As everybody knows, it’s book festival time in New England. So this past Saturday Liz and I attended the inaugural Boston Book Festival. It had been a rainy morning, but we made the trip to Copley Plaza and by the time we arrived, the rain had stopped, and the temps were into the 60s.
First stop was the Boston Public Library Abbey to check out Hank Phillippi Ryan’s Guided Open Mic, sponsored by Grub Street. For 90 minutes, writers took turns reading their original work in front of a room of attendees while Hank took notes.
After each reading, Hank gave a helpful critique of the presentation. She commented on material choice, urging readers to really consider the piece they read in terms of how it represents their work. And delivery, telling one young, eager writer to slow down because she couldn’t make out half her words. She was honest but gentle, doing a great job of making each participant feel comfortable, if not perfectly at ease. Reading in front of an audience is difficult enough, so performing to be critiqued must have been twice as nerve-shattering for these hearty writers.
The line waiting to get into an event at the library:
Next up we took in the exhibits set up in tents outside the library and along Boylston Street. The temps were warm and the rain was still holding off, but there was a wicked wind. Luckily the tents held fast.
There were long lines for Green Mountain Coffee and free ice cream. Thankfully, there were also lines at many of the other booths, including publications like The Paris Review, AGNI, the Boston Globe, and Post Road. There were many publishers represented, including David R. Godine, Etruscan Press, and Drawn & Quarterly, which brought along a beautiful selection of posters, comics, and graphic novels.
It was a good opportunity to discover small presses, and that’s just what I did when I stopped at the One Story tent. One Story is a literary magazine that offers one story per issue, one issue every three weeks. Each issue costs a dollar, and is published as a single-colored booklet. I sort of randomly grabbed two issues, numbers 84 and 93. I liked issue 84’s title, Wedding Pictures. The girl behind the table knew the story, by Donald Petersen, and started to describe it to me as a sale’s pitch. It worked. Issue 93 is titled Meeting Elise, by Nam Le. Subscriptions are $21 for a year.
Then it was time to head across Boylston to the Old South Church Sanctuary to see Tim Kring, creator of Heroes, and novelist Reif Larson, author of The Collected Works of TS Spivet. Larson was first, discussing maps and other signage, and how the meanings of this communication can change depending on context. He presented a series of whimsical and sometimes hilarious slides to illustrate his points. Maps and map making figure prominently into his book as a theme and also as margin illustrations.
Tim Kring discussed the myriad ways in which the TV show Heroes is marketed, er, I mean how it presents the many facets of its storyline. He calls it Transmedia storytelling. The idea is that Heroes the TV show is the epicenter of the Heroes universe. While the show is the main engine, other outlets such as websites and action heroes and comic books can all be developed to extend the story, offering specialized content beyond what viewers see on the show. It’s sort of the ultimate in marketing synergy, where you can buy a toy from the show that includes a piece of character mythology or read a graphic novel about an ancillary character from the show, all adding to the Heroes storytelling experience.
Then Tim showed the trailer he created for a series of books he was shopping around a few years ago. He put together a website which hosted the trailer, and kind of like with Heroes, users could go navigate the website and read all about what his books were about, which includes alternate American history. Must have worked, because he got a book deal.
When that ended we had a little time left and went up to the second floor of the church to check out the Grub Street-sponsored Writer Idol, where a professional actor read the first page or two of anonymously submitted work by writers in the audience. After which a panel of 4 agents explained why each would or would not want to see more of the work. There were a few pieces that the agents agreed they might be interested in. Now it’s up to those writers to get their stuff into the agent’s hands.
Overall, a great experience, even for the few events we attended. The festival was smooshed into one day, so I imagine some attendees might have had a difficult time deciding what to see as there was much overlap in the schedule. But the choices were diverse enough so that if you missed one event, hopefully the next would make up for it. I'll definitely keep an eye out for next year's festival.
If you're interested in Tim Kring's theory of Transmedia, here he is expounding on the subject: