On a warm Saturday this early June, Shut Up & Write! set up a booth at the annual Bay Area Book Festival in Berkeley for a weekend of meeting aspiring writers and spreading the word about our community and events. This year we were honored to be joined at the festival by five of our authors who shared their own personal Shut Up & Write! success stories while promoting their books to some of the tens of thousands of yearly festival-goers passing by.
I’ve been with Shut Up & Write! for a couple of years now, and as Community Manager most of my time is spent behind the scenes: making spreadsheets, setting up new chapters, and answering emails… oh so many emails. This weekend at the festival was actually my first chance to interact face-to-face with members of our community who have been attending our meetups for a while and have the publications to show for it! I felt giddy to be able to page through books that had been written at Shut Up & Write! events, all the while listening to the individual stories from the writers-turned-authors who had created them. It’s these kind of successes that make my work supporting our community so worthwhile.
I also really enjoyed talking to the diverse crowd of people that passed by our booth throughout the Bay Area Book Festival. We spoke to so many aspiring writers from various genres and stages of writing, all of whom were excited to find they would be a perfect fit for our vast community of writers. Many expressed immense frustrations at the challenges of getting one’s writing done, challenges that left them feeling defeated, isolated, or apathetic; these kinds of people were my favorite of all to talk to. I loved watching the change in their faces as we explained to them that writing didn’t have to be an isolating activity, that our community is full of writers facing the same kind of challenges, and that it really does help to just make the commitment to show up and feel the community’s support. It was great to see that after hearing this, most left our booth smiling with the newfound excitement to make progress on their writing.
When Sunday evening finally rolled around and the Bay Area Book Festival came to a close, we packed up the tent feeling exhausted yet exhilarated at the same time. Our visiting authors had sold hundreds of dollars worth of books, and we had pages of new sign-ups for the Shut Up & Write! Newsletter. More importantly, it felt like we had made a meaningful connection with the Bay Area community of writers (as well as those soon to be!). Overall I was very inspired by the entire event, and I can’t wait to be a part of it again next year.