My mother has been raving, probably since I graduated from college, about the wonders of the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. It is held annually in April on the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA)
I have never managed to make it home during festival time unfortunately. This past March 13th and 14th the city of Tucson hosted their Festival of Books on the University of Arizona Campus http://tucsonfestivalofbooks.org/. I was lucky enough to attend on the 13th with a fellow book addict who goes by MinnChica.
WOW it was a blast! I was really impressed by several different things that all revolve around the excellent organization. First, admission and parking were totally free and depending on when you got there parking wasn’t limited to a hike away from the main events. Second, even to someone like me who was a Book Festival Virgin it was pretty easy to find what I wanted and when I had questions any of the scores of volunteers were eager to help. The previous Sunday, The Arizona Daily Star had a huge pullout section just on the festival. If you didn’t want to pay the $1.25 for the paper, at all the information booths they had copies of most of the information. Third, in and around the food tents/eating area were stands with foaming hand sanitizer so you could make sure your fingers were germless before eating (I will talk more about the food later). Lastly, everyone I met author, bookseller, reader, general wanderer was extremely friendly. I didn’t even encounter any grumpy children although I heard they did exist ;).
An impressive line-up of authors ranging from habitual New York Times Best Sellers to local more niche authors participated in the festival. I didn’t notice any particular genre that claimed more emphasis then another. They even had a large tent with a stage that allowed some local chefs to cook and promote their new books. I found out as the day passed that the organizers had a pretty ingenious way of giving the festivalgoers access to the authors. Some of the authors just had signings. While others had readings, interviews or a panel followed by signing.
The festival itself had five different main areas for author interaction. Several of the different larger booksellers, like Mysterious Galaxy, hosted their own scheduled signings. I picked the wrong day to attend for the authors I liked that Mysterious Galaxy was hosting but I did pick up some nice books. Each of the discussions that took place in a campus classroom (mentioned in the schedule) had an associated booth for signing that was announced, immediately after that panel or discussion. If you planned ahead and brought your previously purchased books you could get them signed three at a time before heading back to the end of the line. If, like me, you forgot to dig out your books they had booksellers at the end of each row of signing booths with stacks of the authors currently signing. Those stacks of available books rotated as authors changed out.
When I looked over the original schedule I came up with a list of three authors I wanted to meet/get autographs from that were available on Saturday. I was slightly worried because Terry Brooks, High Fantasy, was listed on a panel and an interview, Julia Quinn, Historical Romance, was listed on a panel and J. A. Jance, Murder Mysteries, was listed with an interview/signing. Being a newbie I wasn’t sure how I was going to be able to finagle signatures from Terry Brooks or Julia Quinn. While MinnChica and I wandered around trying to decide on our plan of attack we found out that despite missing the first of the Terry Brooks events he was signing on the other side of the festival. Being a great friend MinnChica stood in the signing line for me while I stood in the line to buy a few of his books. Mr. Brooks was gracious enough take a picture with me 😀
After getting out of that line, MinnChica noticed that J. A. Jance was doing her interview. So we crossed the festival again to meet up with her. It was perfect timing because she was concluding her interview. My mother really enjoys Ms Jance’s mysteries so I thought she might enjoy knowing I got to meet her. After purchasing two of her books MinnChica and I stood in line for the signing. Again that line moved really quickly. After talking briefly with Ms Jance, we continued on our wandering and browsing.
According to our stomachs it was lunchtime so we headed to the Food Tents. Unlike most festivals (fairs) I have attended previously there was a wide assortment of choices ranging from healthy to maybe not as healthy including soups, sandwiches, salads, BBQ, Greek, Tamales, Gelato, Giant Ears of Roasted Corn and Kettle Corn. They even had volunteers who wiped down the tables and chairs between occupants not to mention the hand sanitizer stations. After eating we decided to see what else we could find in the various booths.
We passed by the Tucson Romance Writer’s of America booth and while chatting with the ladies manning the booth they reminded us that Julia Quinn would be conducting her panel in about an hour and a half. MinnChica and I decided we would meander in that general direction. Just to be on the safe side I went and browsed the Julia Quinn selection that was available for purchase. To my disappointment I already owned all of the books * grin * but that is where your good fortune comes in. I decided to purchase a book and see if I could get her to sign it and use it as a prize in a giveaway for this blog. More details on the specifics of the contest will come at the end of this post.
We spent an entertaining 30 minutes watching one of the chef’s show in the Culinary Tent/Stage and then made our way to the classroom. Apparently that particular room was reserved for the panels/interviews/readings with various romance authors. When we got there a discussion on Truth in Fiction: Writing Believable Lies hosted by Rachel Gibson, Contemporary Romance, was concluding. The author and her moderator left and I continued to wonder how I was going to finagle this signature. Then this young lady starting writing passages on the whiteboards and I guess that she had to be Julia Quinn. Her panel wasn’t scheduled to start for another 20 minutes so with MinnChica’s encouragement I went up to her, explained about The Bookpushers and asked if she would sign a copy of The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheevers, Ms Quinn agreed and even threw in one of her bookmarkers.
Very pleased I sat back to listen to her panel on Dialogue: It’s More Than What You Say. I must admit that I have zero aspirations to become an author so I really wasn’t sure what if anything I would get out of the panel. I was so glad I stayed! Her examples and explanations helped me understand why sometimes character interaction just seemed off. I also think my deeper understanding will add to my enjoyment and appreciation of the sheer skill and professionalism of the authors I enjoy. My suggestion to those non-writers out there is don’t pass up the panels thinking they are only for authors because you never know what you will learn.
At the end of the very entertaining and educational panel the moderator announced that Ms Quinn would be signing at a particular booth. Since I already had the autographed book I decided I would try for the picture. As you can see we were successful :D.
We rounded out the day with a very yummy bag of kettle corn * wink *. Now for the contest rules, open only to US entries. The prize is my signed copy of THE SECRET DIARIES OF MISS MIRANDA CHEEVERS and a Bridgerton Bookmark.
To enter you need to reply with your favorite lines of dialogue between two or more characters, provide the title, author and why that quote speaks to you.
One entry per person, and you must be willing to provide your mailing address if you win. The contest will close Saturday 27 March 2010 at 9PM PST (Pacific Standard Time). Good luck!