I had a great time at the Ohioana Book Festival on Saturday, my annual Mothers Day weekend outing. I attended several panel discussions, listened to some great authors, ate from a food truck for the first time, and met up briefly with Stacy from Stacy’s Books and her mom.

Stacy is just as sweet and nice as I expected. It was so nice to meet her in real life, since I feel like I already know her from reading her blog.

And for lunch I had the Dak from Ajumama, a Korean street food truck. It’s savory pancakes filled with sesame grilled chicken, soy bean sprouts, garlic chives, mushrooms, and zucchini. Delicious!

The highlight of the day for me is always the panels. I attended five, and enjoyed and learned something from each of them.

  • Fiction by Women
    • Several of the writers on the roundtable discussed the importance of research, by actually traveling and talking to people, participatin in on-line groups, reading books, even ones that you may not find at your local library.
    • Mary Ellis started writing about the Amish community because she wanted her writing to reflect her faith.
    • Donna MacMeans talked about rooting interest, why the reader roots for a certain character, what qualities draw us to them.
  • Literary Fiction
    • Both panelists, Donald Ray Pollock and Robin Yocum have set their crime fiction novels in small Ohio towns, their hometowns. Yocum’s is actually a fictionalized version of a town near me, Brilliant.
    • Both commented about how folks from their towns have read their books and were sure they recognized the characters in local residents, although both authors say most, if not all, of their characters are entirely fictional or composites of real people.
    • Pollock stated that you have to just write a first draft, even if it’s bad and needs major editing. Just get it down and then you can work on it from there.
  • Novel Ideas
    • Yocum says that his goal is to write a good story. He isn’t worried about his target audience. That being said, he stated that he was once told he needs more “estrogen” in his stories.
    • I wasn’t aware of how many books Karen Harper has written and in how many genres.
  • Short stories
    • The writers told some of their favorite story collections including works by Alice Munro and Flannery O’Connor, The Dubliners by James Joyce and Jesus’ Son by Denis Johnson.
    • Josh Rolnick said that most often “the work is its own reward.” He also changed the setting of one of his stories so that he could sell the collection, Pulp and Paper.
  • How We Write What We Write
    • Casey Daniels says that when she’s working, she writes for 45 minutes and then has 15 free minutes, a system that works for her.

And of course, we came home with some books. We won several by spinning the wheel.

  • The Brytewood Trilogy by Georgia Evans (all signed)
    • Bloody Good (#1)
    • Bloody Awful (#2)
    • Bloody Right (#3)
  • Matala by Craig Holden
  • Simon Says by Lori Foster

And we bought a couple, because the authors were just so interesting during the panels. These are both signed and personalized.

  • Redeeming the Rogue by Donna MacMeans (She’s an accountant who writes romances. She’s a funny lady, made me smile and laugh. She also had some good advice for writers.)
  • Knockemstiff by Donald Ray Pollock (I loved his personal story. He’s a high school drop-out who eventually went back to school and did end up getting an MFA. He worked in a paper mill in southern Ohio for 32 years before a “mid-life crisis” pushed him into writing. He’s had great success, but still talks like that working man. I really, really liked him. I’m a little worried his stories might be rather depressing though.)

The festival is already on my calendar for next year.


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