This should come as no surprise to any of you, but one of my favorite things about living in LA is the annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. For those of you who are unfamiliar, it’s a two-day event that takes over the entirety of the University of Southern California campus (Fight on, Trojans!) and is a weekend-long celebration of the written word. There are dozens of panels and discussions with authors; local (and not-so-local) vendors of books and all things literary set up shop in booths all across the university; live music serenades festival-goers throughout the day; food trucks assemble to create a makeshift food court. And over 100,000 people descend upon USC over the course of the weekend to take part in it.
100,000 people who are as big a book geek I am.
It is magical, and not just for the obvious reasons listed above.
Creating things is hard, guys. If you are the type of person who voluntarily hangs around this blog it’s likely that you, too, are a creative type in one capacity or another and understand what I mean. From the first spark of an idea to bringing that vision into the real world (as much as is possible for any creative endeavor to reach completion, but that is a whole other tangent), it takes considerable time and effort to get things made. And the sheer amount of time depends entirely on the scope of the project at hand. I set up this little corner of the internet as an outlet for the smaller-scale stories that see fit to pop into my head every now and again. Even the more time-intensive of the stuff that I’ve posted here have taken at most a few days to write. But there are far larger, longer-term projects that I have been working on for years now. And as much as I believe in them, from time to time I inevitably find myself wondering if all the work I’ve put into it is worth it.
And then I am reminded of the deep, enduring enthusiasm that surrounds storytelling – not only from the folks who consume those stories, but from the folks who create them as well. I attended a conversation where all the panelists were debut authors and one of them said something to the effect that there are a lot of people out there who like the idea of having written a novel, and will therefore make a stab at writing one even if they don’t have a story they’re burning to tell. And these people will almost always give it up. “It’s hard to make a whim last two years,” another one of the panelists chimed in, and everyone laughed and agreed.
And in another conversation, this time with Man Booker Prize-winning author Marlon James, he revealed that his own debut novel was rejected nearly eighty times before it finally found its home with an agent and publisher.
These were small moments in a jam-packed weekend, but ones that inspired and reaffirmed all the same. It was a reminder that the stories that get told are the ones whose tellers want to see them exist in the world, who believe in the idea of them so much that through a combination of passion and discipline they will them into being. No matter how long it takes. Even if, like me, it might be years in the making.
And anything thus created is bound to resonate with others. I refer again to the 100,000 of my closest book-nerd friends who joined me at the festival this past weekend.
It was a welcome reminder that no artistic endeavor ever comes to fruition without dedication and enthusiasm for the work itself. Even the best of us forget that sometimes.
And now, back to work I go.