Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sunday Salon: The 2009 National Book Festival OR I get my nerd on

One of the things I love about living in a big metro area is that authors come to visit on their book tours. Well, you don't get much bigger than the National Book Festival, and this year I didn't miss it!

There were so many amazing authors there it was really difficult to decide who to see and who to skip.

The crowds were HUGE even though it wasn't that nice of a day and it started raining really hard around 2 pm. It was especially exciting to see how many kids were there and how excited they were over some of these authors.

The first thing I did was walk past the book signing lines and decided right away to ditch that idea. There were so many people! I figured I'd see more authors if I didn't stand in line.

So, I walked around a bit and hit up the Fiction and Fantasy tent and caught the end of Jodi Picoult. The last question asked was: Did you agree with the changes they made to the movie My Sister's Keeper. She said: The acting was amazing but they shouldn't have changed the ending. And everyone cheered. I haven't seen the movie or read the book yet, but I can understand the crowd's sentiments completely.

Then I headed over to the Children and Teens tent to wait for Shannon Hale, who I was super excited to see because I LOVE her work. And I love that she's young and a mom and writes amazing fairy tale books. What's not to love?
She spoke mostly about how hard she had to work to become a published author, and rolled out this huge roll of laminated rejection letters. It was pretty gigantic. In some ways this is disheartening because how many great authors are getting turned down and discouraged by this process? But at the same time it's inspiring, because this is the reality of a writer and she succeeded even though no one was accepting her work.
But before I was able to see Shannon Hale, I had to wait through Paula Dean. Now, I like to watch Paula on the Food Network, and I think she's a really sweet woman, but I'm not like obsessed with her or anything. This crowd was. And after watching her work the crowd, it was really easy to see why. She's charming, especially with that accent, and she's funny, really funny. As an audience member you're just so sure she loves what she's doing that her good humor is just infectious. I'm glad I stumbled upon her chat.
After Paula and Shannon, I booked it over to see Lois Lowry, the REAL reason I came out to the book festival. The Giver is my favorite book of all time and to see her, wow, that was an experience. She spoke about how her new children's book came into being. It began as an autobiographical short story written and published years ago and was transformed into The Crow Call. Her crowd was huge as well, and I sat on the ground blocked by tons of standing people for most of it. I managed to snap a few pictures though.
The best part was hearing her say for sure that Jonas and Gabriel were alive. She said she meant for the ending of The Giver to be uplifting, and all I can say is "I KNEW IT!". In response to another question, she also said that Jonas's world came about partly from wondering "what if we had a way of changing human memory" and that it was NOT a world she would want to live in (which I think is clear from the overall message of the book).

After that, I had some time to kill before Rick Riordan so I skipped back over to the Fiction tent and sat through Julia Alvarez and John Irving. Julia's talk was interesting because she spoke about growing up in the Dominican Republic under Trujillo and then coming to America and diving into the treasure trove of the public library. She stressed the importance of our public library system and how it is really a symbol of the freedom we have as Americans. She said, and rightly so, that the first things to go under a dictatorship (or similar system) are the books and the right to assemble.

John Irving was every bit as egotistical and snarky as I knew he would be. His talk was interesting because the lady from the Post "interviewed" him. He writes everything out long hand in spiral notebooks and only after the entire novel is written will he then have an assistant type it for him. He said he only uses a computer to communicate with his children and family.

Then after Irving, I walked back to the Children and Teens tent, caught the very end of Kate DiCamillo, although her mike went out, and then...RICK RIORDAN!!

He was awesome! It is so apparent that he loves kids and is great with them. He knows how to talk to kids to really connect. I bet he was a great middle school teacher. He talked about the next series of Camp Half-Blood books that will be coming out, and a new series centered around Egyptian gods, which was oh-so-exciting news for me. He answered some questions, the funniest of which was probably, "Why does Grover like enchiladas so much?" and said that his favorite character was probably either Grover or Tyson. Tyson! I knew it! He said he identified most with Grover because he would be the one shaking in his boots as opposed to being the one swinging the sword and saving the day. He said he was taken to the camp set for the movie at night and it was just like he was being driven to Camp Half-Blood. I'm really excited for this movie, I think it is going to be very entertaining.

He really worked the crowd and he had me, as well as hundreds of children and their parents eating out of the palm of his hand. Very cool guy. I respect him so much for the work he's doing in children's literature. It was so awesome to see the crowds of kids excited about his books. He even read the beginning of the new Egyptian series, and said that not even his family had heard it yet! So cool!

After Riordan, I left because it was freezing and raining and I was exhausted. But overall, I'd say the festival was a major success!


Literary Feline said...

It sounds like you had a wonderful time, Laza! I wish I could have been there. There were quite a few bloggers there. It'll be interesting to read about everyone's experiences.

Have a great week!

regularrumination said...

I was there! It's funny to see everyone's pictures and know that I'm probably somewhere in there ;)

I did decide to wait in line for book signing, mostly because I desperately wanted to meet Tim O'Brien, and I did! So it was totally worth it! I think next year I would focus on the speeches though. Unless there was someone as equally amazing as Tim O'Brien there, so I would be tempted ;)

I think next year, I'll pick one author to get things signed by and then listen to everyone else give speeches. We spent so much time figuring out what we were going to do that we missed out on some of the stuff. Check out my recap!

Meghan said...

Looks like a wonderful time! So many bloggers were there this weekend, I'm looking forward to seeing what they thought. I think I would also go to see authors speak rather than wait for signings. I'm so flustered in their presence that I'm sure I would just stand there feeling awkward anyway!

Beth F said...

Sounds absolutely fabulous! Wow!

Amy said...

It KILLS me that we were in the same tent so much of the day and missed each other!!!

Kelly said...

Lauren, so freaking jealous here!

The Shannon Hale talk sounds really inspiring. Irving is one of my fave authors, but I wondered if he would be like that. Might be better if I don't get to see him speak. :)

bermudaonion said...

It sounds like you had a wonderful time. I hope to make it to a National Book Festival one day.

3m said...

This looks like an event I must go to sometime. Wonderful post!