By ERIN ALLEN
For the second day of the National Book Festival, the Pavilion of the States got a makeover. Gone were the tables from Alabama through Wyoming; in their place were three new mini-pavilions offering the best from The Cutting Edge, State Poets Laureate and Graphic Novels.
One of the most popular was Graphic Novels, where fans enjoyed impromptu sketching from their favorite artists.
Richard Thompson, creator of the “Cul de Sac” comic strip about the life of a preschool girl named Alice Otterloop, kicked off the festivities with a PowerPoint presentation of some of his favorite work and commentary on the much-loved characters. In addition to his remarks, Thompson let his comic strip do the talking.
Taking pen to pad were the likes of Kazu Kibuishi, Allen Say, Eric Wight and Rachel Renee Russell. Their young fans stared rapt, many standing in the aisles or moving closer to the stage to catch a glimpse of their favorite cartoon characters.
Say, a soft-spoken man who admitted to getting lost a lot when giving talks, drew caricatures of himself and his mentor, Noro Shinpei. Say is the author of the Caldecott Honor-winning “The Boy of the Three-Year Nap.”
“Images come from a deeper part of the cave than words,” Say said. “To be called an author just boggles my mind. But I never write, I draw first. I attempt to tap my unconscious.”
The State Poets Laureate pavilion set a more reserved tone, with readings from Kelly Cherry of Virginia, Dolores Kendrick of the District of Columbia, Wesley McNair of Maine, Carol Muske-Dukes of California and Stanley Plumly of Maryland. During a question-and-answer session, Plumly shared a sentiment likely echoed by his fellow poets.
“A feeling toward your experiences, the way you respond to the world guides what you think and write about,” he said. “The topics choose you.”
Taking the podium in the Cutting Edge Pavilion were authors who took different approaches to writing and publishing and who cover social issues in their books—Colleen Houck, Kimberla Lawson Roby, Eric Dezenhall and Kia DuPree.
Both Houck and Roby got started by self-publishing their novels—a practice they think is about to become more commonplace. Houck, author of the “Tiger’s Curse” series, got her break after publishing her book online through Kindle.
“I admit I kind of did everything backwards,” she said.
After writing the first two books in her series and receiving rejection after rejection, Houck self-published them as e-books. Within a few months, they were selling like crazy. And, by soliciting reviews and help from her fans, along with beefing up her web presence, she was able to get deals with foreign publishers and even Hollywood. After all that, she finally got a literary agent and book deal.
As with Houck, Roby’s first book, “Behind Closed Doors,” met with rejection.
“I had thought that was it, but my mother encouraged me not to give up,” she said. “My husband actually encouraged me to publish the book myself because I had a business background.”
Roby used her own finances to print copies of her book to market herself—and at one time had some 3,000 books in her spare bedroom. Her perseverance paid off: She is now a New York Times best-selling author with 16 published novels—and the rights to her first book have been optioned for film.
Erin Allen is a writer-editor in the Office of Communications.