Thursday, October 30, 2008

Texas Book Festival and Familiar Faces

by Kathryn Casey

One of the best things writers get to do is go to bookstores, book clubs, and festivals and sign books. Okay, I admit it, it's always fun to see our books slipped into bags and carted out of stores under someone's arm, knowing they'll be read and hoping they'll be enjoyed. But, what's really great is that while we're signing books we get to talk to people, all kinds of folks we wouldn't meet otherwise. Whether it's in a B&N or an independent store, I meet the most interesting folks.

So yesterday, for instance, I went to a book club signing where most of the members were retired teachers. We were there to talk about Singularity, my mystery that came out in June. It was a nice, kind of intimate crowd, maybe fifteen women and two men. (I'm not sure how they got in, but it was nice of the men to come. As usual, it was one of the the men who asked about the sex scene in the book. I think they're more into it than women are. I have this one friend named Jack who said he read it six times. But I digress.) I had a great time comparing notes with all of the book club members. As former teachers, they were happy, I think, when I mentioned that I still organize my true crime books the way one of my English teachers taught me to in junior high, by putting the facts, quotes, etc., on index cards and shuffling them into an outline.

As our time together went on, a healthy sampling of the questions, as always, were about what it's like to be a writer. A lot of folks, I think, do a little writing and wonder what it would be like to support themselves like we do.

So here goes. My take on the writing life:

First: It's kind of lonely. When I'm not attending a trial or interviewing sources, I spend most of my time alone at my computer. Years ago, Ann Rule warned me I'd end up with hip problems someday from the long hours sitting. That hasn't happened yet, but Ann's a very wise woman, and I have noticed I've spread out a bit. My dad says it's middle-age, but I think I've developed computer hips. I walk in the neighborhood to counteract it, but, alas, so far it's not working.

Second: The commute is easy and the wardrobe doesn't cost much. Today and yesterday I worked in my home office in my pajamas. They're my favorite ones, actually. Soft and loose. If I got a real job, I bet they wouldn't let me wear them to the office.

Third: Sometimes it's harder than other times. It's fascinating to go to the trials, but it's tough to talk to families who've lost loved ones. Really hard. And it's painful to talk to families whose loved ones will probably spend the rest of their lives in jail. These crimes we write about, no one wins. Especially the kids. Much too often, it seems to me, there are kids who suffer.

Fourth: I think I write because I have to, because I, for some strange reason, grew up needing to. Otherwise, I'd have to be crazy to lock myself in a converted bedroom staring at a computer screen all day. There's little more frightening than page one. But then, of course, there are few things more satisfying than typing "The End."

Where should someone get started: My favorite book on writing: Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott. Wonderful book if you're considering taking the plunge.

With all the other writers here, I hope one or two will weigh in on their thoughts on the writing life. In the meantime, I'd like to invite all of you in the Austin area to a little gathering that's taking place this weekend, the Texas Book Festival. And while you're there, be on the lookout for familiar faces. My WCI colleague Diane Fanning and I will be there signing our books this coming Saturday afternoon.

For those of you unfamiliar with the festival, it's held on the grounds of the state capitol, in the center of the city, and it attracts a host of authors and thousands of enthusiastic readers. One of the big events is the awarding of the Bookend Award. This year's recipient is long-time LBJ biographer Robert Caro.

This isn't our first year at the festival. Diane and I were both honored to participate in panels at the 2008 event. The photo at the right is of Diane flanked by her fellow panelists: Rick Riordan and Harry Hunsicker. While the festival has opted to forgo a true crime panel this year, they couldn't keep us away. When Mystery Writers of America invited us to sign our books at its booth, we accepted without hesitation.

This Saturday, November 1st, Diane and I will be available at the MWA booth from one to three. In addition, I'll stay for two more hours, until five. (At which point, I'll undoubtedly hit Sixth Street looking for good music and food. Gotta love that along with a lot else about Austin.)

Early reports are that the weather will be fall spectacular, so come on out, check the schedule to find out which of your favorite authors is participating, take in a couple of events, and make sure to say hi to us at the MWA booth.

What could be more fun on a Saturday afternoon?

For those of you we'll meet, remember Diane and I both write fiction along with true crime. We can't promise, but we're always looking for good characters. There is the possibility that you just might recognize someone a tiny bit like you in a novel sometime in the not too distant future!


TxMichelle said...

When I looked at the schedule it wasn't clear where you would be located. Could you let me know? That way I will be out. It really sounds like fun.

Kathryn Casey said...

Thanks, Michelle. We're in Exhibitor Tent 1, just south of the Barnes & Noble Sales Tent, on the Capitol grounds. Our booth is number 115, which should have a Mystery Writers of America sign prominently displayed. Looking forward to seeing you!

Kathryn Casey said...

Looking at this again, we'll be in a tent on Colorado Street, the second tent north of 12th street. (The first tent, the one on the corner, has TBF merchandise.) See you there!

Leah said...

Wish I could be there. I am moving 11/14 so maybe I'll catch the next one.

TWO men showed up??? How dare they?

LadySheila said...

Ms. Casey, You know me, don't you!!! If only I had a car...

Pat Brown said...

Ah, Kathryn, you are a better woman than me. I read a book about writing once that said if you are looking forward to the publication of the book more than the writing of it, you are not a writer. Well, Gosh, I LIKE to look back at what I have written (and sometimes I am amazed I wrote it) but I have one heck of a time forcing myself to sit and write. I never was one to write prolifically; I would get a great idea, start writing, and then wish I had someone else to do all the long hours ahead. I am still looking for a way to be more disciplined. Right now, instead of writing, I am reading the blog and playing online Scrabble:: sigh::

TxMichelle said...

It will be my pleasure. The capital grounds are beautiful. Especially now with this wonderful weather! See you there.

Too bad you won't be out in time. I hope I get to see you though when you do get out this way.

Kathryn Casey said...

Maybe next time, Leah! We'll look forward to it.

Wish you could be there, Lady.

Michelle, we'll be watching for you.

I know what you mean, Pat. I'm working on a book now and whenever I hit a rough patch, I play a game of solitaire. It seems to help me over the hurdles. Sigh. Writing is WORK! LOL

Sibby said...

This sounds like it would be such a fun event to attend. Too bad I live so far away. Have a great time, Kathryn!

Kathryn Casey said...

Wish you could be there, too, Sibby!

Kathryn Casey said...

Just wanted to say thank you to everyone who made it out to see us! Diane and I enjoyed it!