Last weekend I went to Green Bay, Wisconsin for the second annual UntitledTown Book and Author Festival. What is UntitledTown you may ask? It is a four day book festival for every kind of word nerd imaginable. Young word nerds and old, the kind that like true stories and the kind that prefer to make them up. UntitledTown is a book festival for readers, writers, teachers, librarians, fans, celebrity authors, freelancers, university staff and community members. UntitledTown is a book festival for builders, connectors, creators, doers and dreamers. I think that this festival is so successful because it includes all of these types of people. It doesn’t exclude or segregate; instead, it brings us all together. In short, UntitledTown is amazing.
Since I got home on Sunday night, I’ve been telling everyone about the incredible experiences of my weekend and I thought it would be fun to share them here, on my blog, as well. But how do I accomplish that task? How could I possibly tell you everything that made my weekend so great? Well, I think I’ve come up with a solution, in perfect word nerd fashion. So, I proudly present…
The ABC’s of UntitledTown
A = “Adventure first! Then write!” This advice was give by the lovely and energetic picture book author Jessica Marie Baumgartner at the Kid Lit Panel.
B = Book fair. Where I spent too much money, but came home with many wonderful books! (Most of them by Wisconsin authors and autographed!!)
C = Community. It was lovely to be among “my people” for the weekend. There were Word Nerds everywhere… and all of them happy to share, collaborate, and celebrate the power of the written word. (And for the record... there were quite a lot of us in attendance!)
D = Dan Chaon. Dan is a professor at Oberlin College and author of National Best Seller Ill Will. He participated in many events throughout the weekend, including a writing workshop that I attended. He talked about the importance of free writing in the process of novel creation and completion. In the workshop he shared several techniques for writers to use when starting their daily writing routine.
E = Katie Eder. Katie was named to the 30 Under 30 list in 2015 by the International Literacy Association for creating a non-profit group called Kids Tales. Even though Katie has two more months until she graduates from high school, she has already created a world-wide storytelling organization that has serviced thousands of kids.
F = Freelancers. The freelancers were in full force this weekend. For example, my friend Marci Martin led a session entitled Freelancing as a Business on Sunday afternoon, drawing a crowd full of writers looking to make their was successfully into the writing world.
G = Roxane Gay. Roxane was the keynote speaker on Saturday evening and spouted wisdom from the second she stepped foot on stage. Here is one of my favorite quotes of the night. “There is so much darkness in the world. How do you survive it? Humor is the spoonful of sugar that makes the medicine go down. When I think the reader can’t go on and bear anymore, I throw in a joke.”
H = BJ Hollars. I was thrilled that my friend BJ Hollars (execuative director of the Chippewa Valley Writer’s Guild) was able to experience the magic of UntitledTown for the first time this weekend. As a featured speaker this weekend, his presentations focused on mixing history and stories and also the different forms of storytelling.
I = Interviews! UntitledTown is a great place to ask questions. In fact, I think I did that this weekend more than anything else! Look for future blog posts about Katie Eider and Jaqueline West!
J = Jaqueline West is living the life I want to live. A former English teacher in a small town, she is now published by one of the big five and regularly sees her books in the school book order flyers. She provided thoughtful, level-headed advice during the Kid Lit Panel and I can’t wait to pick her brain about the transition from teaching to writing! (I also can’t wait to read her books!)
K = Karaoke. On Friday night the authors were invited to a secret Karaoke party. There was music. There was pizza. I can’t tell you anything else and I can’t share any pictures. What happens at UntitledTown Karaoke, stays there!
L = Lounge. Karvana Café is a HUGE UntitledTown sponsor and they showed the word nerds love all weekend by offering presenters, authors and volunteers a quiet corner of their space, stocked with delicious treats and refreshing beverages.
M = Moore. Christopher Moore was the Sunday night headline speaker, and due to misreading the schedule, I missed all but the last 15 minutes of his presentation! BUMMER! But I was able to get my book signed earlier in the day and ask him this question. “How do you freshly retell a story that’s been told a thousand times?” “You mean like the story of Jesus?” he asked, pointing at the book, Lamb, I’d handed him to autograph with a sly smile. “Yeah,” I replied returning his smile. “Like that one.” “I once read a Russian magical realism story from the 1920’s, and in it was a scene in which Pontias Pilot had Jesus on trial. In the story Pilot had a migraine and the lights were too bright and he just wanted everyone to GO AWAY. I’d heard that story a hundred times… but this was the first time it felt REAL. I thought, wouldn’t it be cool to do that for a whole book? Wouldn't it be neat to write about Jesus’ life as if we REALLY knew the characters, in real life.”
O = Outstanding SWAG. This year UntitledTown had tons of great souvenirs to purchase including t-shirts, postcards, stickers, coffee cups, water bottles and art poster prints. I won’t divulge how many of these outstanding items I purchased, but let’s just say my family shouldn’t need to worry about buying me any birthday presents this week!
P = Panels. One of the coolest opportunities of the weekend was to attend a panel discussion. I spoke on one about writing habits and attended others on the topics of kid lit, fantasy world building, and the potential that lies in combining community/business/art resources. To have so many knowledgeable people in one place, sharing all they know… what a gift! Thank you UntitledTown!
Q = Q is for quality and quantity. UntitledTown boasted a mind blowing 170 quality events. From keynote speakers to panels, books readings and signings to workshops. Quality presentations were curated for and by writers, 75% or more whom are from Wisconsin.
R = R.L. Stine. was the keynote speaker on Friday night. He packed the entire Weidner Center at UW Green Bay and had us all rolling with laughter. I had to wait in line a looooooong time, but was able to meet him briefly and get my books signed!
S = St. Brendan’s Inn played host to many of the writers this weekend. Their unique rooms and attached pub were a great place to unwind and also catch up with friends before, between and after events.
T = Trolley! UntitledTown had this terrific vehicle traveling the streets of downtown Green Bay and transporting festival attendees from the library to the museum to the KI center and back again.
U = UntitledTown defined.
V = Vicky Reed. Vicky is a local Green Bay author and was the first friend I made at UntitledTown last year. We showed up to the Friday night author event knowing NO ONE. To be honest we spent a lot of time hanging near the wall talking to each other… occasionally venturing out to be brave and mingle. We kept in touch via Facebook all year and it was great to be able to see her again. This year we came back, confident and ready to hit the ground running (with lots of friendly and familiar faces all around!).
W = World Building Panel – Because I am in the middle (5th draft!) of a YA Fantasy manuscript project, I decided to attend the World Building Panel. At it, Kat Abbot, a familiar face from SCBWI, shared a bajillion great resources for fantasy writers. She listed podcasts, exemplar reading models, and articles that I will be checking out ASAP! Thanks Kat!
X = X pre-writing strategy. In his workshop Dan Chaon taught us that short phrases written in a non-linear, non-traditional format will force you to think in interesting ways, and also not to worry too much about what is being put on the paper because it is just lists of information… not actual lines in a story.
Y = Young Writers. I had the distinct pleasure of leading 17 hard working, word loving, young writers on Friday. These middle grade kids wrote furiously, grew friendships quickly and had a lot of fun in our our two hours together. I was so proud of them and enjoyed my time with them immensely!
Z = Zilch! That’s how much it cost to attend UntitledTown. With the exception of one paid event (a brunch with Michael Perry) every single event (including headline speakers R.L. Stine, Roxane Gay and Christopher Moore) were FREE!
So there you have it. I hope you will join me next year for another incredible, word nerd experience. Thank you to all my UntitledTown friends for the lovely weekend, and all that you shared with me including, knowledge, fun times and delicious meals.
I took many of the pictures you see here, but some have been poached from Facebook friends profiles and the UntitledTown official website! Thank you Wendy, Marci, Rebecca, and the official UntitledTown page!
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