Last weekend, I got to experience my favorite festival in Austin. No, it wasn't SXSW (although obvs, anything with free beer and live music is something I enjoy). And it wasn't ACL, because I have a zero tolerance policy for porta-potties. It was, surprise surprise, the Texas Book Festival!
Our previous festival experiences have been nothing short of amazing (read about them here, here and here), so expectations were running a little bit high. Ok, a lot high. And fortunately for us (and for you, because otherwise this would be a Debbie Downer of a post to be reading), this year's festival totally brought its A game. (The A stands for Authors. SO MANY GREAT AUTHORS.)
But before we get to the swimfan portion of this post, here are some other reasons why the festival is so freaking great.
It's in Austin! Which is really all you need to know. But not only is it in Austin, it's in the capitol! So you get to feel all official as you go about your book nerdery.
And since most of the panels are actually inside of the capitol, you get to see rooms that you would never otherwise visit. (And it makes the panels feel super profesh, as you'll see below.) This year, the check-in for authors and moderators was in the Speaker's Apartment, which is literally this fancy pants apartment in the capitol. And, appropriately, it had amazing book shelves.
THERE ARE SO MANY BOOKS. BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS.
3. Unabashed Book Love
There's something so wonderful about being around hundreds of people who adore and cherish books as much as you do. People gush over authors and buy tons of new books and then spread out on the capitol lawn and read them like it's going out of style.
(It's hard to see, but there's a kid lying between these parents who is immensely enjoying Dinosaur vs. Bedtime.)
But yeah, obviously the main draw of this whole shebang is the people who actually write the books, and there were so many superstars on the schedule! Jenny and I were fortunate enough to moderate panels (and ask authors our hard hitting questions on crushes and secret powers), and even better, we also got to party with some of them!
I got to ferry Cinda Williams Chima, author of The Heir Chronicles, and the Seven Realms series, to the Children and YA Authors Party on Friday night, and boy was she gracious! Not only did she not mind my kind of getting us lost, and having a coughing fit while driving and still suffering from the cold that never dies, but she gave me all kinds of fantastic writing advice!!!! And now I must read her books! The party at The Writing Barn itself was awesome, because the space is so beautiful. (I heard a rumor that Sara Zarr might want to write her next book there, shhhh!!!!) It was fun meeting some of the authors for the panel I was going to moderate the next day -- Katherine Applegate and Michael Grant are seriously my favorite couple, ever. I also really enjoyed talking to local Austin authors, and from the vantage point of the nook I was standing in, got to witness the spectacular head-knocking of many of the taller authors who failed to duck enough to get through the doorway. One such author was Garth Nix, who then told those of us who witnessed his blow about how a similar thing once happened to him while he was carrying a cake, and that he DID NOT drop the cake. I mean, we all knew he was a badass before, but this seals it.
After a night of
drinking socializing, I headed downtown on Saturday to moderate a conversation with Maureen Johnson and Maggie Stiefvater. I KNOW, RIGHT? The panel was actually in a church sanctuary (to accommodate more people), and so we had to wear these weird Britney Spears style microphones. Unfortunately, back up dancers were not included.
Maggie and Maureen were both incredibly nice, and our conversation covered... pretty much every topic known to man. We talked about how Maureen is a lot like Jack the Ripper, and about how Maggie's daughter might be psychic. Maggie shared that she edited The Raven Boys by reading the entire thing out loud, and Maureen did a great impression of a really creepy adult in the YA section of the book store. It took ALL of my will power not to beg for spoilers for the next installments of their series, and then afterwards Maureen tortured me by offering to tell me. (My response went something like this: "I want to know! Wait... no, I want it to be a surprise. No, ok, tell me. WAIT DON'T TELL ME.") There was also a surprising number of dudes with beards in the audience, which we found rather distracting.
After the panel, Maggie went back to her hotel to write, because she is that hard core. Maureen went off to lunch at a restaurant I suggested, and I really hope she got the fried pickles.
(Posing like rock stars, L-R: Maggie Stiefvater, Posh, Maureen Johnson)
Saturday, I got to walk around before hosting the panel titled "With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility", and see just how spectacular and HUGE the Texas Book Festival is. Seriously, the folks who worked so tirelessly to make this festival happen should give themselves a pat on the back, because it was fantastic! Our panel was held in a very official law-making-type room, where the authors Bree Despain, Marie Lu, Andrea Cremer, Michael Grant, and Katherine Applegate and I got to sit in giant chairs up on this platform and pretend we were supreme court judges! Seriously, I had the best authors give the most thoughtful answers to questions ranging from the pressure that comes with writing a successful series, to politics and writing, to what super powers they wish they had. It was so much fun, and I came away from it with even more respect for each of them. But especially Katherine Applegate and Michael Grant. Because they are the coolest.
(L-R: Marie Lu, Andrea Cremer, Bree Despain, Michael Grant, Katherine Applegate, Jenny)
I totally got lucky with the ladies this year. And by that I mean, I got to moderate not one but TWO panels featuring dynamite female writers. On Sunday, I sat down with Jenny Han and Sibohan Vivian for a panel about their recent collaboration, Burn For Burn. Even though we were in a super official government room, it felt more like a slumber party because THESE GIRLS ARE THE COOLEST!!!! We talked about boys (both Jenny and Siobhan shared stories of guys who wronged them, aka inspiration for Burn For Burn), and we figured out that Jenny and I would have been friends in high school (cos we were both goody goodies) and we would have been afraid/in awe of Siobhan, who was totally a troublemaker. I particularly enjoyed hearing about how they work together AND remain best friends, and I couldn't resist asking about a time when they disagreed on something (because they really do seem like soul twins). They shared an incident when they almost got into a verbal fight, because they were discussing Rennie and Lillia's dialogue after the party (with the college boys), and suddenly, they weren't arguing for the characters, they were arguing AS the characters. Adorable!
Also, I asked about they snagged such a great cover, and they told me they got to have a photoshoot! In a house! In the HAMPTONS! And they got to basically tell the photographer what to tell the models so they would look and act like their characters. HOW AWESOME IS THAT? I told them they were SUPER lucky they didn't just have to use, oh, I dunno, stock photos of BIG FACES or something. In other news, I am available to serve as a consultant on cover photoshoots, in case any publishers are reading this. All I ask in return is unfettered access to craft services.
Suffice it to say, our panel was just a big ole love fest, and if these ladies are coming to a town near you, go see them! And soak up their wonderfulness!!!!
(L-R: Posh, Jenny Han, Siobhan Vivian)
Ok, now that we've told you about the panels, let's get back to the serious business of PARTIES. On Saturday, Jenny and I hit up the Author Cocktail Party, held in the offices of Texas Monthly.
Saturday night, it was fun to see the offices of the Texas Monthly, and get a view of Austin from the 17th floor -- as well as peek in people's cubicles to guess their personality.
And George and I were totally stoked to be at a big party where we weren't the oldest people in the room!
It was also fun to watch some authors swimfan over others (Marie Lu and Andrea Cremer seemed to have the same reaction to David Levithan as me!). And it was great to see Siobhan Vivian and Jenny Han, looking and acting as fabulous as always. Even though I was still sick and kept falling asleep and missing panels, the whole experience was absolutely wonderful, and filled me with warm fuzzies all over. Or maybe that was the Nyquil. I don't know.
And on that delirious note, we'll end this recap of the 2012 Texas Book Festival. Don't you want to come to Austin next year and get your book nerd on with us?
Hell yes you do. SEE Y'ALL IN 2013.