A Debut Novelist Reflects on SIBA 2012
I arrived at SIBA 2012 in a near-comatose state, the inevitable result of cramming international travel, two full days at the arts nonprofit where I work, taping a TV show three hours’ drive from home, and travel to Naples into a five-day period. By the time I reached SIBA, I was operating on pure adrenaline—and not nearly enough caffeine.
Then I arrived, and was revitalized … not by a fancy Frappuccino, but by the intoxicating, giddy sensation of being surrounded by an abundance of fellow bibliophiles.
I’d been to SIBA before—years ago, in Atlanta—but in a much different capacity. That time, I’d been staffing a booth, representing the small publishing company where I served as editor. This time, I was there as an author, promoting my debut novel, THE MEMORY THIEF (Ballantine Books, August 2012). I felt like I’d fallen through the rabbit-hole, and woken up in Wonderland.
I know that, in these digitally dominated, penny-pinching days, attendance at traditional conferences is increasingly being supplanted by virtual participation. And if all you’re after is information, then sure, I guess that does the trick. But if you want to build relationships and get to know people, in my humble opinion there’s no substitute for looking them in the eye—or making a fool of yourself in front of them as you struggle to guide an Oreo cookie from your forehead to your mouth, without using your hands (note to self: not a future career path; thanks a lot, Writers Block Games).
But I digress. Simply put—to all the folks who claim that, in the second decade of the 21st century, in-person connections are overrated, I reply: Bah Humbug!
As proof, I offer up ten events that transpired as a direct result of my participation in SIBA 2012.
- En route to Naples, I persuaded a random woman in the Charlotte airport to download my book to her ereader. (What can I say? I am shameless.)
- At the Moveable Feast, I met fellow North Carolina author Marybeth Whalen (The Guest Book), who kindly invited me to participate in an October event at Park Road Books in Charlotte, also featuring NC author Erika Marks (The Mermaid Collector).
- Veteran author Melanie Benjamin (also published by Random House) graciously spent an hour with me in the hotel bar, sharing her writerly wisdom as she sipped a grownup drink and I gobbled fish tacos in a most undignified manner. To say I am grateful would be an understatement.
- University of Central Florida professor and book festival organizer Susan Wegmann generously invited me to participate in the 2013 UCF Book Festival.
- The lovely folks at the Charlotte Chapter of the Women’s National Book Association asked me to be a part of their October BIBLIOFEAST event.
- I met the enthusiastic and fabulous PR mavens of JKS Communications … who are now organizing my blog tour. I am so excited to be working with them, and who knows whether we would have found each other, were it not for SIBA?
- JKS Communications connected me with author and literary activist Jenny Milchman (whose debut novel, COVER OF SNOW, will be released by Ballantine Books in January) … and Jenny invited me to participate in her Montclair, NJ literary series, Writing Matters.
- I had the chance to shake the hands of some of the wonderful people who advocate for my novel at Random House, and thank them in person for all of their hard work.
- Ditto the many fabulous independent booksellers I had the good fortune to meet—on the trade show floor; around the tables at The Moveable Feast; while stacking red plastic cups into an improbable pyramid at the Writers Block Minute to Win It Games (see the Oreo incident, above).
- I discovered that I possessed a hitherto unrecognized talent: picking up a series of increasingly small paper bags off the floor with my teeth at the selfsame Writers Block Games, all for the sake of a raffle ticket. (Let us never speak of this again.)
From the absurd to the sublime, none of the above would have happened if I hadn’t been given the opportunity to attend SIBA 2012. To Wanda Jewell, Nicki Leone and all the rest of the SIBA crew—a heartfelt thank you.
Emily Colin is the author of THE MEMORY THIEF (Ballantine Books, 2012). She can be found skulking about on her website, www.emilycolin.com, and on various social networks as the spirit moves her.