National Book Festival 2022

Yesterday, I attended the National Book Festival in DC. This festival is local for me, and I’ve been incredibly fortunate to see countless extraordinary authors over the years. I began attending when the celebration of books took place outdoors on the National Mall, but it has since shifted to the Washington Convention Center. The past two years have been virtual due to Covid-19, but the 2022 Festival moved back to in-person at the Washington Convention Center. (Side note: I have not been around so many “mask wearers” in months. My ‘guesstimate’ is that 80% of attendees were masked. Which I consider proof that readers are some of the most empathetic people you’ll meet, and I was glad to be among “my people.”) Below I’ll share brief highlights of the sessions I attended, but I will also link the full video from the Library of Congress’ YouTube Channel. All sessions were streamed live, making the event a ‘hybrid’ for those who wanted to watch at home. Note, these pictures are mostly my own, captured on my old iPhone 8. Pardon the photo quality. Jason Reynolds’ photo was captured by my friend and co-worker, Liz Campbell.

Panel: Meet Me in the Winner’s Circle: Award-Winning Writers with Donna Barba Higuera, Darcie Little Badger, and Malinda Lo

This panel was expertly moderated by fellow author, Dhonielle Clayton. All of these recent award winners shared what inspired these stories and whether bans/censorship has affected their desire to tell the stories they want to tell. I personally loved the portion of the talk where Higuera discussed science fiction as a genre. Her sci-fi book, Newbery winner The Last Cuentista, will be in my September recap as I am reading it now!

Panel: You’re Such a Nightmare: Horror Novels with Tiffany D. Jackson and Ryan La Sala

This panel was such fun! I have not (yet) read books by either author, but went home with a book by each of them! Both authors touched on the concept of horrors happening by the light of day. But these two authors were the opposite of scary, and had the audience repeatedly laughing. I highly recommend watching their session (which I will link at the bottom of this post), and I am so looking forward to discovering their books!

Panel: Rage Against the System: Teens Who Don’t Back Down with Samira Ahmed and Sabaa Tahir

The highlight of this panel was the banter between the two authors. They are clearly close friends, and seeing how they can mess with each other and at the same time support each other was delightful. The theme of the panel crossed over to how today’s teens can stand up to power and have an impact on their communities.

Panel: Jason Reynolds Talks About His Latest Books

Jason Reynolds was the final author of the day on the Young Adult stage. He discussed his role as the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature and his latest book Ain’t Burned All the Bright. But for me, the real highlight was when he took questions from the audience. Each answer was filled with metaphors and gems of knowledge that will stick with the audience well after the 45 minute talk concluded.

Panel: The All-Stars of “Blackout” with Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Ashley Woodfolk, and Nicola Yoon

The highlight and my own main reason for attending this year’s festival was this panel, which took place on the Main Stage. Moderated by Librarian of Congress herself, Carla Hayden, was a panel with 5 of the 6 New York Times Bestselling authors of the novel Blackout, celebrating Black teen love. I think the picture to the right captures the pure joy of this panel. It was so much fun to hear their stories of how this book came to life, witnessing their camaraderie, and ultimately coming to the conclusion that we need more of this kind of collaboration in our world.

Here are links to video recordings of the Young Adult Stage and “Blackout” on the Main Stage, as well as a link to the full schedule from the 2022 National Book Festival. There were a lot of authors that I did not get to hear, and I’ll definitely be watching the video recordings over the coming week.

PDF of the 2022 National Book Festival Schedule:

Book Event Preview: NoVa Teen Book Fest 2018


NoVa Teen Book Fest
Saturday, March 10, 2018
9am – 5pm
Washington-Lee High School
Arlington, VA

Why you should consider going:
First off, it’s FREE. Secondly, this is one of the most well-organized, thoughtful, fun, and cozy author events in the DC area. The coordinators attract amazing authors, whether it be up and coming talent like the fantastic Jason Reynolds or industry legends like Holly Black.

My favorite part is how this festival groups and organizes authors onto panels surrounding a particular theme. The themes can be timely/relevant to modern issues or focus on a particular element of author’s craft.

Despite how fantastic the event is and it’s growing reputation, the venue is not overcrowded. The auditorium is comfy, the microphones work, the stage easy to see. The breakout rooms give attendees great opportunities to talk to authors in a small group setting. There is a free, covered parking garage for icky weather. And the festival arranges for various food trucks to stop by around lunchbreak.

Here is a link to this year’s schedule: NoVa Teen 2018 Schedule

And below are some authors/books that I’m excited to see this year!

Children of Blood and BoneTomi Adeyemi
Author of Children of Blood and Bone

Summary from Goodreads: Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zelie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now, Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers—and her growing feelings for the enemy.

The Belles

Dhonielle Clayton
Author of The Belles

Summary from Goodreads: Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zelie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now, Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers—and her growing feelings for the enemy.

One of Us is LyingKaren M. McManus
Author of One of Us is Lying

Summary from Goodreads: Pay close attention and you might solve this.
On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.
Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.
Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.
Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention, Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?
Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.”

MoxieJennifer Mathieu
Author of Moxie

Summary from Goodreads: Vivian Carter is fed up. Fed up with her small-town Texas high school that thinks the football team can do no wrong. Fed up with sexist dress codes and hallway harassment. But most of all, Viv Carter is fed up with always following the rules.

Viv’s mom was a punk rock Riot Grrrl in the ’90s, so now Viv takes a page from her mother’s past and creates a feminist zine that she distributes anonymously to her classmates. She’s just blowing off steam, but other girls respond. Pretty soon Viv is forging friendships with other young women across the divides of cliques and popularity rankings, and she realizes that what she has started is nothing short of a girl revolution.

UnearthedMeagan Spooner
Author of Unearthed

Summary from Goodreads: When Earth intercepts a message from a long-extinct alien race, it seems like the solution the planet has been waiting for. The Undying’s advanced technology has the potential to undo environmental damage and turn lives around, and Gaia, their former home planet, is a treasure trove waiting to be uncovered.

For Jules Addison and his fellow scholars, the discovery of an alien culture offers unprecedented opportunity for study… as long as scavengers like Amelia Radcliffe don’t loot everything first. Mia and Jules’ different reasons for smuggling themselves onto Gaia put them immediately at odds, but after escaping a dangerous confrontation with other scavvers, they form a fragile alliance.

In order to penetrate the Undying temple and reach the tech and information hidden within, the two must decode the ancient race’s secrets and survive their traps. But the more they learn about the Undying, the more their presence in the temple seems to be part of a grand design that could spell the end of the human race…

Before She Ignites

Jodi Meadows
Author of Before She Ignites

Summary from Goodreads: Mira Minkoba is the Hopebearer. Since the day she was born, she’s been told she’s special. Important. Perfect. She’s known across the Fallen Isles not just for her beauty, but for the Mira Treaty named after her, a peace agreement which united the seven islands against their enemies on the mainland.

But Mira has never felt as perfect as everyone says. She counts compulsively. She struggles with crippling anxiety. And she’s far too interested in dragons for a girl of her station.

Then Mira discovers an explosive secret that challenges everything she and the Treaty stand for. Betrayed by the very people she spent her life serving, Mira is sentenced to the Pit–the deadliest prison in the Fallen Isles. There, a cruel guard would do anything to discover the secret she would die to protect.

No longer beholden to those who betrayed her, Mira must learn to survive on her own and unearth the dark truths about the Fallen Isles–and herself–before her very world begins to collapse.


Scott Reintgen
Author of Nyxia

Summary from Goodreads: Emmett Atwater isn’t just leaving Detroit; he’s leaving Earth. Why the Babel Corporation recruited him is a mystery, but the number of zeroes on their contract has him boarding their lightship and hoping to return to Earth with enough money to take care of his family.


Before long, Emmett discovers that he is one of ten recruits, all of whom have troubled pasts and are a long way from home. Now each recruit must earn the right to travel down to the planet of Eden—a planet that Babel has kept hidden—where they will mine a substance called Nyxia that has quietly become the most valuable material in the universe.

But Babel’s ship is full of secrets. And Emmett will face the ultimate choice: win the fortune at any cost, or find a way to fight that won’t forever compromise what it means to be human.

A Land of Permanent GoodbyesAtia Abawi
Author of A Land of Permanent Goodbyes

Summary from Goodreads: In a country ripped apart by war, Tareq lives with his big and loving family . . . until the bombs strike. His city is in ruins. His life is destroyed. And those who have survived are left to figure out their uncertain future.

In the wake of destruction, he’s threatened by Daesh fighters and witnesses a public beheading. Tareq’s family knows that to continue to stay alive, they must leave. As they travel as refugees from Syria to Turkey to Greece, facing danger at every turn, Tareq must find the resilience and courage to complete his harrowing journey.

But while this is one family’s story, it is also the timeless tale of all wars, of all tragedy, and of all strife. When you are a refugee, success is outliving your loss.

Down and AcrossArvin Ahmadi
Author of Down and Across

Summary from Goodreads:
Scott Ferdowsi has a track record of quitting. Writing the Great American Novel? Three chapters. His summer internship? One week. His best friends know exactly what they want to do with the rest of their lives, but Scott can hardly commit to a breakfast cereal, let alone a passion.

With college applications looming, Scott’s parents pressure him to get serious and settle on a career path like engineering or medicine. Desperate for help, he sneaks off to Washington, DC, to seek guidance from a famous professor who specializes in grit, the psychology of success.

He never expects an adventure to unfold out of what was supposed to be a one-day visit. But that’s what Scott gets when he meets Fiora Buchanan, a ballsy college student whose life ambition is to write crossword puzzles. When the bicycle she lends him gets Scott into a high-speed chase, he knows he’s in for the ride of his life. Soon, Scott finds himself sneaking into bars, attempting to pick up girls at the National Zoo, and even giving the crossword thing a try–all while opening his eyes to fundamental truths about who he is and who he wants to be.

To Kill a KingdomAlexandra Christo
Author of To Kill a Kingdom

Summary from Goodreads: Princess Lira is siren royalty and the most lethal of them all. With the hearts of seventeen princes in her collection, she is revered across the sea. Until a twist of fate forces her to kill one of her own. To punish her daughter, the Sea Queen transforms Lira into the one thing they loathe most—a human. Robbed of her song, Lira has until the winter solstice to deliver Prince Elian’s heart to the Sea Queen or remain a human forever.

The ocean is the only place Prince Elian calls home, even though he is heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world. Hunting sirens is more than an unsavory hobby—it’s his calling. When he rescues a drowning woman in the ocean, she’s more than what she appears. She promises to help him find the key to destroying all of sirenkind for good—But can he trust her? And just how many deals will Elian have to barter to eliminate mankind’s greatest enemy?

And many more authors will be there! That was just a sampling!
Hope to see you there!

NoVa Teen Book Festival 2014

Where: Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia.
When: Saturday, March 8th from 9:30am to 4pm
Book Event Website: NoVa Teen Book Festival

This was the first book festival organized by NoVa Teen, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.  But I can say I was highly impressed!  The venue was bright and comfortable with great acoustics.  The program of authors was varied and entertaining.  Lots of volunteers in bright red shirts helped answer questions and keep the day running smoothly.  And there were loads of tables with books and food for sale.  I am certainly adding NoVa Teen Book Fest to my list of annual events!

What I loved most about this event was how they organized the day.  In the main auditorium, they had 45 minute author panels, and then in classrooms they had smaller breakout sessions.  I didn’t attend any of the breakout sessions, and instead opted for the main panels in the auditorium.  Main Author Panels are listed below:

  • “Who Are You” A discussion about identity, destiny, and the roles that shape characters.
  • “The Scientist” The morality of science and the consequences of defying nature.
  • “Survivor” How dire circumstances and high-stakes situations unite and shape characters to defeat the odds.
  • “Bad Boys” An exploration into the appeal of bad boys and the girls who love them.

I loved that each panel had a theme that went beyond just book genre.  I caught the end of the panel about identity, and then listened to both “The Scientist” and “Survivor.”

The Scientist
This panel was my favorite of the day.  I love science fiction and this panel was FASCINATING.  The topic of science and morality is so timely and relevant.  Each author on the panel had a different perspective because each of their books had a different futuristic/science premise.

Jenna Black’s book Replica is based on the scientific premise of being able to create a back-up copy of yourself–complete with memories, physical traits, the whole deal.  Essentially cloning, but with that added twist of creating a duplicate copy of not just your body but your brain.  Ethics and idenity issues abound with this idea, and it is a fascinating concept.  (I bought the book.)

Jennifer Rush’s Altered is a book I’d already purchased as a Kobo ebook, and I started it… but have yet to finish.  In part I haven’t finished purely because I only have the Kobo app on my iPad and my iPad isn’t ideal to read on, in my opinion.  I need a Kobo ereader.  This book is essentially about genetic modifications, and some boys who have been experiments in a lab.

Cristin Terrill wrote All Our Yesterdays, which is about the catastrophic consequences of time travel.  The main character’s dilemma is whether she should go back in time and kill the inventor of time travel–even if that inventor was someone she loved and cared about…  Sounds a bit like the movie Looper.  I loveeee time travel stories, thanks to Ray Bradbury’s “Sound of Thunder.”  The consequences of time travel in fiction seems to have infinite possibilities and conflict galore.

And the final member of the panel (also the moderator) was Jon Skovron whose new novel Man Made Boy is about the son of Frankenstein.  The son of Frankenstein is a gifted hacker and creates a sentient computer virus.  Supposedly, this computer virus lacks empathy for human beings, and Boy Frankenstein must take responsibility for his creation.  I thought this was a super interesting premise, and this was one of my book purchases of the day.  Plus, Jon Skovron was a great moderator–knowledgeable in the field of YA and asked interesting questions.

Pictures from “The Scientists” Panel

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Author Jenna Black

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Jennifer Rush and Jenna Black

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From Left to Right: Cristin Terrill, Jennifer Rush, Jenna Black, Jon Skovron

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Author and Moderator Jon Skovron

This is probably one of my all-time favorite topics.  I love throwing my characters into high-stakes situations and seeing them fight their way out.  And all my favorite books involve authors pummeling their characters with dire circumstances.  And while I enjoyed the discussion, it wasn’t quite as mind-blowing as “The Scientist” panel was.

I’ve heard the whole “discuss how your character is a strong female” question before.  Yes.  Strong, kick-butt females are hot right now.  And I doubt that’s gonna change anytime soon… Because the alternative is… weak females?  Yeah.  Pretty much every author will argue their female lead is strong.

What I did find interesting was the idea that when a female character is too perfect… She’s a Mary Sue.  But go to the other end of the spectrum and she’s unlikable.  Arrogant?  She’s the B-word.  However, what several of the panelists argued, is that male characters can be these things.  Too perfect is hero figure (Bruce Wayne aka Batman was their example).  Arrogant is a beloved bad boy.  Female characters seem to have to hit this sweet spot of being just a bit flawed and relatable.  Very interesting and something you could delve deeper into if given longer than a 45 minute discussion.

The two authors I was most impressed by during this panel were Kristen Simmons and Meagan Spooner.

Kristen Simmons is the author of Article 5, which at least a dozen people on my Goodreads listed as “Want to Read” but only one actually read (the one person gave it a favorable 4 star review).  Perhaps Article 5 hit the dystopian trend a little too late, but from what I heard from Kristen Simmons, I’d still like to give this book a shot.  It sounds like a high stakes, exciting read!

These Broken Stars by Meagan Spooner and Amie Kaufman keeps popping up on my blogger radar with rave reviews.  The author described it as “Rose and Jack from Titanic in a spaceship where they crash in the first five minutes and land on the island from LOST.”  I paraphrased that.  Anyhow, it’s a love story in space from dual perspectives (I totally looove books with two POV characters).  And I pretty much had to buy this book based on both that crazy description and to see what all the blogosphere hype is about.

Pictures from Survivor Panel

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From Left to Right: Jessica Spotswood, Meagan Spooner, Kristen Simmons, Claudia Gray, Lisa Maxwell

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Kristen Simmons and Claudia Gray

Overall, this was a fantastic book event that I would highly recommend attending if you live in the Washington DC metro area.  Well-organized and a fun bookish day!

National Book Festival 2013

The National Book Festival is held each year on the Mall in DC.  I go every year and it’s absolute heaven for a bibliophile like myself.  The event is totally free and a great opportunity to meet your favorite authors.  Below is a summary of the authors that I had the great opportunity to see this year:

(Click on images to view larger.)

Hattie Ever AfterKirby Larson

I absolutely adored Kirby Larson’s Newbery Honor book, Hattie Big Sky.  If you want great historical fiction that is more challenging (but similar to) the American Girl series, you should check out Hattie Big Sky.  I’ve purchased, but not yet had the chance to read the sequel Hattie Ever After, but I’m very excited to, especially after hearing Kirby Larson speak!

Matt de la Peña

I had not read any of Matt de la Peña’s books, but I plan to now!  In a somewhat soft-spoken voice he told several humorous stories from his own life that had the audience laughing.  He explained how his life experiences, being biracial and from a working class family, inspired his fiction.  I purchased his book Mexican Whiteboy and am excited to read it!

1377013_10101116396175095_1471933396_nPhyllis Reynolds Naylor

I’m most familiar with Naylor’s Shiloh, about a boy who rescues an abused dog.  However, she spoke mostly about her Alice series, which has been highly controversial and on ALA’s most banned book list.  Naylor shared many of the letters she’d received from readers regarding the impact the Alice series has had on their lives.  I certainly felt by the end of her speech that the Alice series is something I don’t want to miss out on, and I plan to check it out!


Packed crowd for Veronica Roth

Veronica Roth

As expected, Roth drew the biggest crowd of the day.  The first book in her dystopian trilogy, Divergent, is a soon-to-be major motion picture, and the series is hot on the heels of the Hunger Games trilogy in terms of popularity.  The final book in Roth’s trilogy, Allegiant, is coming out this fall.


Veronica Roth is on the left. Moderator on the right.

Roth is an extremely young author (early 20s), but I was very impressed with her professionalism.  She spoke about the trend in YA of strong female heroines, but her dissatisfaction that what makes these heroines strong is that they shoot guns and fight.  Shooting guns and fighting are a traditionally masculine version of strong, and Roth hopes that we will see other forms of strength in YA, perhaps feminine and gender neutral forms as well.  There was also some discussion of why Tris is so annoying in Insurgent (book 2), and it gave me a little more tolerance for that book, though I don’t think I’ll ever be a raving fan of it like I was for book 1.

553774_10101116396753935_3418276_nMatthew Kirby

I have not read any of Kirby’s books, but the cover of Icefall was familiar as well as award winning.  I was charmed by Kirby’s love of research and enthusiasm for writing.  I definitely plan to read his latest book, The Lost Kingdom, which looks a little steampunk (I purchased an autographed copy at the book tent).

1375859_10101116396758925_1358263899_nD.J. McHale

I’ve had many students recommend the Pendragon series, and after hearing D.J. McHale, I definitely NEED to check these books out.  McHale is a pro-presenter.  He was funny, engaging, and knew how to talk to kids.  I purchased an autographed copy of his latest book, SYLO, that I plan to give away in a raffle to students.  If you ever get the opportunity to see this guy speak, take it.

1209398_10101116396748945_1952491338_nTamora Pierce

Huge confession to make: I haven’t read any books by the legendary Tamora Pierce.  I own a few.  Haven’t read them.  I know I absolutely need to!  Pierce’s crowd was brimming with love and enthusiasm for her works.  After playing a little prank on the audience that got laughter and applause, Pierce spent pretty much the entire thirty minutes answering questions.  It was clear to me that she was confident, strong, witty, and a force to be reckoned with in the writing world.  I was thoroughly impressed and also humbled that I am clearly missing out on some great works of fiction.  I see a Tamora Pierce binge reading session in my future…

2012 National Book Festival Schedule

The National Book Festival is my favorite book event of the year.  It’s in Washigton D.C. on the National Mall and is TOTALLY FREE.  The DC Metro is easy to use, so you really don’t have to worry about driving or parking in the city.  I’ve been when it was raining (very cold and miserable) and when it’s sunny (glorious).   I’ve gotten books signed in the past, but what I usually prefer to do is find a good spot in the Teen Tent and sit and listen to speakers all day.  If you want to get books signed, just be prepared to wait in lines and realize that you will miss out on other authors speaking.

If you want to know what the Book Festival is like, I recommend reading last year’s post: National Book Festival 2011

The event is very well-organized and this year’s panel of authors looks fantastic.  Authors I’m especially excited about: John Green, James Dashner, Walter Dean Myers, Lois Lowry, Maggie Stiefvater, Melissa Marr, and Avi.  This year’s festival is Saturday, September 22 and Sunday, September 23.  See a full list of speakers below:

Saturday, Children’s Tent
Time                Author
10:00-10:45 Laura Amy Schlitz
10:55-11:40 Peter Brown
11:50-12:35 James Dashner
12:45-1:30        Jewel
1:40-2:25         Natalie Pope Boyce
1:40-2:25         Mary Pope Osborne
2:35-3:20         Jerry Spinelli
3:30-4:15         Chris Raschka
4:25-5:10         Anna Dewdney

Saturday, Teens & Children’s Tent
Time                Author
10:00-10:45 John Green
10:55-11:40 Mike Lupica
11:50-12:35 Walter Dean Myers
12:45-1:30        Lois Lowry
1:40-2:25         Maggie Stiefvater
2:35-3:20         Melissa Marr
3:30-4:15         David Levithan
4:25-5:10         R.L. Stine

Sunday, Children’s Tent
Time                Author
12:00-12:45 Bob Balaban
12:55-1:40        Patricia Polacco
1:50-2:35         Michael Grant
2:45-3:30         Erin E. Stead
2:45-3:30         Philip C. Stead
3:40-4:25         David Ezra Stein
4:35-5:20         Avi

Teens & Children
Time                Author
12:00-12:45 Bryan Collier
12:55-1:40        Ellen Hopkins
1:50-2:35         Siobhan Vivian
1:50-2:35         Jenny Han
2:45-3:30         Jacqueline Woodson
3:40-4:25         Sharon Flake
4:35-5:20         Sonia Manzano

More information on the National Book Festival can be found on the Library of Congress Book Festival Site.

Let me know if you’re thinking of going!  I’d love to see you there!

Gaithersburg Book Festival 2012

This year was the 3rd annual Gaithersburg Book Festival, and with perfect weather, there were crowds of people celebrating books.  This was my second year attending, and I was again impressed with how well-organized and professional the event was.  More people showed up this year, but you still had easy access to some really talented and amazing authors.

Below is a synopsis of each author I heard speak:

Meredith Goldstein
Author of the book, The Singles, and columnist for the Boston Globe, Goldstein was honest and funny as she spoke about the writing process for her book which is about five single people invited to a wedding.  Timed to come out during the wedding season, the book explores how five different people (3 men, two women) cope with going to a wedding alone.  Most of the authors I was familiar with were later in the day, so I stumbled upon Goldstein in the morning by chance.  I’m definitely happy I heard her speak, and will definitely be checking her book out.

John Corey Whaley

Winner of this year’s Printz award for Where Things Come Back, Whaley was sarcastic and self-deprecating.  He joked about the sweat he was mopping off his forehead with a southern boy handkerchief, and spoke of how his first year teaching at his alma mater was a terrible experience where he learned things about his former teachers he never wanted to know.  On the topic of his book, Whaley shared how a news story and his small hometown in Louisiana inspired Where Things Come Back.  While his book doesn’t sound like my typical read, I’m definitely intrigued.  I bought a copy of the book, had it autographed, and it’s now sitting in my massive to-read pile.

Michael Buckley

I’d heard Michael Buckley (author of The Sisters Grimm and N.E.R.D.S.) speak before, and as he is a former stand-up comedian, I knew I wanted to hear him again.  The beginning of his speech, I was distracted by a rapidly melting ice cream cone dripping all down my arm (and trying not to get chocolate on my white skirt).  But the second half of his speech he spent answering questions for adoring little girl fans.  He had witty responses for all of them, but my favorite was:

Q: What made you want to write for children?

 A: J.K. Rowling’s payday. 

Michelle Ray

Michelle Ray was by far my favorite author of the day.  She was a cheerful and engaging speaker.  I have not yet read her debut novel, Falling for Hamlet, but knew Ray would be one of my must see authors of the festival because Hamlet is tied with Romeo and Juliet for my favorite Shakespearean play and the idea of a YA modern retelling from Ophelia’s point-of-view is AWESOME.  Ray spoke of her love of Shakespeare and how she strives to make Shakespeare not-so-scary.  (She wore an awesome Cafe Press shirt that said “Shakespeare Sucketh Not”)  She showed us her writing notebook (which is very similar to my own crazy scribbles).  And when I got my book signed, she was so genuine and personable.  She is a teacher as well, and that makes her extra awesome because it gives me hope that the stress of teaching will not prevent me from achieving my own writing/publishing goals.  Can you tell I was impressed?  Her book is going near the top of my to-read pile (right after my mandatory grad school reading… or will I slip it in early for a break… we’ll see!)

Other authors I heard:

  • Buzz Bissinger, author of Friday Night Lights and his new book Father’s Day: A Journey into the Mind and Heart of My Extraordinary Son
  • Siobhan Fallon, author of You Know When the Men Are Gone which is a collection of short stories about the men, women, and families of the U.S. Army. 
  • Marvin and Deborah Kalb, authors of Haunting Legacy: Vietnam and the American Presidency from Ford to Obama  This father/daughter team spoke about the impact the Vietnam war on the American Presidency from elections to foreign policy.

National Book Festival 2011

Here is my annual post on the DC National Book Festival!  Best FREE book event in the country!

Authors I saw speak (in order of appearance):

Sarah Dessen

Teen author, Sarah Dessen

I knew she was popular and has been writing for awhile, but I haven’t read anything by her.  I’ve never been a big reader of teen girl realistic fiction.  She was so charming that I downloaded one of her books on my Kindle while sitting in the audience.  She joked about how she was a very ordinary person and how when she came to events like this, she wanted to bottle up all the wonderful love and adoration from her fans.  Then, when she was home, doing laundry or dealing with crying children, she could be like, “See!  People think I’m amazing!”  She also jokingly said that she owes all her sales success to Mandy Moore.  Once Mandy Moore was on the cover of her movie edition, her books sold like hotcakes.  She joked that her family thanks Mandy Moore for everything in their house.  “We thank Mandy Moore for our refrigerator.”  One other cool thing that she does in her books that was a completely new concept to me, is instead of writing the sequels that her fans beg for, she has some of her characters from past books make guest appearances in new novels.  I thought this was such a cool idea!

Katherine Paterson and John Rocco

Illustrator Jon Rocco and author Katherine Paterson

Katherine Paterson is a living legend and John Rocco did the cover art for the Percy Jackson series.  The two of them teamed up to create a gorgeous book with 60 color illustrations.  The Flint Heart is a 1910 fantasy story by Eden Phillpotts retold by Paterson in more modern friendly language with more reader friendly pacing.  I bought this book after hearing them speak, and it is a gorgeous piece of book art!  Katherine Paterson and John Rocco were so cute together, as seen here in this picture:

Jack Gantos
Jack Gantos is quite a character.  Very lively, humorous, and full of outrageous stories.  I think several members of the audience were quite shocked to hear about how he went to jail for drug smuggling (I already knew this bit of back story).  I probably wouldn’t have chosen to bring it up at a national event in front of hundreds of people… but that’s just me.  Everything came with a dose of humor, and he got quite the round of applause.

Gordon Korman

Middle Grade author, Gordon Korman

Very cool guy.  One of the better speakers of the day.  And this guy’s book output is off the charts.  I loved how enthusiastic he was about the research process when writing books.  He said how research brings in some of the best plot ideas because sometimes the real stuff is too good for even the most creative brain to make up.  And he REALLY made me want to read all of the 39 Clues books.  The way they connect adventure to history and artifacts is too cool.  His advice to writers was to write about what makes you excited.  (I agree!)  Gordon Korman had one of the highest kid audiences of the day  🙂

Cassandra Clare
Cassandra Clare was probably the biggest disappointment for me of the weekend.  Her books are great fun if you are looking for an action-packed paranormal read with hints of romance.  I was hoping she’d be great fun, too.  She read from a script in a tired, flat voice that suggested she didn’t want to be there.  When teen girls flocked to the microphones for the Q&A portion and were showering her with praise… she didn’t seem grateful, and didn’t thank the readers for the compliments.  And then there was one off-color comment.  One girl asked if there was anything that was taken out of the books that Clare had wished had stayed in.  And Clare responded that there were several scenes detailing the villain, Valentine, killing masses of children.  And she thought that part was pretty cool and wished her editors hadn’t made her take it out.  Her editors didn’t think people would want to read about children being murdered.  I quite agree with her editors on this one.

Brian Selznick

Author and illustrator, Brian Selznick

Selznick was definitely one of the best speakers of the day.  I wouldn’t be surprised if his IQ is in the genius range.  He mostly spoke about how he’s trying to do new things with text and pictures through first Hugo Cabret and now with his new book Wonderstruck.  (You should run out and buy Wonderstruck.  It will win awards.)  He spoke of his love of museums and his love of E.L. Konigsburg, which inspired Wonderstruck.  His enthusiasm and innovation really shone through when he spoke about how and why he chose to tell two stories in Wonderstruck.  Two stories are interwoven from two different time periods in Wonderstruck; one story is told through pictures and one story is told through text.  But he thought about WHY a story would or should be told in just pictures and he was inspired by the deaf community who rely so heavily on images.  His speech really blew my mind and I wish it had been recorded (he requested no video recording).  A Hugo Cabret movie by Martin Scorsese is coming out this coming holiday season 2011, and Selznick said Scorsese was diligent in following the book and carried it around on set.  The trailer looks fantastic!

Rita Williams-Garcia
I was really looking forward to hearing Rita Williams-Garcia after reading One Crazy Summer this past weekend, and she did not disappoint!  (I was disappointed at the small crowd, but she was the last speaker of the day and many people were likely tired and hungry.)  Rita was so excited to be at the Book Festival speaking that she literally began by hopping up and down whilst giggling and grinning ear to ear.  She was so full of energy and absolutely adorable.  She said that one thing she loves about storytelling is you don’t need anything to tell a story.  Just your brain and your voice.  She described herself as a character driven writer (which doesn’t surprise me because her characters were so vivid in OCS).  She said she’s asking questions about her characters all the time and constantly thinking about them.  Rita believes that it’s the strengths and failings that make real characters.  She spoke about her own mother and how her mother wasn’t like other mothers (echoing themes from OCS), and did a hilarious impersonation of her bombshell mother walking into a concert at her school.  She was scared to write middle grade because she always wrote for teens.  And when asked about her writing process, she said she writes the moments of greatest impact first, and then fills in the rest.  I thought this was a really interesting method of writing, but it makes sense.  By writing critical scenes and seeing how your characters react, you get to know your characters on higher level, which would make writing the less crucial scenes easier having established your character’s inner workings.

Kazu Kibuishi
This young Asian graphic novelist, creator of Scholastic’s Amulet graphic novels, was such a cool speaker.  I want to show his speech to my students.  He spoke of how difficult it was for him to figure out what he wanted to do for a living.  His parents wanted him to be a doctor.  He thought he wanted to be a writer.  He went to film school.  Was hired by Disney, left Disney.  He always denied his love of drawing.  He wanted to tell stories.  But when he finally discovered he could meld his love of storytelling with the love of drawing he’d been suppressing, he discovered his career as a graphic novelist.  I love seeing young, positive male role models for young people, and he definitely was one!

Graphic novelist, Kazu Kibuishi
Kazu drawing characters from Amulet

Rachel Renee Russell
What I didn’t realize was that the Dork Diaries series (essentially the Wimpy Kid series but for girls) is done by a mother/daughter team.  Mom does the writing and daughter does the drawing.  The presentation was very cute and kid-friendly.  While mom talked, the daughter was drawing people in the audience in the cartoony style of the books.  Kids were so thrilled to see themselves drawn as cartoons.

Author, Rachel Renee Russell
Russell’s daughter, Nikki, drawing a member of the audience

As soon as the book festival was over, I started wondering who I would get to see next year!  Such a great experience!  I’m so lucky to live near DC!

Who do you hope to see next year?  My number one hope for next year’s festival: Scott Westerfeld.  Fingers crossed!

Gaithersburg Book Festival

Today I attended the 2nd annual Gaithersburg Book Festival.

We had gorgeous weather and it is held in a really pretty area in Olde Towne Gaithersburg.  It was just as well organized as the National Book Festival in DC with labeled tents, books for sale/signing, food, and detailed colored programs.

The first speaking event was a panel discussion titled “There’s a Children’s Book in Me–How Do I Get it Published?”  The five authors on the panel were very knowledgeable, and I enjoyed listening to them speak about their own personal writing experiences.  They gave out a useful little flyer with commonly asked questions about children’s publishing.

I knew most of the information at this discussion already, but it was nice to reaffirm that I’m doing all the right things, such as joining SCBWI, writing every day, conferences, critiques, staying well-read in my genre, etc.  Not to mention getting my MFA in Children’s Literature.

I ended up buying two of the author’s books because they appealed to my interests.  I bought Jennifer Allison’s Gilda Joyce series for middle grade readers.  It’s a mystery series about a girl who is a psychic investigator that looks like something I would have LOVED as a young girl.  It will be perfect easy reading when I’m done with all my grad school texts.  Jennifer had some good advice about revision, and she also spoke about how she’s learned a lot from teaching and listening to her students.  I really identified with a lot of what she spoke about.  Check out the author’s website below.

I also bought Pamela Ehrenberg’s book Tillmon County Fire.  The book tells the story of a hate crime in a rural community through several different characters.  Definitely sounds interesting, and I’m always looking for books that give me insight on how to write from multiple points-of-view.  Pamela also spoke about how she teaches classes at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda.  Once I’m done grad school, this would be a great resource nearby to keep me motivated and writing!  Information about her books and The Writer’s Center can be found on her website:

Another author I really enjoyed listening to is Wendy Shang.  Her first book The Great Wall of Lucy Wu just came out and I loved the excerpts so much that I had to buy it.  I can’t do the summary justice, so here is a summary from Wendy Shang’s website:

Lucy Wu, aspiring basketball star and interior designer, is on the verge of having the best year of her life. She’s ready to rule the school as a sixth grader and take over the bedroom she has always shared with her sister. In an instant, though, her plans are shattered when she finds out that Yi Po, her beloved grandmother’s sister, is coming to visit for several months — and is staying in Lucy’s room. Lucy’s vision of a perfect year begins to crumble, and in its place come an unwelcome roommate, foiled birthday plans, and Chinese school with the awful Talent Chang.

Her plans are ruined — or are they? Like the Chinese saying goes: Events that appear to be good or bad luck often turn out to be quite the opposite, and Lucy finds that while she may not get the “perfect” year she had in mind, she can create something even better.

Wendy was an excellent public speaker (not all the authors today were…), and I connected with a lot of things she said.  She brought up joining SCBWI (I just did!) and applying for grants (I need to do that!).  She also spoke about describing sensory details and how scents and textures can bring a scene to life.  I’m confident Wendy has a long career ahead of her as a children’s writer.  I bought her book and can’t wait to read it!  Check out her website:

I also heard the following authors:

Newbery Winner, Clare Vanderpool, author of Moon Over Manifest
National Book Award Winner, Kathryn Erskine, author of Mockingbird
Alison Hart, American Girl author
Dominique Paul, author of The Possibility of Fireflies
Alan Orloff, adult mystery author

And finally, two pictures of the event: