“Each woman who never wrote a word…still lives.”
Every year since its launch in 2015, I’ve attended the Bay Area Book Festival in downtown Berkeley. I love it, not because of my bookworm ways but the festival’s theme fits the values I hold dear to my heart. It’s a socially conscious event loaded with books and speakers focused on literary activism. This includes topics like tolerance, environmentalism/climate change, lack of gun-control, our nation’s political extremism, sanctuary and human rights. The entire event is based on changing the world for the better.
Most every topic had a place within the words in my novels. This is Contemporary Realistic Fiction. It’s who I am.
This year I exhibited as an author. The honor of promoting my novels within a community absorbed with these social issues was therapeutic. It gave me validation, “Wow there are so many people that connect with the moral message of my book!”
It was an exhilarating yet exhausting experience. We stood eight hours each day in our 10×10 booths with our books, flyers, author cards and whatever items we mustered up to pull in emotional heartstrings and open minds. We could hear each other’s marketing pitches all the way down “Author’s Aisle.” It was a throwback to my corporate days in a cubicle or at a trade show where we could also hear each other’s slick sales personalities.
My booth mates’ snoopy dog and the jar of candy I used to help secure flyers in the wind attracted children—lots of children. It turned out to be a blessing because where children wander, parents follow.
MASKS OF MORALITY is a sweet story about family love, children, and parenting, with a political bent on how corrupt policy within all those topics mentioned above— negatively impact the family unit and society. I found I needed no elevator pitch. I just…smiled and asked what they like to read or if they are enjoying the event. For my first sale, I was not even at my booth. I had taken a walk and my booth mate said when I returned, “You sold a book. A woman picked it up, read the back cover and said, ‘I want one.’”
I signed and sold books, but that’s not what’s important. The public face-to-face contact and getting my author platform into the light of day in the sunshine and fresh air were magical. Rather than be rendered to a data point on Amazon or even physically shelved on Barnes & Noble and other bookstores (as my novel is) I am a voice in the crowd—a woman’s voice— which indirectly covers an additional main topic of this event: Women’s voices cannot be silenced!
Another customer said to me, “Wow, did you hear Robert Reich’s speech today? Your book sounds like his—he’s the author of ‘The Common Good,’ a work advocating morality and inclusivity in place of the aggressive polarization taking hold of our country.”
Six hours later, the same man who said this came back to my booth and announced, “I’ve read the first 30 pages of your novel and love it.”
Over the past four years, I attended fabulous speaker panels at the Bay Area Book Fest. Not this year. My author booth took priority. Yet, I lived vicariously through many attendees and enjoyed their perspectives on the speaker engagements, hearing at least a handful equate the topics to my writing.
American writer, historian and activist Rebecca Solnit was a guest speaker, and quoted, “Even the act of writing in a time we’re governed by a Twitter King with the attention span of a gnat—that quality of depth of attention and desire for knowledge, value for the meaning of words and power of language is itself a form of resistance.”
To top it all off renowned travel author Pico lyler, who delivered the closing keynote address for the event titled The Power of Literature to Create a Better World, had these words of wisdom to offer: “Literature to me is an answer to nationalism. Nationalism is based on assumptions of hostility.”
I couldn’t be happier with my experience as an author exhibiting at the Bay Area Book Festival. The best part was the human touch in marketing, rather than some digital algorithms determining if my voice in novels is worthy. Human touch, after all, is what I write.
“Writers, when they write something, they’re giving tens of thousands of hours toward expressing and telling a story. That’s an act of love. It really is. Love towards the world, toward humankind.”
~Cherilyn Parsons, founder, and director, Bay Area Book Festival