Saturday, April 25, 2009

Books, sunshine, writers and lectures: what more could I ask for?

It’s Saturday and a beautiful, clear 75 degrees outside. So what do I do?

Go to the LA Times Festival of Books of course!

I had planned on going for quite sometime, mainly because, well, it’s a festival of BOOKS! But then I found out that there would be a lot of great writers and publishers there, so I got even more excited.

It was held at UCLA and, even though I’ve been to UCLA more times than I can tell you, I realized today that I had never really seen it. The buildings are beautiful and, although the campus is huge, it was easy to get around and find my way. (Plus, there were no major hills, like at the better UC up north) It was the perfect venue to hold a festival like this and it made me miss school a lot.

The first panel I went to was called “Fiction: the Re-imagination of a Life.” Now, I’m not a fiction writer. I wouldn’t say that I suck at writing fiction, but I could name a few who would. But I am always curious to learn new and interesting ways to write, so this seemed like a great place to start. The panelists were people I had never heard of, but am now interested in reading. They brought up a lot of good points about character and theme and I got a few ideas for some fiction I might one day actually sit down and write.

Then I did the less intellectual part of my journey. I went to see Alyssa Milano talk about her new book. I wasn’t going to but I caught the end of the speaker before her (Winnie Cooper from The Wonder Years!) and a seat opened up so I sat and listened to her. I’ve always been pretty indifferent to her, but today I realized just how cool she is. Her book is about baseball and how it helped her form a relationship with her dad, which is something I can totally relate to. She was very entertaining and interesting and, even though I considered this the less stimulating of my journeys today, I felt like maybe I should go buy her book.

The next panel I went to was a discussion with Ray Bradbury. Yes, as in Fahrenheit 451. (!!!!!) I was very excited, even though I had to choose between him and Gore Vidal. To tell the truth, it was kind of boring. It was more of an interview than a discussion and it was crowded and hot in the auditorium. Plus I had a man next to me who obviously thought that sporting sandals and socks while wearing no deodorant is an appropriate thing to do in public. But, how many people can say they got to hear Ray Bradbury speak for free? Well, probably about 500 because that’s how many the auditorium held.

The last panel I went to was called “Publishing: the Big Picture” and it was very interesting. They talked about how the problem isn’t really that Americans don’t read, it’s that they don’t buy books. They also talked about how the main reason people don’t read is because there is so much to read and people are overwhelmed by choice. It really made me think because, for me, when I walk into a bookstore and see all the choices, it exhilarates me. I love that there is so much to read and that there are endless possibilities. But, I do understand how hard it can be to have to choose when there are a million options.

I didn’t end up buying anything because I got turned off by the amount of people crammed into the little booths. I did, however, write down some presses to look up and a few authors to google. I had a great day there and am glad I went.

I also thought about how happy I am to be the kind of person that can go do something like this without needing someone to be with me. I know a lot of people who wouldn’t see it as fun or would think it was pointless, even scary.

But honestly, I do kind of wish someone would have gone with me, because there was tremendous mocking potential. I didn’t know you could still buy Hammer pants and Keds, but boy-o-boy was I wrong!

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