You know what I dislike about North Dakota?
Well, besides the nine months of winter, when there’s four feet of snow and the temps drop to -40 (without the windchill), and the lack of entertainment (seriously, unless you’re a history buff, it’s really boring up here).
I really dislike the fact that there’s really nothing here for authors, aspiring, established, or bestselling.
Sure, there are a few micro publishers around the state, but their focus is mainly Christian or life on the prairie. Neither of which is any help to writers who weave high fantasy tales, mysteries centered in a big city, or adventures in outer space. Of course, they could always hash out a few thousand dollars to get a deal with the local vanity publisher (not recommended).
There’s also very little in the way of writer’s conferences. UND Grand Forks holds a conference every year. It’s not a big huzzah like the Writer’s Digest Conference, but it does get decent attendance.
Perhaps my biggest complaint is this: North Dakota is the only state in the region without a book festival.
I’m not talking about the little ones occasionally hosted by schools or libraries. I mean something that draws in out-of-state attendance like the state fair. Minnesota, South Dakota, Montana, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan all have state festivals that draw in people from all over the country. Even big publishers attend these events (Llewelyn, Leap Frog, and Scholastic were just a few at the Minnesota one when I exhibited a few years back).
I’d really like to get something like that established here.
I’ve already brainstormed ideas for this little Inkers’ Rendezvous. It’d take quite a bit of effort, but I hear that it isn’t as complex as you’d think. The hardest part is getting people involved. Pitching an event to someone or a group of someones is harder than pitching a book. You basically need to have an entire business plan sketched out, answering questions like:
- Why there should be a book/literary festival
- Putting aside the fact that North Dakota doesn’t have one, a book festival should be held to motivate children to read. Or, better yet, write their own tales. The money raised from the festival can even be put into libraries and reading programs, which is extremely beneficial to schools facing budget cuts.
- What are the benefits of holding the festival
- Besides potentially bringing in extra money from tourism, generating job growth, and improving the community, a book festival can introduce both children and adults to new subjects. If keynote speakers attend, there’s definitely something to learn because they’ve studied their field and can potentially give people new insight into those subjects.
- Who is the intended audience
- Though true, stating “everyone” isn’t elaborate enough. Students and teachers would be a good group to focus on. I met a few teachers looking for new reading materials for their classrooms when I exhibited. Parents, too.
- When it will be held and for how long
- In ND, the best time would be a weekend sometime between mid-May and mid-September, when there’s little threat of snow.
- Where it can be held
- I’d host it in my back yard if I had parking space, but there are a few places in Minot that can host such an event. The All Seasons Arena, various hotels, even the mall are possibilities. Having it along Main Street could be beneficial to the local store owners.
- How it will be managed
- A committee is probably the best for this kind of undertaking. That way the necessary work can be divided up so that one person isn’t stuck doing the whole thing. That’s not saying it can’t be done alone, however.
There’s another problem besides getting people interested. That is: Funding the event.
Putting on a book festival can be quite costly. While calling upon volunteers helps tremendously, there are quite a few things that require money.
- Renting the venue (especially in the case of indoor festivals)
- Holding it outside reduces the cost, but runs the risk of bad weather
- Renting tables, chairs, and equipment necessary to the displays and presentations
- Unless someone is willing to donate the use of such things, this one is kind of hard to avoid
- If you want to host a meal, there’s also the cost of catering to consider
- Could always to a potluck, and those that bring food to share get a free pass for something in return (the festival could also benefit a food drive)
- Paying the presenters
- The little guys and gals may be willing to volunteer their time, but booking a celebrity could be very costly
- Thankfully social media helps with this one, and news channels are always looking for stories to cover so doing radio and TV interviews generally don’t cost anything, but advertising locally with flyers or banners can cost a pretty penny.
Mostly, though, I’d love to use the Inkers’ Rendezvous as a way to help my fellow NoDak writers. I think the potential of drawing the interest of readers, publishers, and agents could really help inspire and encourage them.
If you’re looking for a book or literary festival to attend, Everfest has a great list available.