Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Five-Minute Talk

This weekend I will participate in the Decatur Book Festival, a three-day event that features 14 stages packed with authors, live music, poetry readings, panel discussions, signings and cooking demonstrations. Children will be entertained with authors and illustrators, a parade and games, while teens have their own activities. Live music and poetry, cooking demonstrations, the Southern Foodways Alliance Sunday Picnic, the Rare and Collectible Book Fair, and the Writers’ Conference are all part of it too. Plus, the downtown square will be filled with food vendors, a wine garden and plenty of other culinary establishments.

Now that is what I call a jam-packed weekend. As I peruse the schedule of events, I know I must plan to attend some writing workshops, such as "Writing Vivid Characters: Detail, Dimension and Drive" or this title caught my attention, "Writing with Duct Tape - Using Emotion to Create Characters That Stick with Your Reader," but admittedly, my heart leans more toward the entertaining fun of Natalie Dupree discussing "Southern Biscuits." This will take some strategic planning on my part.

And did I mention the Emerging Writers Pavilion and Stage? Growing by leaps and bounds to over ninety authors this year, "emerging "authors are given a few minutes to speak about their book and then a signing opportunity in the sales tent. I guess you are wondering if I will be there and the answer is "yes." I am slowly emerging and have five minutes to speak. Five minutes! How many words can you say in five minutes? Not many for sure. But for sure, every word must count. No leisurely words of thank-you. No funny, anecdotal "get-acquainted" stories that endear your listeners to what you are about to say and calm your nerves. But with every word there is delivered content, interest, wonder and a compelling motivation to read the story. All in a very small nutshell. If you attend the festival on Sunday I am scheduled to speak at 2:20 at the Emerging Writers Stage. It will be an amazing feat to stay on schedule with that many authors stepping up and stepping down in five-minute increments.

Although I am not one to promote myself, this is a five-minute window to "emerge" a little. Start small. Stand up and tell others the short version of my story. It's what some call "building a marketing platform." Media exposure and blog buzz help along this road to emerging. It is an uphill learning curve and it makes me a little dizzy. Maybe that is why "Southern Biscuits" calls my name. There is something comforting about the familiar.

What will I say? Oh, something like:

"My name is Marcia Gaddis and I am the author of When God Comes Near, Waiting in the Miracle of His Presence. I never thought of myself as a writer, but in 2007 I began an online journal to share the heartbreaking story of a life that was taken much too soon. My daughter was 25 and was suddenly stricken with a rare and fatal disease. She would be the one in 150,000,000 to acquire this little-known disease called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. During the 16 months of her illness I wrote and wrote and wrote. I pondered the unfairness of it all. I marveled at the beauty and lessons of nature through the changing seasons. And I wrestled and pleaded with God who did come near - but said "no" to healing for my child. And so after her death, I assembled the journal into a memoir - Painful, you ask? Certainly. But the words are full of hope and love and trust. The words encourage and lift and point to something greater by far.

I self-published When God Comes Near in 2010 with the editorial and design support of David Laufer, a book designer from Atlanta. The book is available on Amazon and Kindle ebooks and of course here at the festival. In May of this year, the book received three major awards from the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference - best for Inspiration, Director's Choice and Book of the Year. I am honored to have my name on the cover and to be with you today."

Hope to see you at the Decatur Book Festival. I will either be reading or baking.

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