We Came, We Saw, We Festivaled

Today was finally The LA Times Festival of Books at USC, and it turned out to be a really great day. A friend and I made the 60 minute trek out there and were able to see three author panels, check out the booths, and enjoy the awesome weather. While I still desperately wish it was at UCLA, I felt that this year was better than last year. Now, before I forget everything...

Adam Mansbach and Ricardo Cortes (author and illustrator of Go the Fuck to Sleep)
These two guys were fantastic- I was a little curious as to what they'd talk about the entire time given the brevity of their project, but I wish they would have kept going past their hour mark. Adam Mansbach talked about the origin on the book (a joke on a Facebook status) and how the book literally blew up overnight through an intentional viral campaign. As an unknown novelist he quickly had to adjust to the attention- between domestic and international sales the book has sold over a million copies. They've recently launched a kid's version (I'm still on the fence about that one) and a movie is somehow going to be made of the original. Ricardo Cortes discussed some of his controversial projects, including It's Just a Plant: A Children's Story about Marijuana, which aims to help kids understand why their parents smoke pot, and I Don't Want to Blow You Up, a tale to help kids understand terrorism. Needless to say, both have been added to my Amazon wishlist. The publisher was also there, which allowed for additional insight on the publishing world and the advantages with going with a smaller house. These guys were a great way to start the day. Hilarious, but also very smart.

Judy Blume (author of many books, including the Fudge series and Are You There God? It's Me Margaret
I am blown away at how many people showed up to see Judy Blume and even more so at the amount that waited in line for over two hours to have their books signed by her (not us). She spoke about what it was like starting off in the publishing industry in the seventies as a young mother in desperate need of a creative outlet. It was fascinating to hear how different the publishing world was forty years ago; you didn't need an agent, just the address of the publisher you were interested in. She also pointed out how liberal and gutsy publishing was in the seventies and how that all changed in the conservative eighties. Judy was extremely mild-mannered and thoughtful, although she refused to answer questions about her favorite books, who she was influenced by, what she likes to read, or what she's doing next- I guess when you're Judy Blume you don't have to answer to anyone! I loved her quick vent on the Accelerated Reader (AR) Program in so many school these days- the program creates levels by computer analysis and encourages kids to churn through books as quickly as possible. She also made a veiled suggestion that the vampires and zombies of today's YA aren't here to stay- everything is cyclical. It was so great to hear the kids, and adults, who thanked her for the role her stories played in their lives and her gracious responses back to them.

T.C. Boyle (author of twelve novels, including Tortilla Curtain and When the Killing's Done)
Obviously I love T.C.- this is the second time I've seen him at The Festival. He's eccentric, self-assured, and a talented speaker. Today he read a powerful and somewhat depressing short story and then answered questions for about thirty minutes. I enjoyed his references to his time at the Iowa Writers' Workshop; he worked with John Irving and realized that he could write both short stories and novels. He also talked about his upcoming novel, his Frank Lloyd Wright house in Montecito, and how he's scheduled to be USC's Writer in Residence next year (sigh). Sorry, but I have to plug Tortilla Curtain for the millionth time: if you live in the California especially, and maybe perhaps think you have your views on immigration firmly set, you really should expand your horizons. 

A few other notes:
- I absolutely LOVE seeing all the families there with their kids, building a foundation for a future love of reading. It's a free cultural event that promotes literacy- what's not to love? My kids will go every year.
- Parking sucked balls.
- The booths and stages are organized a little haphazardly and none of the maps have "you are here" stickers.
- I was actually given a press pass for the even that I wasn't able to pick up (had to be there by five on weekdays). I find this hysterical, given the fact that I write a teeny tiny blog. Lesson: ask and you shall receive. 
- While I absolutely enjoyed the authors I saw, I am disappointed that The Festival isn't drawing bigger names anymore. I feel like the last two or three years has seen a lack of literary writers. 
- USC has kick-ass lemonade.  
- I really miss college; sitting in those lecture halls, passing by campus bookstores and just realizing how much more there is to learn desperately makes me want a redo.  
- Edited to Add: I also thumbed through a copy of Fifty Shades of Gray so that no one could say that I hadn't given it a chance. Crap. Pure, pure crap.
- Edited to Add: The Festival's App was really great in terms of keeping your panel schedule straight and being able to drop pins at certain locations. 

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