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3 Things a Young Writer Learned at Boston Book Fest

Posted by Alex Pearlman  October 19, 2011 06:01 PM

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bookswritingwriterslessons.jpgBy Melanie Yarbrough

For most attendees, this past weekend's third annual Boston Book Festival was a gathering of like-minded bibliophiles, a place to meet their favorite local authors and browse piles of books. But for some, like myself, it was a place to be inspired and reminded that writing -- and, by extension, good writers -- is not as dead as people may claim. I walked away from the festival with a renewed sense of peace with my dream career as an author.

Whether you’re studying creative writing at one of Boston's many institutions of higher learning or pursuing the dream post-college, here are three great lessons from BBF.

Boston’s writing community is "nice." At the Local Talent reading, which featured Laura Harrington, author of Alice BlissSteve Almond, author of God Bless America; and Michael Klein, author of Something for Nothing, there was ample time for a Q&A session. When a fellow audience member asked about the writing community in Boston, Harrington sang its praises: “Coming from the theater world, I’d say the writing community [in Boston] is much better," he said. Almond attributed this character “niceness” to the fact that, unlike in cities such as New York, Boston's writing culture isn’t characterized by the industry. Perhaps that could be a problem when you start your search for an agent, but as you cultivate your skills, it’s an essential difference.

You should use Grub Street. Almond urged Boston writers to use their available resources, particularly Grub Street, one of the country's largest independent creative writing centers. Its mission -- “to be an innovative, rigorous, and welcoming community for writers who together create their best work, find audience, and elevate the literary arts for all” -- offers the comforts lost for a writer suddenly flung into life after college. If student loans are keeping you from joining, consider signing up for one of their scholarships or attending a free event. For example, their Brown Bag Lunch Series gives you the opportunity to rub elbows with fellow writers and get some inspiration over your own, brought-from-home lunch.

People still care about reading. Constantly hearing that publishing is dead, or at least on its deathbed, can really bring a writer down. But Boston's wordsmiths need not worry. If you need more proof, the Book Fest drew over 30,000 people over its day and a half-long run. “Any time you have doubts about the future of literature and you see hundreds of people standing in line to see an author, it’s inspiring," Harvard Book Store and Boston Book Festival Board of Directors member Jeff Mayersohn told Publishers Weekly.

What was your most important takeaway from Boston Book Fest? What part of the festival did you enjoy the most?

Photo by Wonderlane (Flickr)

About Melanie -- I write, but mostly I read. I love bakeries, school supplies, comfortable shoes, short fiction, and really good sentences. Watch me make some mediocre sentences at @myarbrough.

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