The Unbound Book Festival 

Last weekend I attended the inaugural Unbound Book Festival in Columbia, Missouri.

The event was completely free and I didn’t really know what to expect, but the schedule had a fantastic lineup of authors and panels so of course I was fan-girl excited.

The festival was absolutely incredible!

My friend, Emily, and I only attended two panels due to our schedules, but we will plan better for next year. There were numerous authors, editors, agents and panels scheduled all across Stephens College over the course of the day. It was a bit overwhelming in a “Have I died and gone to book heaven?” sort of way.

This sign was inaccurate. There could be no dawdling if you hoped to see everything 🙂

Oh and there was fabulous food available too! Seriously, the day could not have been better. Well, if I had remembered a pen or a notebook, that would have made the day better. Who goes to a book festival without a pen? Me. And Emily. But look! Tacos!

And here we are without our pens.

2 girls. 1 festival. 0 pens.

Despite the lack of pen and paper. I managed to take a few mental notes and get super inspired.

An Abundance of Lauras

The first panel we attended was “An Abundance of Lauras”. No lie, there were a lot of Lauras!

Laura McHugh (Weight of Blood), Laura McBride (We Are Called to Rise) and Laura Seeger (Children’s book author and illustrator)

Funny. Engaging. Intelligent. Creative. There are so many words to describe these authors.

They each talked about their creative process, balancing work and writing life, inspiration and more, but my biggest takeaway came from Laura Seeger.

She keeps journals filled with all her ideas and inspirations for current and future projects. The journal wasn’t fancy, it was just a blank notebook filled with doodles, words, magazine clippings, and anything else that had caught her eye or crossed her mind.

This in itself is fun but not too out of the ordinary. The really cool thing she does with the journals though is create a content page for each of them. Sort of a table of contents which she can easily reference when she’s working on a project or has another idea and needs to reference some of her brainstorming material.

I loved this!

I have notebooks and journals and computer files all over the place with doodles, quotes, and fragmented sentences that are all supposed to be a record of my ideas, but I have no way of finding anything again unless I go through every single notebook.

She said it doesn’t take much time but she usually keeps up with the content page as she goes.

I need to get started! 🙂

First Page Rodeo

The second panel we attended included a group of experts sharing their thoughts on first pages of novels which had been submitted to the festival.

The panel included Margaret Sutherland Brown (New York literary agent), Greg Michalson (Senior Editor at Unbridled Books), Eleanor Brown (author of The Weird Sisters), and George Hodgman (New York Times bestselling author).

Lots of fabulous insight into the submission process at this one. Since the panel was critiquing first page submissions, it provided a unique view of what agents and editors look for and what will get a rejection or a full manuscript request.

Again, a pen would have come in handy, but the key point that stuck out the most in my mind came from George Hodgman.

In reference to first page submissions, he said never start off with a passage that must be reread to be understood. Avoid confusing phrasing, complicated passages or anything that might pull the reader out of the story before they even get into it.

This tied in with the other panelists’ advice to avoid excessive backstory in the first page or even in the first chapter. The recurring theme seemed to be, keep the action going on the first page. The first page needs to grab the reader’s attention and keep it until they start to care about the characters.

I loved this advice because I am always tempted to explain all about a character or give a lot of backstory when the backstory should really come later in the story or maybe never.

The festival was amazing. The speakers were insightful. And I left completely inspired to write.

Looking forward to next year already!