Festivals and the Literary World
By Arthur Cola
The age of social media and the internet has transformed the manner in which authors present their stories to the world. This very venue is a fine example of this explosion of electronic marketing and sharing of information on one’s stories. There remains however that personal interaction activity called “a book event.” All of us who write are quite familiar with these events usually held in a local bookstore. It affords us time to speak with people about one’s work in a heartfelt manner. They are also usually arranged through media communication such as email as well. So these events today have become a blend of a human interactive event and that of the electronic age.
For me there is another explosion of cultural events which have become a literary phenomenon affording authors opportunities to present their work. These are the Cultural and Ethnic Festivals held across the nation. Originally designed to bring a taste of a particular ethnic culture to its visitors through music, food and entertainment, each has grown to present not only a historical aspect to its cultural presentation but also the Fine Arts of their heritage. And that now includes Literary works by people like me. Festivals such as Festa Italiana/Milwaukee, Dublin Irish Fest in Ohio, IBAM/Chicago, Boston Irish Fest and Festa Italiana in Washington D.C. are just a few examples of these celebrations of cultural food, music, history, and the Fine Arts which now includes Literary works often reflecting their heritage or stories written by authors of a particular ethnic background.
I love these Festivals which keep me pretty busy through the summer and into the fall season. It affords me an opportunity to engage in dialogue with fellow authors and the festival visitors who may never have been exposed to an author’s work were it not for the festival having an “Authors Corner.” Standing by the table, usually in a tent structure, on which is displayed my books is fun for me. This year I had my two twelve year old grandsons with me at Festa Italiana in Milwaukee. They had a blast handing out cards announcing my new novel, THE BROOCH. The people loved it when the “boys” invited them to meet their Papa. The couple of hours they were there was a unique experience for them and brought into the Fine Arts tent a lot of visitors.
One of the most asked question at any festival is that of why I began to write books. I never get tired of answering that question. It’s a perfect one which allows me to introduce my books. And so I begin with how my first story was written for my grandchildren, in fact the very ones handing out those cards when they were in Kindergarten. Thus was born “Papa and the Gingerbread Man.” A Christmas fantasy adventure fantasy set in St. Augustine Florida its format of learning a little early American History while chasing the vacationing famous cookie man throughout America’s oldest city is a hit with grandparents and kids alike.
From that introduction, I present my family friendly novels of “Papa and the Leprechaun King” and “The Shamrock Crown.” “These tales are based on experiences encountered while on a self-guided tour of Ireland and the United Kingdom,” I tell them. They are a blend of present day events with the folklore, history and legends of these nations. My middle school aged grandsons liked reading these stories of American tourists saving the Realm of the Wee Folk while on Tour of Ireland and that of the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table brought into the 21st Century and so do the “baby boomers” of my generation.
Moving to my adult novels, The Stone Cutter Genius and The Brooch I am able to answer another frequently asked question, why did I write stories revolving around the life and times of the Renaissance Artist Michelangelo. The answer often surprises them. While most kids of my day had heroes like The Lone Ranger and Superman, my childhood hero was an artist who had died 500 years ago. “My, you must have been from an artistic family” they would remark. “Not hardly, I grew up in the “little Italy” neighborhood of Chicago on the near west side. The reason I looked up to Michelangelo was that he was of my height and weight.” When I went to Italy years later doing post graduate work at Loyola University in Rome, I began to form an idea for a book. Later when I took a group of my students to Italy, their antics and experiences would serve to provide much fodder for the telling of a story filled with the issues of the present day and intertwined with that of the life and times of Michelangelo. And so these mystery tales based on the Italian legend of the “Ring of the Magi” from the days of the Renaissance were born.
Festivals are indeed a great way for authors to get the word out on their work. Many of them now have scheduled formal presentations for the author. Thus the author has an audience. These usually run around 30 to 45 minutes, thus I am able to present the background of the forming of my books with a/v highlights as well. It also allows me to throw in the news of the film project for my screenplay, “Ring of the Magi.” That usually results in a lot of interest as well. Of course those questions, of which I have written, will be among those asked during the question and answer period which concludes the presentation. Festivals are great fun and a wonderful marketing opportunity for we who write.