Two weekends ago, I went to the Baltimore Book Fest. Mostly as an attendee, but also as a panelist. It was a wonderful weekend!

The event was held at the Inner Harbor. In years past, it’s been held in Mount Vernon but the Washington Monument is under construction so the event coordinators thought the harbor would be a better venue.

I think current plans call for the festival’s return to Mount Vernon, a historic neighborhood that is home to the Walters Art Museum, the Peabody Conservatory, and the George Peabody Library (if you haven’t seen pictures, click here! it’s a beautiful library!), but I have to admit that I enjoyed attending the festival at the harbor and wouldn’t mind if future festivals were held there. While the harbor lacks the cultural feel of Mount Vernon, the Inner Harbor offers waterfront views and room to spread out.

There were tons of tents, most of them with books and authors in them. Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers and Maryland Romance Writers had a tent. Individual authors had tents. Barnes & Noble, indie bookstores, local museums, small presses, and library groups all had tents. It was fun seeing writers I’ve known for years as well as meeting many new ones.

Craig took this pic from Federal Hill.  I'm standing beside MRW's tent with a friend.  Can't you see me waving? ;-)
Craig took this pic from Federal Hill.
I’m standing beside MRW’s tent with a friend.
Can’t you see me waving? 😉

One of my favorite things was walking around the book festival with my family. My younger daughter was away but my husband and older daughter spent time checking out all the tents and exhibits.

Jack Clemons, a former engineer and team leader of NASA’s Apollo and Space Shuttle Programs, did a “Flags on the Moon” presentation at SFWA’s tent. He talked about each of the missions he was involved with from a perspective neither my husband nor I had heard before, focusing on the U.S. flags that were left behind by the astronauts. It’s hard to overstate how much we enjoyed this talk. Jack mixed in video clips, photographs, and his own personal anecdotes and memories. Watching a History Channel documentary is not at all the same as seeing a live presentation by someone who was actually involved in these missions.

My daughter loved meeting Marissa Meyer. She’s currently reading Cinder for her outside reading assignment. I gave her a stack of YA books to choose from and she read the first few paragraphs of each and choose Meyer’s book about a cyborg Cinderella in part because Meyer establishes immediate sympathy for her protagonist. My daughter had her sign Cinder and Scarlet and even got to play Taboo with her, Charles Gannon, Sarah Pinkster, and Michael Underwood as part of SFWA’s Dangerous Voices Variety Hour.

Marissa Meyer's Cinder

The Dark Fantasy panel was great – a much more intimate setting than NYCC’s genre-benders panel in 2012! We opened by discussing “dark fantasy” and what the heck that term really means. I’m not sure a consensus was reached but it was interesting hearing everyone’s take. I shared my thoughts: basically, that the term dark fantasy can be used as a catchall category for works that otherwise defy categorization. When I hear the term I assume the story will have at least one element that is disturbing, unsettling, provocative, or even violent, and that it may not end happily. Other writers shared their view that dark fantasy, including horror, can be cathartic for both writer and reader. Overall, however, I think the biggest takeaway from the panel was this:

Write for yourself. Yes, genre writers want to be commercial and should pay attention to the market. But chasing trends won’t make you a success. Instead, it will almost always guarantee you fail. Why? Because you’ll never get the timing right for one thing (by the time your work is finished, submitted, bought, and published, the trend will be stale). What’s worse though is that your work won’t be genuine.

Jill Archer, dark fantasy panel, Noon Onyx, Baltimore Book Festival, SFWA
Jill Archer
DARK FANTASY PANEL
Baltimore Book Fest 2014

We didn’t spend a lot of time discussing the market, preferring instead to answer questions about our work or share tips for other writers in the audience, but it’s worth noting here that I’ve been hearing various behind-the-scenes chatter about a decreased interest in urban fantasy and paranormal romance. Maybe it’s true. Maybe it’s not. But you know what? It doesn’t matter. Because if UF and/or PNR is your love, then write it. Read it. Trends come and go. If I’ve learned nothing else from my time as a writer, it’s that the most important thing is to be disciplined and stick to your own goals. For writers, it’s not the early bird who wins, it’s the one who hunts for the worms they think are perfect, from sunup to sundown… and then on through the night and into the next day… and so on and so forth.

It was also nice just getting down to the harbor. I used to work there and now I rarely get down there. So it was great having lunch with friends – and going to dinner! I mentioned before that it was our 17th wedding anniversary. (17 years?! Jeez, how did I get to be so old?! 😀 )

Saturday night after the Author Meet & Greet, Craig and I cabbed it to Jack’s Bistro in Canton, a waterfront neighborhood to the east of the Inner Harbor. It was tiny and packed but absolutely terrific and just what we were in the mood for. Our waitress was super friendly with all sorts of helpful suggestions. We splurged: apps, wine, ridiculously large entrees, and a dessert.

Since I shared a wedding picture of us for our 15th anniversary, I’ll share two other vintage pics with you for this year: one from our engagement party and one from our rehearsal dinner. Enjoy!

Our engagement party circa 1995. I'm rocking the "young lawyer" look, huh? And some seriously curly hair!
Our engagement party circa 1995. I’m rocking the “young lawyer” look, huh? And some seriously curly hair!
Craig and Jill Rehearsal Dinner 1997
Craig and Jill Rehearsal Dinner 1997

Hope everyone’s week is going well! Tomorrow, I have another guest blogger. (She says she doesn’t like to dress up for Halloween! But we’ll forgive her. It’s a great post! 🙂 )