The Lit Fest

Well… this feels long overdue. I have enjoyed taking a break from the daily blogging but I never expected to take more than a month off. But here we are.

I have a number of topics I’d like to blog about in the coming weeks but I really need to kick things off by talking about a four day event I was hired to photograph a month ago: The Salem Lit Fest.

The Lit Fest was a 4 day celebration of all things written and I was lucky enough to photograph and enjoy the entire event. If you have any interests in writing, reading, storytelling or parties (that’s everyone, right?) then this is right up your alley. The 2014 Lit Fest kicked off with a reading and Q&A hosted at Salem State University by Jennifer De Leon.

2014-11-6 - Salem Lit Fest - Jennifer Deleon-0023 2014-11-6 - Salem Lit Fest - Jennifer Deleon-0083Her reading was phenomenal and it was also the first moment I realized that I would be getting a lot more out of the events than just some great photos for my portfolio. I was going to learn a lot about how to write better stories and leave behind some bad habits. Her reading was beautiful and heartbreaking and the dialogue shifted between English and Spanish seamlessly. My understanding of Spanish is very basic but I could still follow the thread without any difficulty.

At the time I didn’t think much about it but then someone asked “how do you decide what to explain to the reader and what to let speak for itself?”

She answered with a question of her own. “What are you trying to explain to your audience and why? Does it need to be spelled out?”

At that point I realized I do this constantly in my blogs. I feel like I am always over explaining and it’s because I feel like my audience won’t follow along unless I handhold them through every step of my process. So no more of that, consider yourself cut off audience!

Moving along, Day 2. Writing Workshop with Donald Maass at the Hawthorne Hotel. Awesome venue, more great advice.

2014-11-7 - Salem Lit Fest - Donald Maass Workshop-0027I won’t spoil all of his tips but I have to share a couple of my favorites. “What are you most afraid to put on the page? What one thing, if everyone in the room knew about you, would you not be able to bear if they were to read it? Start there.”

And “I read a lot of good manuscripts but very few of them are stories that need to be told. Write a story that you need to tell.”

I should mention that for all of these quotes, I’m paraphrasing from my faulty memory of an event that happened a month ago. I think I should also point out how strongly these moments were burned into my brain because I swear that’s how they happened.

2014-11-7 - Salem Lit Fest - Donald Maass Workshop-0059Donald looking like a rock star.

Event #3, Cocktail Party at the Atheneaum.

2014-11-7 - Salem Lit Fest - Athenaeum Party-0003This was probably my favorite venue. Lots of writers, lots of cocktails and some performances…

2014-11-7 - Salem Lit Fest - Athenaeum Party-0146

2014-11-7 - Salem Lit Fest - Athenaeum Party-0090Round of applause.

Day 3, 5 Book Panels at the House of 7 Gables with 20 authors and a poetry reading for lunch. I couldn’t possibly describe all of the topics that happened over the course of this event but I will share my favorite takeaways. Writers don’t always know the trajectory of their stories, sometimes the characters change the plot in the process of writing and it takes the entirety of the story in completely different direction. I never considered that.

Here are some fun moments from all of the panels.

2014-11-8 - Salem Lit Fest - House of 7 Gables Discussions-0110 2014-11-8 - Salem Lit Fest - House of 7 Gables Discussions-04642014-11-8 - Salem Lit Fest - House of 7 Gables Discussions-1523 2014-11-8 - Salem Lit Fest - House of 7 Gables Discussions-1715Enter Sandy (Brunonia) Barry, the event organizer and a phenomenal writer as well. She and her husband Gary restarted the Lit Fest this year and they put a ton of time and energy into making it a huge success. I can’t wait to see how they top it next year!

2014-11-8 - Salem Lit Fest - House of 7 Gables Discussions-0689She also has a wicked sense of humor.

2014-11-8 - Salem Lit Fest - House of 7 Gables Discussions-1120Finally, the whole Lit Fest was capped off on Day 4 with storytellers at the Peabody Essex Museum. A couple of pirates showed up and stole the show.

2014-11-9 - Salem Lit Fest - PEM Storytellers-0381 2014-11-9 - Salem Lit Fest - PEM Storytellers-0413Then they gave this guy a gun.

2014-11-9 - Salem Lit Fest - PEM Storytellers-0238More great stories, fun venues and a number of touching moments.

2014-11-9 - Salem Lit Fest - PEM Storytellers-0667Great festival, put it in your calendar for next year.