We're having a party and everyone is invited! The Printers Row Lit Fest is next weekend, and I'll be jetting in (economy class style) for the festivities. Very exciting.
This piece first ran in Printers Row Journal, delivered to Printers Row members with the Sunday Chicago Tribune and by digital edition via email. Click here to learn about joining Printers Row.
Rather than a party, perhaps I should call it a "gathering of the tribe," because that's how I tend to see these things. It's a chance for the like-minded to come together and celebrate our values.
Which is cool, I think. The hard part about festivals, though, is that they can be overwhelming. It's only two days, and many events and activities are happening simultaneously. If you're concerned that you might be missing out on something better, you'll have a hard time relaxing and enjoying the experience happening in front of you. It's actually kind of similar to the act of picking the next book to read and seeing too many possibilities in front of you. This anxiety is why the Biblioracle can do such a brisk business.
So as a veteran of these sorts of festivals from both the presenting and attending side, I thought I'd offer a list of tips for maximum enjoyment.
1. Hydrate. Actually, I don't know why I wrote that. It's just that I see this kind of advice in just about every list of advice, regardless of subject. Want to do well in school? Hydrate. Better skin? Hydrate. End political polarization and create a government working collaboratively toward the common good? Hydrate. Though, come to think of it, last year temperatures were in 90s, so a bottle of water probably isn't such a bad idea.
2. Channel your inner Gen. George Patton. When Patton was tasked with reforming the U.S. II Corps following its defeat at the hands of Rommel's Afrika Korps, he established a comprehensive plan for counter-assault, but when he judged the 1st Armored's performance as lackluster, he wasn't afraid to sack a general. For your festival-going experience, come armed with your list of must-see events, but be prepared to change itineraries if something more interesting appears.
3. Don't be afraid to split up. Most people will attend the festival in groups of two or more, and it's likely you won't always agree on what to see. You wouldn't go to Taste of Chicago and insist on everyone in your group eating at the same booth. Some people want ribs, others want a turkey drumstick the size of a grown man's thigh. The same principle holds true at Lit Fest.
4. Approach writers with caution and give only approved feed. I stole this one from a petting zoo and replaced "goats" with "writers." While it's true that writers are more used to toiling in solitude than appearing before crowds, the truth is that because of this, they love to be approached and hear sincere gratitude for their work. If the writer looks awkward over a compliment, that's not your fault. They spend most of their time alone, after all.
5. Don't just focus on the famous. As with every year, the festival has some big names: Judy Blume, Nathan Englander, Lauren Weisberger, Rick Bayless and Walter Jacobson are just a few. But some of the best panels will be in the more intimate venues, where the discussion is more collaborative between the audience and the panelists.
6. Forget what I just said; go see Judy Blume. How many chances to you get to be in the presence of a legend? And I hear she's as delightful in public as her work is in print.
Looking forward to seeing all of you there.
Biblioracle John Warner is the author of "The Funny Man." Meet him in person at Lit Fest from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., Saturday, in the Printers Row Welcome Center, at Harrison and Dearborn.
The Biblioracle offers his recommendations
1. "The Reluctant Nazi" by Gabrielle Robinson
2. "Murder and Mayhem in Goose Pimple Junction" by Amy Metz
3. "Lead Us Not Into Temptation" by Richard Davidson
4. "Among the Mad" by Jacqueline Winspear
5. "Destination Unknown: Adventures of a WWII American Red Cross Girl" by LeOna Cox & Kathleen Cox
— Candace T., Chicago