For the past two years writers, book lovers, fangirls, academics and general literature enthusiasts have gathered in Green Bay for a wonderful event called UntitledTown. The fact that the festival name is wordplay itself (hinting to its shared roots as the home of famed hometown of the Green Bay Packers) will tell you just how much fun this event and the crowd of people it pulls really are.
This year was no exception. Below you will find a recap of ten takeaways from two author friends who hit the road with a trunk full of books and Diet Pepsi on Friday, and emerged on Sunday cheeks sore from smiling, hearts full of friendship and minds whirring with ideas and inspiration to put into practice.
Here are… Amanda and Christy’s Ten Take-Aways from UntitledTown 2019.
1. If your author eNewsletter is only updating people on your projects and events, it is not doing its job. In her presentation titled Book Marketing 101, Colleen Riordan told us we needed to use the opportunity of our newsletter to offer value to our readers. “Your emails need to do one of three things: entertain, educate or inspire.” This simple advice struck home and reflecting on/revising our eNewsletters was immediately added to our post-conference to-do list.
2. On the same note, we learned that it is super important to get your fans’ contact information! Email is a great way to stay in touch with fans, and we were grateful to connect with new ones. If you’d like to sign up for our eNewsletters, click here.
3. During Christy’s time on the Writing to Build Community panel, we were reminded that no matter the size of your audience, your words build community. Whether they are spoken or written, whether they reach your critique group of 8 or the entire state, your words matter.
4. UntitledTown is a way to combine your love for reading and writing. There are plenty of opportunities for meet-and-greets with your favorite authors and readings from even more. This is a literary love fest!
5. We know that writing about grief and trauma can be … traumatizing. But check out this panel of writers. We had an entire session on writing to survive your pain and this was the picture we took. We laugh, too. Don’t forget to laugh and have fun, even when it’s hard.
6. Writing is more fun with friends. One of our favorite parts of UntitledTown this year was bringing writing friends from across the state together. Writers from Holmen, Tomah, Eau Claire, Madison, Milwaukee, and Eau Claire shared a meal, laughs, advice and encouraging words around a table in our hotel restaurant.
7. In a workshop with Michael Moreci https://michaelpmoreci.com/ we were reminded to focus on what your character wants. “Your character needs to be an active participant. They need to make choices,” Moreci said. “If you simply let things happen to your character, that is not enough.” To develop a strong plot line, think about making your character’s single desire heavily influence the decisions they make. For Amanda, this line of thinking helped *potentially* unstick her stuck manuscript. (Yay!)
8. Books! Literal and tangible takeaways… We bought books! (Duh.)
Christy’s Picks Amanda’s Picks
The Library Book by Susan Orlean
On the morning of April 29, 1986, a fire alarm sounded in the Los Angeles Public Library. As the moments passed, the patrons and staff who had been cleared out of the building realized this was not the usual fire alarm. As one fireman recounted, “Once that first stack got going, it was ‘Goodbye, Charlie.’” The fire was disastrous: it reached 2000 degrees and burned for more than seven hours. By the time it was extinguished, it had consumed four hundred thousand books and damaged seven hundred thousand more. Investigators descended on the scene, but more than thirty years later, the mystery remains: Did someone purposefully set fire to the library—and if so, who?
Weaving her lifelong love of books and reading into an investigation of the fire, award-winning New Yorker reporter and New York Times bestselling author Susan Orlean delivers a mesmerizing and uniquely compelling book that manages to tell the broader story of libraries and librarians in a way that has never been done before.
In The Library Book, Orlean chronicles the LAPL fire and its aftermath to showcase the larger, crucial role that libraries play in our lives; delves into the evolution of libraries across the country and around the world, from their humble beginnings as a metropolitan charitable initiative to their current status as a cornerstone of national identity; brings each department of the library to vivid life through on-the-ground reporting; studies arson and attempts to burn a copy of a book herself; reflects on her own experiences in libraries; and reexamines the case of Harry Peak, the blond-haired actor long suspected of setting fire to the LAPL more than thirty years ago.
We Are Staying by Jen Rubin
On the morning of July 14, 1977, Alan Rubin stood on the sidewalk at Broadway and 98th Street staring through the shattered windows of his store, Radio Clinic. After a 25-hour blackout, more than 1,600 New York City stores had been looted. With its shelves of stereo equipment, televisions, boomboxes, and other electronics, Radio Clinic had been an irresistible target. A resilient and street-smart character, Alan was never stronger than he was during in the aftermath of the blackout. When others closed up shop and neighbors feared the neighborhood’s further decline, he hung a sign on the window the day after the blackout that read defiantly, “We Are Staying.” He stayed and he stayed and he stayed, until, finally, he could stay no longer. Forty-three years earlier his father, Leon Rubin, opened the store during the depths of the depression as a radio repair shop. To distinguish his shop from his many nearby competitors in those early days of radio, he sat fixing radios in the storefront window – visible to the public in his “clinic” -- wearing a white doctor’s lab coat. For 80 years Radio Clinic provided an anchor as its neighborhood contended with the Great Depression, World War II, post-war consumerism, urban renewal policies, the near economic collapse of New York City, government indifference and gentrification. Richly detailed, We Are Staying: Eighty Years in the Life of a Family, a Store, and a Neighborhood, is a remarkably powerful, poignantly told the story of a family, a business, a neighborhood and a city. It is an immigrant story, a grandfather-father-daughter story, a story of the unique character a family business brings to a neighborhood, and a reflection on what has been lost as stores like these disappear.
One Day You’ll Thank Me by David McGlynn
Fatherhood caught David McGlynn by surprise. His sons arrived in quick succession―the first when the author was a dirt-poor student and the second not long after he’d moved his family across the country to start a new job in bucolic Wisconsin. As a result, McGlynn found himself colliding with fatherhood, at once scared to death and utterly thrilled. Just like many new fathers, he hopes he’s doing the right thing―but he’s never quite sure.
One Day You’ll Thank Me translates the small, often hilarious moments common among parents of young children, especially dads, into “life lessons” about fatherhood. Comprised of interconnected chapters―many of which have appeared in such prominent publications as The New York Times, Men’s Health, Parents, Real Simple, and O, The Oprah Magazine―the stories invoke a sense of humor and honesty that expand our understanding of what it means to be an American dad.
Black Star Renegades by Michael Moreci
Cade Sura holds the future of the galaxy in his hands: the ultimate weapon that will bring total peace. He didn’t ask for it, he doesn’t want it, and there’s no worse choice to wield it in all of space, but if he doesn’t, everyone’s totally screwed. The evil Praxis kingdom is on the cusp of having every star system under its control, and if that happens, there’ll be no contesting their cruel reign. Especially if its fanatical overlord, Ga Halle, manages to capture Cade and snag the all-powerful weapon for herself.
Cade can’t hide from Praxis, and he can’t run from the destiny that’s been shoved into his hands. So he only has one option: He has to fight.
Cade’s not going to let destiny send him on a suicide run, though. With some help from his friends―rebels and scoundrels alike―Cade’s going to use this weapon to chart a new destiny for the galaxy, and for himself. He just has to do so before everyone around him discovers that he’s a complete and total fraud.
Blending the space operatics of Star Wars and the swagger of Guardians of the Galaxy, Black Star Renegades is a galaxy-hopping adventure that blasts its way from seedy spacer bars to sacred temples guarded by deadly creatures―all with a cast of misfit characters who have nowhere to go and nothing to lose.
All the Walls of Belfast by Sarah Carlson
The Carnival at Bray meets West Side Story in Sarah Carlson’s powerful YA debut; set in post-conflict Belfast (Northern Ireland), alternating between two teenagers, both trying to understand their past and preserve their future. Seventeen-year-olds, Fiona and Danny must choose between their dreams and the people they aspire to be.
Fiona and Danny were born in the same hospital. Fiona’s mom fled with her to the United States when she was two, but, fourteen years after the Troubles ended, a forty-foot-tall peace wall still separates her dad’s Catholic neighborhood from Danny’s Protestant neighborhood.
After chance brings Fiona and Danny together, their love of the band Fading Stars, big dreams, and desire to run away from their families unites them. Danny and Fiona must help one another overcome the burden of their parents’ pasts. But one ugly truth might shatter what they have…
9. Susan Orlean, the author of The Library Book, reminded us that not only are there stories out there waiting to be told, but even some of the biggest parts of history remain untouched! She spoke about this gigantic fire that took place in the Los Angeles Public Library in 1986. She was floored that she never heard about it! After investigating, she realized that the fire happened on the EXACT SAME DAY AS the Chernobyl Disaster. Stories are everywhere, waiting for us to save them from being buried on page A14 of the New York Times.
10. One last tangible takeaway was this Midwest Indie Bookstore Road Map. Providing value to both readers and writers trying to sell their books, we plan to use the map to make the most of our travels around the state and also as a list of potential stores to carry our books. Bonus, it is so pretty! It would make a great wall art addition, or maybe, if you were super crafty, as an inset in a coffee table covered by glass.
So, there you have it. Truly, if you love books, authors, words, engaging speakers, community events, nerd-camaraderie or the city of Green Bay add this incredible event to your spring calendar next year. Follow UntitledTown on social media , donate to the cause or stay informed via email, but definitely, do not miss out on what they have to offer.
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