A Personal Connection, for a Change
Brandi Granett’s mastered the fickle art of nurturing grassroots support for her novels. With her latest, she’s taking a different tack: turning away from her computer and trying it in her backyard.
By Scott Edwards
It’s early 2000, and everything in Brandi Granett’s world is right. She’s fresh out of graduate school and her first book just dropped. The world is opening up before her. Until it abruptly flips upside down. Her publisher, William Morrow and Company, is bought by a larger publisher, HarperCollins, and overnight, everyone she works with is dismissed. Just that quickly, she’s alone and adrift.
“So, I didn’t want to do it again for a very long time. I walked away from it. I was saying, ‘I’ll just be a teacher,’ ” Granett says. “But then I started competitive archery on a lark.”
Her daughter was aiming to star in either the Olympics or a renaissance fair, so they scoped out a school in Lambertville, New Jersey, near their home, and the director confided in Granett, with a wink, “You know, women are better at this than men.” She was hooked from that moment. With writing and then publishing, everything Granett thought she knew deteriorated to nothing. But archery revealed itself to be surprisingly profound. The more she practiced, the further it grounded and focused her in the rest of her life, including the writing.
“There’s a coach that I admire, Jim White, out of Georgia,” she says. “And he teaches his people, relationships determine results.”
It became a kind of mantra for her as she gradually worked her way back to the thought of taking a run at writing another book. The rules are different now; the book’s only part of the pitch. “You’re expected now to have a platform,” Granett says. “If you go to a publisher and you have two Twitter followers and one of them is your dog, they don’t want to hear from you.”
So she joined a peer group called the Tall Poppy Writers, comprised of 45 women fiction writers from across the country. And she launched an author profile series for The Huffington Post, for which she’s a frequent contributor. The aim of both is one and the same: To establish a self-sustaining community. The authors, these days, who draw a marketing budget that’ll reach mainstream America could be listed in a single breath, and there’d be some air leftover. The rest are left, largely, to find their own ways. And as with all grassroots efforts today, that means social media networking. A well-placed Retweet is as valuable to these workingman writers as a New York Times endorsement.
When it came time to promote her latest novel, Triple Love Score, published last month by Wyatt-Mackenzie, Granett was inclined to make it a group affair, naturally. Over the last few months, she’s organized what’s become quite a massive book fair, for lack of a better term. In all, 45 mostly-Delaware Valley-based authors spanning a range of genres, including children and young adult, will present themselves and their books October 23, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the Prallsville Mills, in Stockton, NJ, as part of the event Granett’s dubbed River Reads.
WHAT A book fair featuring 45 mostly-local authors. Plus, crepes and a Unionville Vineyard tasting
WHEN Sunday, Oct. 23, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
WHERE Prallsville Mills, Stockton, NJ
“I didn’t want it to be about my book,” she says. “That sounds so—I don’t have this mysticism about, like, oh, I wrote a book, so I’m somebody special, because thousands of people, every day, hit publish on Amazon Createspace. It doesn’t mean anything anymore. But what means something is connecting people to readers and sharing books with other people.”
Some of the authors, Granett knows—a few Tall Poppies will be there—but the majority simply answered her public call. The total number of participants doesn’t even represent the true extent of the interest. It’s only where she was forced to cap them for lack of space to accommodate any more.
Spread across both floors of the mill’s main building, each writer will have his or her own display. And there will be brief readings performed every 15 minutes or so downstairs and up-, “like a little commercial blast of what they have to offer,” Granett says. Also, nearby Unionville Vineyards will be hosting a tasting and the Bonjour Creperie truck will be stationed outside.
A community, virtual and actual, is currency in modern writing. The larger the population, the more likely you are to publish another book. But it’s also become a support system for a profession that’s notoriously isolating and disorienting. For many aspiring and established writers alike, Granett included, the former is the icing, the latter, the cake. Granett expects River Reads, if nothing else, to reinforce the following: “I know that I’m not the only person that had an agent break up with her. I’m not the only person who’s struggling to find time with writing and being a mom.” And that, she says, “kind of keeps me invested in the process.”
Photos courtesy Wyatt-Mackenzie