It’s not often I get to travel to a new place, explore its unique shops, feast in its to-die-for restaurants, take part in a fun festival atmosphere, peruse through a mile of interesting books, and promote my own first novel, The Starfish People, all in the same weekend. But that’s exactly what I did September fourth, fifth, and sixth in Decatur, Georgia, a charming town “smack dab” outside of Atlanta.
Lucky for me, my fiancé, John, tagged along with me. Actually, he drove—which no doubt saved me a magnitude of confusion and stress maneuvering through the wild traffic on 285. Otherwise, I might still be driving around those highways much like the Flying Dutchman. Driving from Charlotte, NC, we arrived at our destination early Friday afternoon.
The Holiday Inn (conference center) right there in Decatur had long ago been filled, which was unfortunate because not only was it close in proximity to where the Festival was held near the old courthouse, tucked in among Devry University, the MARTA, and the cozy streets of downtown Decatur; but many of the speakers and such stayed there as well, and I missed a lot of good opportunities to hear and learn from them. We stayed about six miles away in another Holiday Inn in North Atlanta, driving back and forth as needed.
The weather, although a little gray and overcast on Saturday, was actually perfect for the Festival and activities, as the temperature stayed in the comfortable seventies. A couple of slight drizzles did not dampen the spirits of the throng of people who attended, many of them with strollers and leashed pets in tow. It was definitely a family atmosphere and a great people-watching opportunity as well. Books will bring out all kinds of them, you know, and we had fun speculating who might be a writer among them, some very obvious and some not. On Sunday the sun graced us with its warmth and clear skies.
I’m glad I registered with the Emerging Writers Pavilion, which was organized by the Atlanta Writers Group. For a small fee I was able to bring twenty of my books to the very large, round, platform gazebo-type building, where they were displayed among others on long tables. I was given a designated time Saturday at 10:45 am to speak about my book, and time afterward to be available for a short book signing, where I did sell a few of my books. I enjoyed listening to other authors’ (ranging from a college professor to a twelve year old girl) ten-minute speeches. And then—when my time was up—my book was still available at the Pavilion for the crowds to peruse, and my fiancé and I were then able to leave and take part in the Festival and did not have to be anchored to one spot the whole time. If someone wanted to buy my book, they would be able to pay for it at the Pavilion.Since this was my first Book Festival ever, it was the perfect setup for me.
There were books of all kinds, including a large children’s books section, where a variety of costumed book characters paraded. There were booths for food, T Shirts, Health Insurance, Atlanta and Decatur History, trinkets, and art—but mainly books, books, books, new, old, very old, independently published and not. Some authors had their own tent (a bit costly, but nice) where they were able to display their books and promotional materials. Either the author or a trusted friend had to sit there at all times, as they are responsible for taking the money for the book, in whatever form of payment they are set up to take. This is a good setup for a known author, or one who has plenty of money to spend. Also, I think two authors could probably split the cost of a tent and set up together.
I was very impressed with the fact that the Decatur Book Festival, though only four years old, is already the fourth largest in the country.
We ate more than one lunch in the crowded Brick Store Pub right there on one of the narrow streets lining the festival, and enjoyed a fantastic seasonal southern cooked dinner at the Watershed, a restaurant a couple of miles further down Ponce de Leon Ave, thanks to a recommendation by Elizabeth, a friend who lives locally. After, I just had to buy the cookbook put out by the chef, Scott Peacock, and have already fixed the macaroni and cheese, a dish John particularly loves.
As a writer I got a first hand view of a book festival and the added experiences of speaking in front of an interested crowd, and interacting with readers, other writers, and all-around book lovers. It made me want to join or start a writers group. It made me want to go to another book festival. Heck—it made me want to write.
So was the time and trouble to attend this major book festival worth it? Absolutely! I’m planning to go next year and take along my newest book, The Rendering. (Who knows—maybe I’ll have written a third by then!)
For more information about the Decatur Book Festival: