Monday, June 09, 2008

Book Fair Blues from the IWPA Tent

Chicago's Printers Row Book Fair was disrupted not once but twice this past weekend. I was reminded how powerful Mother Nature is. It was not a tragic experience, fortunately, but it was certainly an annoying one. I heaved a sigh each day when I got back home to my recliner.

On Saturday, we could see dark clouds rolling in and out all day, but we hoped for the best. Our materials kept blowing around, and we had to anchor everything. I met interesting people, sold six books (not bad for me, although not profitable), but shortly after four, the rains came (the fair was to last until six). They lasted long enough to send everyone home, and fortunately I was able to catch a ride with a fellow author who lives in my neighborhood. I had traveled to the fair by taxi.

On Sunday, most of us returned (some were there only one day, as planned), and we were joined by a few others. That day looked even more threatening. The sky was dark, and the winds were still blowing strongly. However, the early morning weather forecasts suggested that the rains would hold off until late afternoon or evening (I understand that the predictions changed later).

As the weather got more ominous, most of us began to pack up our books and display materials and get ready to flee if necessary, but we hoped that the storm would blow over quickly, as it had on Saturday. No such luck! Soon after noon, the deluge hit: heavy, nearly horizontal rain and winds that seemed of almost hurricane force. We stayed under our tent until it collapsed, sending tables, chairs, and just about everything flying. Many, or most, of the tents survived, but ours did not.

Being less than young and agile, I grabbed my rolling bag of books and my purse and fled (through running water) to the nearby bus shelter for refuge. Later, some prophet of doom came by and suggested that we get inside a building in case there was a tornado. Soaking wet, I went to the closest building, an unfinished restaurant space next to Hackneys. We had quite a crowd there, all ages and races. Even the small children did not seem to panic; after all, we are all used to Chicago's changeable weather. One of my fellow authors offered me seating space on a large portable cooler, and I accepted. I probably looked as though I were about to collapse.

Eventually, the rain and wind died down. Fortunately, I had a quirky folding umbrella in my purse, and I managed to unfold it and venture out into the light rain. I made my way from our location on Dearborn Street south to Polk and east to State Street, and, wonder of wonders, I soon caught a cab.

By then, I was completely wet, especially my feet, since I had walked through a lot of flowing water. I couldn't wait to get home. I changed my clothes completely and collapsed into my recliner, happy to be home. Fortunately, the few books I had with me were not ruined. Oh yes. I had sold a couple of books that morning.

Some final thoughts:

It appeared to me that people are not buying books--or anything--as freely as they once did. The author who sat next to me on Saturday sold only one of her books. Perhaps it was because hers is an expensive hard cover book. However, another paperback non-fiction author in our booth sold eighteen copies. One seller of inexpensive children's books did well, too.

I was impressed by virtually all the books our IWPA authors had for sale, and I was reminded how difficult it is to make money as a writer. I applaud my fellow authors for trying hard, but for myself, I've never had high expectations. Is that good or bad? I'm not sure, but I am happy to be a relaxed writer. Writing books is fun, but the book promotion process seems very difficult, especially when the weather does not cooperate. Fortunately, I have no large stock of books to worry about.

Will I go back next year? Probably. The fair organizers did a fine job, but Mother Nature did not cooperate.

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

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