Los Angeles Festival, which boasted 150,000 attendees last year.
I'm only going to be down there one day this year, Saturday, March 11. But it's going to be a busy day. I'll be moderating a panel, signing books at the Clues Unlimited Bookstore booth, teaching a class on writing historical mysteries, and participating as a panelist on a third panel.(for my complete schedule, click here) Participating on a panel is a little nerve-wracking if you don't care for speaking in front of crowds. I don't mind public speaking, but one does feel a some pressure to be entertaining. It takes a lot of preparation to be spontaneously witty and profound. The real work comes with being a panel moderator. Now, that does take a lot of prep. The moderator's job is to make the panelists look good. I've moderated many a panel in my time, and sometimes the authors are real pros who make it easy and sometimes you get a bunch of stiffs and you work your hindquarters off trying to keep the audience from either walking out or sliding out of their chairs in a coma, overcome by boredom.
It’s always a boost to be around other writers. Writing can be such a solitary life that sometimes you wonder if you're not just a voice crying in the wilderness. It's a mystery to me how a book ever gets written, to tell the truth. I've written books in the midst of personal crises that went on for months, but then found myself paralyzed when nothing in particular was going on with the rest of my life. But however lovely it is to get out in the world, I must say that I can’t help but wonder if all this travel and outlay and acting as free entertainment just for the exposure is really worth it. Especially when you can hardly find the time to finish your novel.
I want to write my stories. That's the thing I want to do and the thing I really enjoy doing. My mother taught us that in order to reach our financial goals, we should always pay ourselves first. In other words, put money aside for yourself before you even pay your bills. My mistake lately has been not doing the same thing with my writing. Do the writing first. It doesn't even have to be good, just get some words down on the page before you do anything else. That's my job, to do the writing. All the rest is gravy.