LA Times Festival of Books and Bloggers!


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Natasha, Amy, Tracy, Ti, Jill, Trish, Lisa

Natasha, Amy, Tracy, Ti, Jill, Trish, Lisa

This weekend I attended a super-fun two day event, the LA Times Festival of Books. That would have been exciting enough for a book geek like me, but what made it super-fun (as opposed to just regular fun) was getting to meet some of my blogger friends in real life.  What a treat!

The plan was to meet in front of the UCLA book store.  As I wandered up to the steps in front, I immediately recognized Jill from Fizzy Thoughts and Ti from Book Chatter from the pictures on their blogs. Hugs all around.  Then pretty soon Amy from My Friend Amy wandered over after passing by and glancing at us suspiciously two or three times, then Tracy from Shelf Life walked over with a big smile, and pretty soon we were all laughing and talking.  Jill and I went to get coffee (she was so nice and gave me a book I’ve been wanting to read- Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson- who I would see on a panel later in the day).  When we got back, we saw that Trish from Hey, Lady! (also my partner in TLC Book Tours) and Natasha from Maw Books had arrived.  I spilled my coffee while hugging Natasha (I was mortified and so glad it spilled on me rather than on her cute white jacket!). Trish was telling the story of why she was a little late, complete with colorful adjectives and funny anecdotes and facial expressions and hand gestures.  For those of you who might have been wondering- yes, Trish really is THAT cute and excitable and funny in person!   It was interesting to see how much everyone’s personalities really shine through on their blogs.

Jill and Florinda

Jill and Florinda

The first panel of the day for most of us was the Social Networking and New Media panel.  The very organized Ti had made a spreadsheet for us showing which bloggers were attending which panels.  We knew that Wendy from Musings of a Bookish Kitty and Florinda from 3R’s blog were supposed to be there, but we couldn’t find Florinda and we didn’t know what Wendy looked like.  We were in a big lecture hall and I was standing up looking around and joking that we should call out “Literary Feline!  Where are you?” when I felt a tap on my arm from the woman seated next to me.  “I’m Wendy” she said in this tiny kitten-y voice.  She’d been right beside us the whole time!  We found Florinda just a couple minutes later (she was easy to spot from her picture on her blog, and because we knew she was short height-challenged) and were able to all sit together.

tweet, tweet

tweet, tweet

That panel was a good one, with Otis Chandler (founder of Goodreads.com), Wil Wheaton (author, blogger, twitter-er, and actor from Star Trek: TNG), and Sara Wolf (dance critic-she was out of place).  Otis said he had a theory that reading was “broken” and that in starting Goodreads he had hoped to make reading more of a social experience and provide a place where people could talk to each other about books.  He said we’ve all experienced social pressure to watch tv (like when everyone is talking about who got kicked off American Idol, and if you don’t watch you feel out of it).  He wanted to try to make that true with books, and gave examples like “All the cool kids are reading Twilight”.  

Wendy and Anjin

Wendy and Anjin

The following question was posed to the panel: “What does social media (Twitter) do to readers attention spans?”  Will answered by saying he blames the dumbing down of society on TV, not technology.  Something Will said really resonated with me as a member of the blogging community- “You don’t have to be in the same room with someone anymore to share an experience.” He was referring to internet communities and conversations that go on in places like Twitter, Goodreads, and Facebook.  I think our group could all agree with that!  Another question came up about placing limits on and policing social media- having rules- filtering out spam.  Will and Otis discussed that, saying with social media, users “own” it, they make the rules and define how it will be.  Marketers want to tell us what to do on social media i.e. “Here’s how you can profit if you use it my way”, which is precisely why they fail and are seen as spammers. People will use Facebook and Twitter in a way that’s fun for them and ignore the rest.  Meanwhile, the third panelist didn’t seem to have much of a grasp on what Twitter actually is, and was busy talking about the “constellations” in her dance community on Facebook, and how constellating is so great.  Constellating???  Ok….  

Lunch

Lunch

After a quick lunch together, we went our separate ways to the various panels.  Trish, Natasha, Amy and I attended Problem Child, which was a panel with Laurie Halse Anderson (Speak, Winter Girls), Nate Powell (Swallow Me Whole-graphic novel), Jacquelyn Woodfin (Hush, Locomotion, Peace Locomotion) and Suzanne Phillips (Burn).  Laurie Halse Anderson said she “feels so lucky to be able to wake up, listen to the voices in her head, and write down what they say.”  The moderator said that one thing their books had in common was that they all have a really strong, immediate narrative voice.  One comment I jotted down from this panel was that most YA-middle grade novels have a “problem child” because they need a central conflict to make the book interesting, but the characters in these books go way beyond the norm.  We’re talking about eating disorders and cutting, mental illness, kids with real issues. This was a great panel but I had to leave early in order to get to my next panel on time, because there was no way I was going to miss seeing Lisa See!

Lisa meets Lisa

Lisa meets Lisa

Several of us went to Fiction: Window on the World with Lisa See (Shanghai Girls, Snow Flower, Peony in Love), Jonathon Rabb (Rosa, Shadow and Light), Vanina Marsot (Foreign Tongue), and Muriel Barbery (The Elegance of the Hedgehog)  and her translator.  

I’m a huge Lisa See fan.  She talked about Shanghai Girls, set in both Shanghai and Los Angeles, and said it asks the question “How do we define home?  Is it where you grew up, or in the place that you make?”  An excellent question for a midwestern transplant like me.  She spoke about China City in LA from 1937 until the mid-50s, how it was built to look like a real Chinese city with a mini-Great Wall of China surrounding it, but how much of it was created from Hollywood props and sets.  

Lisa meets Vanina

Lisa meets Vanina

I’m also a new fan of Vanina Marsot, having just finished her book Foreign Tongue a week ago (review coming soon!). I was completely enthralled by it!  Vanina said she wanted to show the non-Disneyland version of Paris, a real city where real people live, not vacation-land. Her protagonist Anna, living in Paris with dual French/American citizenship, is translating a book from French to English.  It’s an examination of both cultures, how things are expressed in both languages, and how some things don’t translate well.  She shared an expression that French mothers use with their children that translates literally into “Stop your cinema”.  Those of us with little drama queens immediately knew what she meant!

Muriel Barbery brought along a translator and was utterly charming.  Jill and Tracy had both read The Elegance of  the Hedgehog and were really excited to see her.  Tracy mentioned later that she had a “girl crush” on her, and I can totally relate.  She was elegant in that effortless French way, hair pulled straight back into a sleek chignon, minimal makeup and jewelry, yet still looked stunning.  She spoke in French and while I couldn’t understand a word, her smile and laugh and sweet tone spoke volumes.  I wanted to buy her book and get it signed but they’d sold out. I did, however, get to say hello at the signing.  She’s adorable.

img_2747I gushed and babbled all over Lisa See!  She signed my beat up ARC of Shanghai Girls (coming out in May) and said that she remembered me from our book club conversation last fall.  Then I gushed and babbled some more all over Vanina Marsot.  She was surprised that I’d already read her book.  I told her the publisher had sent it to me, and that I was a blogger.  She said, “Oh, do you know Jennifer?”  I said, “From Literate Housewife?”  She nodded, and said, “Yes, isn’t she wonderful?”  I, of course, agreed with her (Hi, Jen!) and told her I’d enjoyed her interview on Jen’s blog and loved the pictures. Whatever else I said is a blur.  Did I mention I gushed and babbled?

Amy, Tracy, and I blew off our 4th panel of the day in favor of walking around in the beautiful sunshine, picking up some freebies (mostly bookmarks), and talking. Amy did some shopping and bought gifts for her mom and sister (that’s her with Mary Higgins Clark and Carol Higgins Clark).  

Trish and me

Trish and me

We all met back at the UCLA bookstore, where Trish was once again a teensy bit late, but with good reason, and was oh so excited to tell everybody about the panel she’d attended (she is so darn cute.  I just love her!)  

Then we headed over to Jerry’s Deli in Westwood for dinner.  This is getting really lengthy, so let’s just say a good time was had by all.  Here are a couple pictures from our evening together.  Around the table, starting on the left, we have Trish, Ti, me, Amy, Florinda, Wendy’s husband Anjin, Wendy, Natasha and Jill.  In the last picture, taken outside, we have (left to right) Jill, Natasha, Ti, Florinda, me-Lisa, Wendy, Trish, Amy.  

I went back to the Festival on Sunday for Day 2, but just attended one panel (a middle grade fiction one) with my daughter and did a little shopping.  I picked up some books for my kids and stopped at the Vroman’s booth for The Story of a Marriage by Andrew Sean Greer (he was on a panel Saturday that I didn’t see, but other bloggers loved!) and The Elegance of the Hedgehog (I was so glad they had it!)  I’ll tell you about my kids’ “adventures in book signing” in another post.

Thanks to all my wonderful new friends for making this a really special weekend for me.  It was a thrill and a pleasure to meet you all and I hope we can do it again next year!

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37 Responses

  1. AHHH!!!! I can’t believe that Vanina called me wonderful!!!!! This has absolutely made my day. We’ve had a nice email exchange, but to read that she even brought me up… Happiness, pure and simple. It doesn’t take much, does it?

    I am so glad that you guys all had such a wonderful time out there. I wish that I had been able to get Softdrink her copy of Foreign Tongue on time for the event. She could have gotten it signed!

    I mentioned this on Ti’s post, but I’ll say it again. I don’t think that a Festival of Books hosted by the Roanoke Times would be nearly as spectacular.🙂 Thanks for sharing this so that I can live vicariously through you.

  2. It looks like you all had a fabulous time! It always amazes me how people match their online personalities. There aren’t any book festivals near me, so while I’m a little jealous I’m enjoying living vicariously through all of you!

  3. Great post… it was just so nice to meet everyone. Spending time in a bookish atmosphere it cool in itself, but hanging out with other folks that feel the same way… priceless!

  4. Oh..and I wanted to say thank you for driving us around the entire campus in search of our parking structure. We ALL knew where it was (in our heads) but driving there.. when the roads don’t go all the way through??? Yeah.

  5. I’m so glad the weekend was such a huge success! I’ve only met 2 book bloggers so far (Jennifer and Jaime) and you’re so right – their personalities shine through on their blogs. It was like getting together with old friends.

  6. I also meant to say thanks for including the pictures – I feel like I got to be their with y’all.

  7. I have yet to meet any book bloggers, but I’m hoping to meet up with Amy when I’m in CA this summer, maybe you can meet up with us too! It sounds like a fantastic weekend, maybe I can make it out next year (my mom is hoping that I will, and will bring the baby).

  8. It’s OK, you can say “short” – and it’s illustrated very well in that picture with Jill! Thanks again for flagging me down in the auditorium and saving that seat for me🙂.

    I’m still tired today and I didn’t even go on Sunday, but it was so much fun! I love meeting people whom I already know – it’s so much easier and more comfortable. Let’s do it again next year – or sooner, if we can find a reason!

    I tried to buy a copy of Foreign Tongue at Borders yesterday, but it wasn’t in stock, so I’ll probably have to order it online.

    And I second Ti’s thanks for your chauffeur services :-)!

  9. What fun! I so wish I could have gone – I hope you all do this again next year and I will try my hardest to be there! It is great to put faces to names…and look at all those smiles🙂

  10. OMG!! You all look like you are having so much fun and everyone looks so cut e and happy. What a super, super opportunity for you all. So happy to know that everyone is as real as they seem.

  11. What a great writeup! It was fun meeting everyone this weekend. I’m glad my wife dragged me along.

  12. What cute, fun pictures! Thanks for sharing your experience.

  13. Wow, it looks like you had a ball! I’m so jealous.

  14. Loved reading about all the bookish adventures — and especially loved all the great pictures. Thanks so much for sharing

  15. Lisa you’re tops!!!! What a great write-up!! And I can’t get over how you are EXACTLY like I thought! 🙂 I had so much fun with you.

    And Florinda…exactly! There no awkwardness just fun…any other bookish events we can all get together for?😉

  16. Sounds absolutely wonderful – books, authors, bloggers – doesn’t get any better. Thanks for sharing.

  17. This was so fun to read! love it. 🙂

  18. Sounds like a wonderful time. Wish I had been in LA to meet all those authors and bloggers! By the way, thanks very much for your nice comment on my book review of Spiced, April 21.

  19. Thanks for sharing your amazing day! Geez, great weather and cool book festivals. What am I doing in MN???

  20. WOW! What fun! Thanks for sharing the festival with us.

  21. […] it! Tara on LA Times Festival of Books and…Harvee on LA Times Festival of Books and…Care on LA Times Festival of Books […]

  22. Yay! It’s great to relive it! What a fun day. I’ll say it again–next year I’m coming to dinner, no matter what. Also maybe we need another get-together before then–I’m sure we can come up with a good excuse🙂

  23. I sure do wish I had lived close enough to go to this! Looks like a lot of fun and I read most of those bloggers daily!

  24. I am so glad we were able to meet, Lisa. I almost decided not to go because I was so nervous. I had a great time and you’ve captured the experience so well in your post. Thanks so much for arranging this!

  25. Sounds like you had an awesome time! It was great that you got to meet so many other bloggers and some really impressive authors. One day I hope to be able to attend one of these types of events.

  26. What a great gathering! I hope to join you guys next year!

  27. […] teaser comes from a book I picked up over the weekend at the Festival of Books, The Story of a Marriage by Andrew Sean Greer. This book was one of the first picks for the new […]

  28. […] teaser comes from a book I picked up over the weekend at the Festival of Books, The Story of a Marriage by Andrew Sean Greer.  This book was one of the first picks for the new […]

  29. How incredibly exciting! Looks like you had an amazing time🙂 And now I feel like I’ve been, too, although I’m way over here on the other coast!🙂

  30. Looks like you guys had a blast. I’m so jealous that you got to meet Lisa See. Way cool!

  31. Oh that looks like so much fun!! You must have had a blast!! What fun it would be to meet all the faces behind the blogs =) Sigh…if only I wasn’t clear over here in West Virginia!

  32. What a great post! Thanks for all the pictures. It was great to be able to “see” you all!

  33. I just mentioned to Hubby that maybe I’ll go out to the west coast next year and attend this book festival and he responded with an “Okay.” Cool!!! Maybe Literary Housewife will join me or at least meet up with me in DC if they have the National Book Festival on the National Mall in September.

    I love all the pics and am so glad that you got to meet Lisa See!

  34. I’m glad you had a great time. How cool that you got to hang out with those awesome bloggers!

    –Anna

  35. Wow sounds like an awesome time! And with all the lady bloggers I love!

  36. I HATE YOU ALL!!! Why do I have to live in the freakin’ bible belt of the west while y’all get to party together in sunny CA? It’s just not fair!

    Maybe someday I’ll get to meet everyone–after I lose this 15 pds. I’ve gained!

  37. So, was it the “LA Festival of Books and Bloggers” or the “LA Festival of Books” and Bloggers … you guys have taken over the Festival!!

    Looks like a great time was had by all; thanks for sharing the weekend with your post and photos.

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