Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Augusta Literary Festival - AKA my first attempt to travel with two kids

I'd like to start this post with a little diddy about how my experience at the Augusta Literary Festival concluded. The festival was drawing to a close. My husband was holding our 4 month old baby with one hand and helping me pack away odds and ends with the other. My 4 year old daughter was helping herself to leftover candy. She looked up at me and said: "Momma, why does one of your earrings have a hole in it and the other one doesn't?" I figured one of the earrings - dangly loopy silvery things - had become hooked on itself some kind of way. I reached up to feel for both. I was wearing two completely different earrings, and had been All. Day. Long. And that, in a nutshell, is what it's like to tour with small children in tow. Hey, at least they were both silver. (Can you spot the difference in the picture at the end of this post?)

A more extended version of events:

We arrived in Augusta on Thursday night. I checked in with the front desk at the hotel and then shuttled my sleeping children from the car to the room using half-ninja-half-mama-grizzly tactics to scare would-be noise away. My four year old slept between my husband and I on a king size bed, some how turning perpendicular, where-upon she began making snow-angels in her sleep.

On Friday I was scheduled to attend a round panel discussion with the other four finalist for the Frank Yerby Award for Fiction. We asked Siri how to get there. Dear Siri sent us to the wrong place five times, after which I spied the little yellow house I saw on the festival website, told my husband to stop the car in the middle of the road, leaped out, and ran to the front door. There was a piece of paper on the door. That's never a good thing, never: congratulations, you found the right place! And this was no exception. The panel had been moved to a different building. I had the name but no map and not the foggiest idea of how to get from here to there.

Then an angel appeared: a woman in her car called out to me (I don't know if I was radiating desperation or just looked really, utterly lost). She was part of the award panel and told me where the discussion had been moved to. I thanked my lucky stars I'd opted to wear boots instead of heels, and ran across a field and three parking lots, arriving at the panel sweaty, but on time.

The panel discussion was freaking amazing. There's really no other way to describe it. We clicked and bantered and dove in and swam around. We challenged each other. We supported each other. I would do it once a week if I could. This is where I first met fellow writers Amanda Kyle Williams, C. Michael Forsyth, and Kimberly Teter. Meeting these people made the entire trip worth it, and the festival hadn't started yet.

Amanda Kyle Williams won the Yerby Award - and she absolutely deserved it. She is witty and razor-sharp. Her book - Don't Talk to Strangers - is book three in her Keye Street series. I'm reading book #1 - The Stranger You Seek - right now, (because I'm one of those OCD types that has to read series books in order even if they're all stand-alone) and it has the most chilling opening I have ever read. Hands down. No contest. Put it on your to-read list right now. Right. Now.

Me, I'm happy to be a finalist, to have earned some bling for the Moonlit cover, to be counted among heavy-hitting company, and to own all three of Amanda's books. Signed. Boom.

While I was at the award ceremony, my husband took our girls to Outback to attempt dinner single-parent style. He was brave, and he went down fighting, but that ship sank hard, fast, and loud. He wound up tossing dinner in to-go boxes and wrangling our tiny circus back to the car as fast as possible. Once I came back, I helped him get both girls asleep, and then ate my dinner perched on the hotel toilet so I wouldn't wake our baby, who bursts to waking at the slightest sound. Proof positive mashed potatoes are the bees knees - no matter what temperature they are or where you are when you eat them. Bonus: they're super quiet to chew.

At last - Saturday - the actual Literary Festival portion of events. The venue was beautiful, the organization spot-on, and the support was fantastic. Writers, if you have a chance to attend this festival, I highly recommend it. The 2015 group of authors was one of the most interesting, engaging, benevolent group of people I've been a part of. Aren't we a snazzy group?

And then came time to pack up, and my daughter pointed out my earrings, and I was so freaking tired, and still kind of giddy that Amanda Kyle Williams stopped by my table and snagged a piece of chocolate and laughed at my one-liner, that I shrugged and kept packing. At least I have big hair. Earrings are more like a glimmer, an after thought, a peekaboo behind a curtain of brownish. Like I said, at least they were both silver.