This past weekend I donned my extrovert disguise and briefly lived the life of an outgoing social person who draws her energy from mingling with crowds of her fellow humans, instead of a select few at a time. I attended the Alpena Book Festival, an annual event held on the shore of Lake Huron in the northern reaches of Michigan’s lower peninsula. The weather was lovely, the town was charming and the participants were enthusiastic.
When first invited to participate I said yes, because it seemed like a good way to connect with other writers and readers, and because it was too far away to give me a serious case of introvert’s dread. But as the day drew near, I discovered that multiple other events had found their way onto my September calendar. Every weekend was booked—a dreaded state of affairs for someone who needs alone time. Still, I had promised. So I went, I participated, I got the nametag. And I found it was actually very enjoyable.
About 30 authors were on the schedule for panel discussions, book readings, book signings, and mixing and mingling events with attendees. Funds raised through the festival went to support an adult literacy program. The best part of the activities for me was listening to and learning from writers with a passion for words and their ability to amuse, move, soothe, excite, provoke, change and ultimately connect us with each other. And no, it’s not a paradox that an introvert values connection. We like people just as extroverts do, but in much smaller groupings. And I was able to converse happily with some very nice authors and attendees.
I sat on one panel with a friendly, outgoing middle-aged author. Before things began, he told me all about his daughter who had written and published multiple books. His obvious pride in her was so nice to witness that I looked up her books later. I had assumed, because he reminded me so much in looks and demeanor of the dad on Happy Days, that his daughter probably wrote books about cats, or cozy mysteries. Instead, her author page describes her as a writer of “sexy Old West adventures” and erotica. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It just made me laugh to think of Mr. Cunningham proudly promoting erotica written by Joanie.
I also connected with Robin Devereaux -Nelson, an award-winning author who does it all—she’s an artist, a writer, and a musician. She shared her insights, as well as practical information about tools for writing and the pitfalls of publishing contracts. I picked up one of her books to read, and will reward myself with it when I finally wrap up my own third book. I met another Michigan author, Jenna Mindel, who writes contemporary Christian romance for Harlequin. It’s not a genre I usually read, but I enjoyed hearing her talk about her passion for writing and her commitment to the integrity of her stories so much that I found myself purchasing her book as well. And I even sold a few books myself.
All in all, the Alpena Book Festival turned out to a good experience. I never say no if someone asks me to attend a book club, or give a talk, or participate in an event–at this stage in my writing career, I’m actually grateful for the invitation. And I’ve found that stepping outside my comfort zone can be quite enjoyable. So, I’m happy I went to the Alpena Book Festival. But not as happy as I was to get home, slip out of my extrovert outerwear and into my jammies, and enjoy a nice, long, solo sit in the corner of my couch.