Saturday, May 24, 2014

A Report from the South Carolina Book Festival

Convention Center
The 18th annual South Carolina Book Festival took place last weekend, Friday, May 16 through Sunday, May 18, at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center. Each year, I think the Festival improves, and this year is no exception.

On Friday, three writing workshops offered information about: (1) writing and submitting short stories; (2) publishing in the children’s fiction market; and (3) the art of making comics. I truly enjoyed teaching my thirty students in the short story workshop and passed along much of the advice you gave me in your comments to my previous blog. In the workshop, my students had the opportunity to write two short stories, one using just six words (like Hemingway’s “For Sale: Baby Shoes, Never Worn”) and one with six sentences (a technique recommended by Art Taylor, where each sentence describes: (1) character, (2) desire, (3) action, (4) conflict, (5) climax, and (6) resolution). I attended the children’s fiction workshop. Instructor Kami Kinard, who writes humorous novels for tweens and teens, provided excellent practical advice for writers interested in that market.

Christopher Buckley
Christopher Buckley, novelist, political satirist, speech-writer for President George H. W. Bush, editor of Esquire, and son of William F. Buckley, presented the keynote address on Friday night in the USC Law School Auditorium. He spoke about authors’ trials in selecting book titles, mentioning that editor Maxwell Perkins convinced F. Scott Fitzgerald to change Trimalchio in East Egg to The Great Gatsby, and that Joseph Heller planned to call his novel Catch-18 until he learned Leon Uris’s Mila 18 was due for release at the same time. In addition, Buckley noted that title translations have been hazardous. For example, The Grapes of Wrath in Japanese became The Angry Raisins.

On Saturday, I moderated the “Sassy Southern Suspense” panel featuring Susan M. Boyer (Agatha award winner for Best First Novel), Kendel Lynn (Agatha award nominee for Best First Novel and Managing Editor of Henery Press), and Cathy Pickens (St. Martin’s Malice Domestic award winner), three of the funniest and most delightful mystery writers you would ever want to meet.
Susan M. Boyer, Kendel Lynn, Cathy Pickens

Susan’s Liz Talbot and Kendel’s Elliott Lisbon series are set in the lowcountry, on islands off the coast, while Cathy’s Avery Andrews operates mostly in the upstate. The discussion became quite spirited when I asked which part of South Carolina was more humorous, and Cathy mentioned a certain contentious rivalry between USC and Clemson. We got a little more audience participation than anticipated! We also received some lovely compliments from folks who attended.
Conroy Siblings

Pat Conroy took the stage with three brothers and a sister to discuss their family life, which has been explored in Pat’s books. They said they had MLD contests to determine who acted “Most Like Dad” (known to readers as The Great Santini). They also spoke of a very poignant time at the funeral of their brother Tom, who committed suicide. At the funeral mass, the priest kept referring to the deceased as  “Tim” instead of “Tom.” Pat turned to his youngest brother Tim, who was sitting behind him at the service, and said he was so sorry to learn of his demise. Later, they discovered that the name had been misprinted in the program.
Friends and readers, Lynn Pixley and Anne Woodman, with Cathy Pickens

Sunday, I attended two terrific panels Cathy Pickens moderated. The first featured authors whose works included a paranormal element: Sonja Condit (her debut novel Starter House has a young couple expecting a baby moving into a home with a disruptive ghostly child), Nina de Gramont (who writes young adult novels with gothic elements), and Jason Mott (whose first novel The Returned is the inspiration for the TV series Resurrection).

Amy Carol Reeves, Cathy Pickens, Megan Shepherd, Bruce Holsinger

In the second, three historical novelists, Bruce Holsinger (a professor of English and Medieval Studies at the University of Virginia has written A Burnable Book about the relationship between Chaucer and John Gower), Amy Carol Reeves (a professor of nineteenth-century British literature pens a series of young adult novels based on Jack the Ripper), and Megan Shepherd (the daughter of independent bookstore owners crafts gothic young adult novels that stem from The Island of Doctor Moreau and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde), spoke about the inspiration for their books and how they strived to be historically accurate while providing entertaining stories.

Dorothy McFalls, Nina Bruhns

A wonderful aspect of the Book Festival is that it gives you a chance to reunite with friends and fellow authors and book enthusiasts. This year, I spent time in the exhibit hall with two groups of authors, the Lowcountry Romance Writers and the Palmetto Christian Writers Network.

Also, I had the chance to reconnect with fabulous independent bookstore owners from Windsor (near Aiken), SC, Fran and Don Bush.
Deena Bouknight, Sharon Leaf, Fran Bush, Susan Craft, Don Bush, PGB, Buffy MacDonald Crabtree, Linnette Mullin
One special moment occurred that I’ll long remember. As I was entering the room to moderate my panel, a student from my workshop gave me what looked like a large card to thank me for the class. I didn’t have the opportunity to open it until later. Inside, I found that she had bound and illustrated her six sentence story into a small book. It is a keepsake from the Festival that I will always treasure.


Jim Jackson said...


Jan and I had fun there last year, and it sounds like it was a good time as well this year.

~ Jim

Linda Lovely said...

Paula, you were a terrific moderator for the Sassy Southern Mystery panel. And I was delighted you stopped by the Lowcountry Romance Writers Association booth. This was my fourth year at the SC Book Festival and I'm sure I'll be back again next year. Working a booth also gives you so many opportunities to talk with READERS--the most wonderful folks in the world.

Susan O'Brien said...

Hi, Paula. Thank you for this wonderful, detailed report on a festival I'd like to attend someday. What great stories and pictures you shared!

Gloria Alden said...

Paula, it sounds like such a wonderful event I'd like to attend if only I had the time and money. Thank you for sharing it vicariously through your blog and pictures.

KM Rockwood said...

Certainly sounds like a wonderful experience, Paula. And I'm sure your workshop was well worth attending. It's something to put on my "Gee, if I can make it next year..." list.

Warren Bull said...


Thanks for letting us know about a great opportunity for the future

Shari Randall said...

Paula, thank you for sharing your experience - wish I could have been there. You are getting to be in demand as a moderator. No surprise there, as I have seen you in action!
What conference is next on your list?

Kara Cerise said...

I'm sure your workshop was wonderful, Paula. And how nice that a student gave you a small book with her six sentence story. What a treasure!

Su said...

I had always wondered what this festival was like, maybe I'll actually get there one of these days. Glad your class was a success and thanks for posting the report.

Anonymous said...

Jim and Linda, it's always wonderful to have you at the Festival. Please come back!

Susan, Gloria, Kathleen, Warren, Shari, and Kara, I hope you'll be able to come. If you do, let me know so I can make sure you have a warm welcome.

Shari, I feel so fortunate to get to moderate. I can tell people I have to read the panelists' books. It's required so I can interview them. It's not just that I can't wait to read their work.;)

Su, you had better plan to come next year. Maybe we can manage to get a signing time for the Guppy anthology!

Thanks for all the kind comments. Please put the SC Book Festival on your calendar for mid-May next year.

Paula Gail Benson said...

Sorry, that Anonymous message was from me, Paula!