My first LA Times Festival of Books live blog!

usc_la_times_festival_of_booksWelp, you guys talked me into it. I hope you’re very pleased with yourselves, because I’m about to drive myself crazy in the heat this weekend live-blogging my way through the LA Times Festival of Books. Authors and book nerds (the best kind) galore!

This post will be updated throughout the weekend—starting Saturday, April 12 to Sunday, April 13—as I track down the likes of writers Veronica Roth (Divergent), Laini Taylor (Daughter of Smoke & Bone), Rainbow Rowell (Fangirl, Eleanor & Park), Laurie Halse Anderson (Speak, Wintergirls), Tahereh Mafi (Shatter Me), Ransom Riggs (Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children), Sarah J. Maas (Throne of Glass), Stephanie Perkins (Anna & the French Kiss), and even maybe possibly John Green (The Fault in Our Stars). But no promises there because as you may have heard… his panel is all sold out and dumb stuff like that.

Also, if you’re at USC this weekend for bookfest, you may spot me walking around! I will be carrying this majestic tote all weekend. So say hi, Batman. We could be best friends.

It had to happen.

I mean, I might be ever-so-slightly crazy. Fair warning.

*EDIT: To help you navigate this crazy long post, I’ve created quick links to help you find specific authors. Click on their names below to jump directly to their conversations/panels:

SatURDAY 4/12:

8:50am: Bag in hand. Phone in pocket. Books await. *scuttles away*

9:00am: Wow, could it be… UNDER 70 degrees today? This may be the first bookfest at which 150,000 Angelenos do NOT roast like a collective of human lobsters. I smell victory already.

9:20am: There is an obscene amount of people here for a festival that “starts” at 10am. I’ve got an hour before the first YA panel I’m attending so I’ll be walking around staring lustfully at all of the leather journals on display.

9:42am: Well I just remembered something. It is exceedingly difficult to not spend all of your money at this festival. Currently standing in an “All Books $8” tent clutching a copy of HEARTBURN by Nora Ephron and being indecisive.

9:53am: Just chatted with a girl working one of the Penguin Random House bookstands. She studied music production in Minnesota. She also gave me a free tote. I like this girl.

10:00am: Now entering the YA zone. Half empty for now. But soon. SOON.

10:03am: Soo wow I forgot that the YA/Children’s Stages areas are brimming with mascot-type costumed people who like to dance up in your personal space.

10:24am: I spy Ransom Riggs waiting to go onstage. This is bringing back fond memories of when I made a spectacular fool of myself when I met him at Comic Con. Also spotted: Francesca Lia Block.

10:30am: Here we go! Panel: “Young Adult Fiction: Haunted” with Aaron Hartzler (mod), John Boyne, Jonathan Auxier, Ransom Riggs, and Francesca Lia Block.

10:35am: Authors reading excerpts from their books. It is ridiculously magical to hear the words in the writers’ own voices. Also, Jonathan Auxier is a very good live-reader, as is John Boyne (he’s also very Irish).

10:40am: How does writing ghost stories lend itself to writing a teen story? Francesca: “When I write magical realism, it’s always a metaphor.” Ransom: “I didn’t write about ghosts, but I was obsessed with them when I was a kid. That’s sort of trained out of you when you get older, and you experience this weird gap, when you think, ‘Now I have to read William Faulkner.’ But that love never really left me.” Jonathan: “My story has a lot of haunted things. Lots of ghosts. The main character in NIGHT GARDENER, Molly, is a born storyteller, and that’s how she tries to impact the world. And really, she’s like me–I wanted to be that kid that brought magic to the world through stories. Ghost stories let us go to that dark moral place and explore the nightmares and questions that we have.” John: “I want to take adult situations and put a child into the middle of them–the Holocaust, World Wars 1 & 2… I’m interested in children finding the strength within themselves to survive and overcome fears. A reader doesn’t have to believe in ghosts in general, but they should believe in YOUR ghost. That’s what makes it powerful.”

10:55am: Do you believe in ghosts? John: “YES!” Francesca: “I have a ghost story! My mom and I were hiking the day my dad died, and this white horse came racing across the field, and put its face up against the fence and looked into our eyes. It’s not verifiable, but I felt like it was a connection to my dad.” Ransom: “I AM SO JEALOUS OF YOU GUYS. I’ve been trying to have a ghost experience for the last 25 years!” Jonathan: “Large Marge from Pee-Wee Herman is my ghost story.”

11:00am: Q&A! How did Ransom come up with the character Emma? Ransom: “I’ve never known anybody who can make fire with her bare hands…but I think she’s a combination of strong women I have respected and feared in my life.”

11:02am: Coming up with the rules in your supernatural stories? Jonathan: “I try to start with a character in a situation and try to figure out how they got there, but basically…I have no answer. It sucks. It’s hard.” Francesca: “Basically it goes back to figuring out the metaphor. And asking, does this feel true emotionally?”

11:05am: The most interesting feedback you’ve ever gotten from an editor? John: “That we don’t need the gimmicky stuff. We can lose all the bells and whistles, and just tell the story.” Jonathan: “I just read a review of NIGHT GARDENER that said, ‘He dragged his whimsy out into the snow and then sharpened a stick, and stabbed it repeatedly, and left it to die.'” Ransom: “The only thing my editor has to say to me is, ‘I have a slight question about…’ And I’ll be like, IT’S IN THE TRASH ALREADY.”

11:06am: Writing process? Francesca: “I’m always writing, even if it’s just in my head.” Ransom: “I write with my wife Tahereh [Mafi] and like ten gallons of tea.” Jonathan: “I have to go on walks.” John: “I read my work aloud to my dog, and my rule is if he doesn’t say anything, it’s really, really good.”

11:09am: Books that inspire you? Jonathan: “Whenever I write a novel, I try to find two touchstones, one classic and one more contemporary.” Francesca: “Gabriel Garcia, and women writers like Virginia Woolf [among others].”

11:11am: Do you worry about running out of ideas? Francesca: “There is always something going on in here [your heart], so if you can pick a topic and imbue it with your emotions and your personal experience, you can always bring something fresh to life.” Jonathan: “Ideas are everywhere, everybody’s got an idea for a novel. The premise isn’t daunting for me, it’s the work that’s ahead.” John: “If you’re writing everyday, and reading everyday, you’re training your brain to be open to ideas. There are a lot of young writers who don’t read books, but the more you read, the more your brain becomes like a sponge. I read about 3 books a week. It’s really, really important.”

11:13am: When writing YA as an adult, how do you make sure you’re not writing with that bias? Francesca: “I think it’s about staying in touch with your younger self. You never really lose that.” Ransom: “I think I do write from an adult perspective… Because if I tried to make myself sound more teenager-y, kids would sniff it and be like, no thanks. Kids are smart.” John: “The only difference between my writing for adults and for kids is that one has a protagonist that is younger than the other. I don’t want to write stories about young people that seems like they are written FOR young people, if that makes sense. I just want to tell stories with a child at the center.”

11:27am: So…I’m in line to see John Green, commiserating with some lovely elderly lady fans who also did not get tickets. CARRY ON MY WAYWARD SON.

11:40am: Being serenaded by the Saved by Grace Gospel choir over on the USC stage. Still in the standby line for John. What is my life.

12:05pm: Standby line is shorter. I am technically supposed to be in the Rainbow Rowell/E. Lockhart panel right now, but I chose John.

12:30pm: I GOT IN. YOU GUYS. I’M DYING.

John Green on the left in Bovard Auditorium

John Green on the left in Bovard Auditorium

12:31pm: There are 1,200 people in here. Everyone is screaming. I am screaming. The following are all quotes from John Green.

12:32pm: “One of the things I’m proudest of in contemporary lit is that there’s such breadth in it.”

12:34pm: “One of the magical things about stories, is that you live inside of someone else, which is as close to a miracle as it gets. You don’t feel like yourself, and you have a kind of empathy that’s not available to you on a regular basis.”

12:35pm: On Holden Caulfield. “I think fewer kids now see him as you [mod] and I do–I think they see him as rich and entitled and whiny. But I want to grab kids by the shoulders, and say (in the nicest way possible), you also have problems that are not the most important in human history. But they are still important. They still matter.”

12:37pm: On using/referencing other books in his books. “I think about the way that stories are people are intertwined, and the way that everything can lead into a story… when I’m writing a book, I know I’m writing a work of fiction. So it’s an interesting question to ask, what kind of fictions would this fiction like?”

12:39pm: On collaboration. “For me, writing a book is a collaboration with my editor, the people who are going to design the book and copy-edit it, but it’s also a collaboration with the [people who wrote the books I reference], and the people who invented the genre of the star-crossed lovers (which occurred over millennia, and was done not really by individuals but by collective storytelling). To try to individualize a novel seems very problematic to me, because all of them, in some way, were kind of made by all of us. Also it puts less pressure on me, it just means I have to repackage stuff other people have already made. …basically. Yeah, that’s my writing advice. STEAL.”

12:40pm: On revision. “For me, that’s where a book becomes a book.”

12:41pm: On YA fiction/genre. “Well, I think genre can be a straightjacket, but I also think it can be really useful. I like conventions of my genre. I like boarding school novels. That’s why I wrote one. I like roadtrip novels, and that’s why I wrote PAPER TOWNS. And I love star-crossed love stories and I didn’t want to not write one, I wanted to write MINE, if that makes sense. … It’s great that you can publish books for your audience. That’s a wonderful idea, that you can publish books for the people you actually want to read them, instead of like before when you’d publish books for adults and secret them off to teenagers.”

12:45pm: “I find that when you assume that readers are intellectually curious, they respond very generously to that.”

12:46pm: On love stories. “I was obsessed with romance when I was in high school, both as a reader and a person. So I read a lot of romance, I love romance novels, I am a totally unapologetic fan. And everyone’s like, ohh it’s the same book over and over again, and I’m like, NO. I also love YA romance… I think it’d be much more likely for me to be called a romance novelist if I weren’t a guy. I like writing love stories. FAULT IN OUR STARS especially is a love story, that’s what’s at the center of it.”

12:50pm: On his “ambivalence” over book-to-film projects. “That’s a very nice word for how I feel. I had a really charmed experience, it’s been a wonderful gift to my life and to that story. It started in LA, about a week after the book came out. The two guys who would be the producers of the movie Wyck [Godfrey] and Issac [Klausner] came to see our nerdfighter gathering on our tour, and they said, ‘Hey, we really want to make this.’ And I just talked to them about what was really important to me, like, ‘If you’re gonna make a studio movie with a girl who’s wearing a nasal can in every scene in the movie, then maybe. But if you’re gonna make a studio movie where, like, sometimes her lungs feel better so you can get pretty pictures, then no.’ And I think they cared a lot about the story, they were very serious about it from the beginning… and they were really scared of the readers of the story. Like, they were genuinely afraid of disappointed you guys. And I think that’s a really good place to make a movie from. … They [all of the creative team] cared so much about those characters. It’s their movie, not my movie, but I’m extremely proud of the work they did.”

1:00pm: On the Internet. “First off, a lot of places on the Internet are not super great at nuance. Like, it’s not, ‘Wait. Let’s pause and have an extended conversation about that before we decide how we feel about Ben Affleck playing Superman. Let’s think about this for a few weeks, and then have a deep, difficult conversation where we stare each other in the face, and we have the topic, Should Ben Affleck Be Superman.’ [everyone yells “Batman!”] Batman. I’m not good at this stuff. We’re really bad at that. Instead, we’re like, ‘OH MY GOD. OH NO. BEN AFFLECK IS GONNA BE SPIDERMAN.’ And we lose it! And poor Ben Affleck, who just wants to be the Green Goblin, is sitting at home being like, ‘Why do all these people hate me?’ Because he is a human being! And he has the Internet! So he knows! We’re not good at imagining others’ complexity.”

1:15pm: On the Nerdfighter community. “Conversations are a kind of collaborating. And I really want there to be better spaces online where we can assume the most generous way of imagining the voice of the ‘other’. … We’re trying to listen to nerdfighters, talking to us about what makes them feel close to people, and how we can build spaces of engagement for them that can also exist offline.”

1:30pm: Q&A! Since you’ve been successful in writing for young adults, how do you separate your adult self from your teenager self? “I don’t have a teenager self. Are you a teenager? [girl who asked question nods] So I have good news and bad news. The good news is, I truly do recommend adulthood. The bad news is that almost all of the problems I had then, I also have now. That said, when I read, I most read books for adults. I read a lot of YA books, too, because I think they’re awesome. … My inside writing, though, is still me, thinking about my problems. For whatever reason, I like to write them as YA. There’s such an intensity to those problems and those joys because they’re happening for the first time. I also feel very intensely about them because they’re mine, and I feel that people should be paying more attention to them.”

1:35pm: Favorite line he’s written? “My favorite line is one that my wife said to me on our first date which is, ‘Imagining the future is a kind of nostalgia.'”

1:40pm: Oh my gosh, you guys. John Green is so awesome.

1:50pm: Aaand just like that I have dropped $40 on THE IMPOSSIBLE KNIFE OF MEMORY by Laurie Halse Anderson (which I will try to get signed tomorrow) and ME BEFORE YOU by JoJo Moyes (which, as the seller told me, was called “the crying book” at a librarians’ conference this year. Hooray?). BUT I got a free Penguin Classics tote out of it. These people love their totes.

2:09pm: Guess who I found?? Kristin Yuki from Figment! We are hanging at the YA Stage, listening to Tony DiTerlizzi talk about the SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES. He says that he based creatures on things people in everyday life find creepy/crawly/icky. Such as toads. Yes. Toads.

2:16pm: Rachel Hawkins is on stage too! She’s talking about writers’ block: “There are two types: the I-really-just-don’t-want-to-do-this-right-now-because-watching-Netflix-would-be-so-much-cooler type, and the something-is-broken-in-the-book type. For the first, I have to bribe myself and say, ‘Just do it for 15 minutes, and if you still hate everything in the world, you can stop.’ And for the second, you do sometimes need to take a break. But eventually, I’ll write a scene that sparks something, an idea, for how to fix this.”

2:57pm: You guys. Kristin just told me the greatest story ever. She had just spent an hour waiting in line to get grilled cheese from the Grilled Cheese Truck, and she was enjoying her spoils of war when she looked up and saw John Green driving by in a golf cart, apparently also followed by an entourage of golf carts. Long story short, they made eye contact, she ran after his cart, yelled, “HI JOHN,” and for a moment, everything was right in the world. Literally. Everything. I mean, she doesn’t think so, but hey, I asked her permission to recount this story on the Internet. So she knows that I will probably never let this go. But she also knows that I would have done the exact same thing, were I not waiting in an endless standby line when this occurred, so, ya know. It’s all love.

3:28pm: I just met a rocket scientist who was passing out cookies. She handed me a piece of paper with a link to her TED talk on it and then I realized that it was her face on the paper and so I said, “OH this is YOU.” She looked at me like I was crazy. I took a cookie and walked away. Lesson: do not talk to rocket scientists.

3:33pm: awesome book titles at this $7 book stand include HOW TO MAKE SOMEONE FALL IN LOVE WITH YOU IN 90 MINUTES OR LESS, THINGS I LEARNED FROM KNITTING WHETHER I WANTED TO OR NOT, and ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW I LEARNED IN KINDERGARTEN (kudos to Kristin for spotting this one).

4:03pm: Headed to the YA Fantasy panel with Laini Taylor. Conserving phone battery. 30%.

4:30pm: Holy crap you guys. Laini Taylor’s hair is, like, REALLY PINK. I don’t even…like…it’s actually fuchsia. I’ve seen the headshots and all, but this is the stuff of legend.

THE HAIR, you guys. From left to right: John Corey Whaley (moderator), Soman Chainani, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Laini Taylor, and Margaret Stohl

THE HAIR, you guys.
From left to right: John Corey Whaley (moderator), Soman Chainani, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Laini Taylor, and Margaret Stohl

4:32pm: Panel: “YA Fantasy – The Real and the Unreal” with Laini Taylor, Margaret Stohl, Cynthia Leitich Smith, and Soman Chainani (moderated by John Corey Whaley). I have a feeling this panel will be really weird. And REALLY AWESOME.

4:35pm: On their fantasy novels. Soman: “I grew up watching Disney movies, and then I took a Grimm’s fairytales class in college and realized my whole life was based on a lie. My books are born out of the idea that one generation was raised with these shiny, sanitized fairytales, and one generation was raised with the original, darker ones, and where do they collide?” Laini: “I began DAUGHTER OF SMOKE & BONE not knowing what it was or where it was going, or even that it would be a trilogy. I was just trying to discover what I wanted to write, and what I loved to write.” Margaret: “I was in a really bad mood, and I was writing myself out of a hole. My mom always said when our cow got stuck in a ditch, ‘Why is the cow in the ditch?’ and I’d say, ‘I don’t know.’ And she’d just say, ‘Well, go get it out.’ So that was me when I was writing these books, I was focusing on getting out of the ditch.”

4:47pm: On planning novels. Soman: “Sometimes the best things are the unplanned things.” Cynthia: “Since my novel revolves largely around an Italian restaurant, I feel it’s very important to my artistic integrity to visit as many Italian restaurants as humanly possible. No, I actually start with a first draft, which I write thinking no one will ever see it, and THEN I THROW THE WHOLE THING IN THE TRASH. And THEN, I write it again, the REAL first draft. You must trust that what endures will rise again!” Laini: “Instead of ‘pantsers’, I call it ‘flying into the mist.’ I am not a planner. Sometimes if I write something fast it won’t even be in the book, but I’ll have written something. I like to think that I’m swimming toward a buoy, and then when I get there, I cling to it and polish it.” Margaret: “I divide my books into 3 acts, or 30 points on an outline. But everybody’s brain is so different. Plus, half of us are having a nervous breakdown most of the time! We all try to do it however we can. My niece averages 3 sentences/day. But they’re PERFECT, they’re like perfect little poops. …don’t tweet that.”

5:00pm: On fantasy in general. Soman: “Fantasy writers are the best at character, because character anchors EVERYTHING in fantasy.” Laini: “Have you ever heard the saying, ‘Writers are professional liars’? So I really hate that. Because as writers, we are constructing a truth. The world of the story is a truth that exists in that book. No matter how crazy of a fantasy you’re constructing, it should always feel real… we’re creating a seamless and continuous dream.”

5:10pm: What is something you’ve always wanted to say on a panel? Laini: “…I can kill you with my penis.” Margaret: “#killyouwithmypenis #latfob #bookfest. Thank you.”

5:12pm: On writer’s block. Cynthia: “I turn off all the lights, and I dance through the house watching Xanadu. OR type the phone book until your brain gives you something better, because it WILL. Out of self-defense.” Laini: “There are two types of being blocked. One is that you’re written into a corner, which generally means you took a wrong turn. So you have to back up and figure out where. The second is that you don’t know what’s next. Usually when that happens, I challenge myself to think of 50 things that COULD come next, and eventually I figure it out.”

5:25pm: Advice for young writers. Laini: “Develop a habit of completion. Learn to ignore the slutty new idea and don’t pay attention to people who say, ‘You need to have a Plan B.’ Writing requires all of your energy, all of your focus, so put 1000% into your writing. Don’t nurture a Plan B.” Soman: “Ignore expectations and comments, and just let it be you breathing onto paper.” Margaret: “The difference between a published author and one who isn’t, is the ability to hear criticism.”

5:35pm: Well that’s all for today. I am one hungry queen of the world, seeing as I have eaten only a pouch of cashews since breakfast. So I’m gonna go now. See you tomorrow for Veronica Roth, Laurie Halse Anderson, Sarah J. Maas, and Stephanie Perkins! Holy crap. That’s awesome.

Sunday 4/13:

10:00am: Headed over to wait in line for Veronica Roth’s panel, which starts in an hour. Thankfully, I actually have tickets for this one. No heart attacks. NOT TODAY.

10:39am: Back in Bovard, with a crap-ton of people. Waiting for Ms. Roth to appear.

11:00am: It begins! Veronica Roth in conversation with Leigh Bardugo.

Left to right: Leigh Bardugo (SHADOW AND BONE) and Veronica Roth (DIVERGENT)

Left to right: Leigh Bardugo (SHADOW AND BONE) and Veronica Roth (DIVERGENT)

11:03am: On Tris. “Her physicality is so important to her journey and growth. I’m really tall, so developing her character was interesting because she’s my physical opposite–well, not entirely, as we’re both white ladies, but I did have to think about things Tris would experience that I’ve never experienced. Like, for example, not being able to see over crowds.”

11:05am: On Four/Tris sharing the story. “I first wrote the rough draft from Tobias’ perspective. But it didn’t work…you know, ‘Man leaves home and becomes more manly.'”

11:10am: On the response to Four. “I didn’t want one person’s sacrifice to require the sacrifice of the other’s. Four’s strength is sort of obvious, and I wanted to take it away through the series. I think it’s important to show that he’s a human being and not just, like, man candy.”

11:20am: On YA. “I don’t like that people think that because it’s YA it needs to have a ‘message’. For me to sit there as a 21- or 22-year-old, writing DIVERGENT, and say, ‘I know what you should think about life,’ is just…NO. The last thing you need is for me to tell you what you should believe about life.”

11:35am: On writing the end of a series. “I don’t like opening doors, because then there’s all this crap to deal with. With the 2nd book, it was all about making things messy, and I was like, I don’t wanna make things messy! What if I can’t clean it up? So when I got to the 3rd book, it was sort of a relief because I got to start cleaning it up, closing the doors.”

11:45am: On writing in college. “I always wrote genre stuff, I never wrote contemporary–except in college when I had to learn how to do that, but even then I would add these weird elements. [“Like magical realism?”] If I were better at it, it would be called magical realism, but it’s actually just called ‘weird elements’.”

11:50am: On reading books as a published author. “I read a lot more generously. I’m humbled by books I read, now that I know how much work goes into it.”

12:00pm: Well that was sufficiently awesome. Veronica is so gracious and down to earth and self-effacing. Also she and I were both wearing orange, so obviously we’re meant to be friends.

12:45pm: Just popped back over to the YA Stage and Robin Benway (ALSO KNOWN AS series) was in the middle of saying: “Writing a novel is like running a marathon. At the beginning, you’re like, this is great, I love running, marathons are easy…and then you get to the middle and you’re like, whose awful idea was it to run a marathon? But at the end, when you can see the finish line, it gets easier again, because you’re almost there.”

1:10pm: Just ran into another Figment writer! Cara Olsen is here with her husband Michael, and we’re about to see Sarah J. Maas, Marissa Meyer, Leigh Bardugo, and Cecil Castellucci on the YA Stage.

1:20pm: I’m sitting next to two aspiring YA authors who are talking about how they think virtually every undergraduate degree is useless unless it’s in economics or engineering, and I’m starting to feel somewhat defensive about my life.

1:32pm: They have arrived. Panel: “YA Science Fiction/Fantasy – Fantastical Tales”

From left to right: Andrew Smith (moderator), Marissa Meyer, Cecil Castellucci, Sarah J. Maas, and Leigh Bardugo

From left to right: Andrew Smith (moderator), Marissa Meyer, Cecil Castellucci, Sarah J. Maas, and Leigh Bardugo

1:35pm: On the theme of imprisonment/being trapped. Leigh: “For me, junior high and high school was very much like prison, so the idea of a prison break story was right up my alley. A lot of YA is about coming into contact with the world for the first time.” Sarah: “I also hated high school. I began writing THRONE OF GLASS when I was 16. I wished I had that freedom and power that my heroine did.” Cecil: “I think it’s also about transformation. Especially with YA fiction, because young adults are going through many kinds of transformation.” Marissa: “A lot of YA books have that theme of powerlessness, but I think it’s a great fantasy to see somebody who’s able to throw off their chains.”

1:45pm: This mod is fangirling. “ALL OF YOUR BOOKS ARE SO COOL.” I feel ya, bro.

1:46pm: On world-building. Cecil: “I always wanted to be an astronaut and go into outer space, so building this world felt very natural.” Sarah: “I grew up in New York City, and so a lot of my experiences as a teen helped shape the capital in my story.” Leigh: “My world is inspired by tsarist Russia… I think the images we associate with Russia as both brutal and beautiful make for a really great fantasy world.” Marissa: “As a teen, I was seriously obsessed with Sailor Moon. So I wrote fanfiction for Sailor Moon for many years, and that influenced me as a writer in many ways.”

2:01pm: Who is the one person you wanted to reach with your novel? Cecil: “Myself as a teenager.” Leigh: “This guy Doug. No, I had to write as though nobody was going to see it, but it’s also incredible to get those emails from readers. I sort of feel like I am still the person I’m writing for.” Sarah: “I did write for myself, to escape from high school.” Marissa: “The best emails I get from readers say that they hated reading until they picked up CINDER, and now they want to know what else is out there.”

2:07pm: Do you think that YA owes anything to its readers? Marissa: “My first job is to entertain and tell and good story.” Leigh: “Yeah, I don’t think I’m bound to create a paragon or deliver a message, I just want to tell a good story.”

2:34pm: LOL just walked right past Tahereh Mafi. Came THIS CLOSE to having another breakdown like last time. But held it together, LIKE A GROWN-UP.

2:42pm: Standing next to a parent with her kids in line to see Laurie Halse Anderson. Her kids are worried about seeing Laurie, and the mom is telling them, “It’s okay, she’s a YA author, she won’t talk down to you.” DAS RIGHT. A+ PARENTING.

3:00pm: Here we go…my last panel of bookfest with Laurie Halse Anderson. As a side note, I love that there is such a range of people in here–more than any other panel, the age range in here spans about 5-70.

3:01pm: Guys. She is knitting. On stage. Knitting. KNITTING.

3:05pm: On THE IMPOSSIBLE KNIFE and PTSD. “This topic has been with me my entire life. It’s deeply personal because it’s very similar to my family’s own struggle. … I wanted to balance the pain of Hayley dealing with her father, with the joy of falling in love. In many ways, love has healed me.”

3:15pm: On themes in her books. “How do I choose these themes? They choose me. The ideas and characters just show up, and if you’re smart, you’re scribbling.”

3:20pm: “When you have the courage to lower your barriers and share your truth with someone, and they share theirs, it’s like, OH MY GOSH YOU ARE MY BEST FRIEND. Because you don’t judge me! And you have stuff, too.”

3:35pm: On teens. “J.D. Salinger was described by a writer for TIME magazine as a man without eyelids. Imagine what that would be like…first of all it would hurt all the time, and then you would see everything. I think that’s what teenagers are like, and one of the most lovely coping mechanisms I’ve seen in every teen is a sharply developed sense of humor. Teenagers are the funniest people of any age group.”

3:40pm: “I’m an author because I can’t afford therapy.”

4:00pm: Wow, guys. Laurie is…so wise. I feel so empowered and inspired having listened to her. Now off to MEET HER at her signing for IMPOSSIBLE KNIFE. *flails*

4:48pm: Holy crap. I just met Laurie Halse Anderson. I told her I loved her. She told me to call her “Auntie Laurie.” My heart. These feels. I AM SHAKING.

“Auntie” Laurie and me. WHAT.

5:00pm: Still shaking. But it’s time to go. I hope this weekend has been as beautiful for you as it’s been for me. Until next time.

–Samantha Chaffin

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10 thoughts on “My first LA Times Festival of Books live blog!

  1. Linda Durbin says:

    Sam,
    I hope you have a “book nerd” blast. Seriously, just being in the midst of all that literary aura will be inspiring. Can’t wait to hear your humourous outlook on it all.

  2. Aubrey Cann says:

    UMMM…at 1:20pm today, I THINK YOU WERE SITTING NEXT TO (OR NEAR) ME. I suppose there were other aspiring authors talking about the uselessness of college degrees, but I was sitting next to a fellow English major talking about just that. And that both of us were querying. WAS IT ME??? I was wearing a blue hat and a purple sweatshirt. And if it was me, I can’t believe we didn’t get to meet!

    • samchaffin says:

      Oh my gosh, Aubrey!! It totally could have been you. I’m not entirely sure, because the girl next to me had darker hair than it looks like you have in your photo (?), but she was wearing a hat, so…WOW I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT. What are the odds! Also, if you were sitting next to a silent girl in an orange shirt who looked like she was texting the whole time…that was me, live-blogging like a maniac. Haha

      • Aubrey Cann says:

        You might have been sitting next to the person I was talking to. Ah, well. Either way, I’m sorry we didn’t get to meet!

        Also, your live blogging of the event is awesome! I read through the parts I didn’t get to attend. Such great detail!

  3. Starflower says:

    Oh my gosh, Sam. This post was beautiful. Never doubt your live-blogging skills again, because this is THE way to live vicariously 🙂 and also be attacked by sudden fits of jealousy while reading, but that’s probably just me. And just AHHH. I’m so glad you had so much fun, and thank you so much for doing this post because I needed it 😀

    • samchaffin says:

      Haha oh my gosh, you are so welcome! I felt bad because the post just kept getting longer and longer, and I figured no one would actually read it, so so I’m so glad you liked it! 🙂 wish you could have been there in person, though! I’m sure you would have loved it.

  4. Kim says:

    This blog post is so epic that I’ve read it at least ten times before commenting. Am I more articulate now? Probably not.

    I seriously don’t know how you do it. Your notes are perfection. I fee like I was sitting next to you at the fair, enjoying everything these wonderful authors were saying. I went to AWP and this fair totally kicks its butt. I don’t think AWP had even one YA author present, even though it’s supposed to be a “big deal.” Whatevs. Obviously, if I want to hop on a plane to go to a big writing event, this should be it.

    I love Laini Taylor’s attitude. And Block is EPIC. EPPPICCC. But you already know how much I love her writing. Gah. Thank you for capturing her advice and stories. The part about her seeing the white horse – she totally wrote that in my favorite of her books, ECHO. It must have been a magical experience in real life, becausei t came across the way when Echo experienced it.

    John Green was pretty cool too. I’m not a rabid fan (or… much of a fan, to be honest), but I enjoyed reading what he had to say about writing.

    You got to see so many Figgies! I swear, I NEED to plan a trip to California so I can meet all of you >.<

    ANYWAY. I could probably talk about everything you wrote here, so I better stop. But know that I enjoyed every second of this post 😀

    • samchaffin says:

      I DID THIS FOR YOU, FLORIDA. 😉 haha but actually, I’m so glad you liked it, Kim.

      Ah yes, listening to Block really did make me want to read all her books. She’s so very wise, and it seems to me like her brain must be a magical place. What a cool story about Echo and the ghost-horse experience! I had no idea… she didn’t even mention that she’d written about it. I love that!

      Laini Taylor probably had the least amount of sass on the panel (probably because she was sitting next to Margaret Stohl), but she really does have a great attitude in terms of pursuing writing and not giving up. I’m so glad that I finally read her books. I’m about to start DREAMS OF GODS & MONSTERS. *bounces in seat*

      YES, you do need to come to California! Haha that’s easy for me to say, already being here. But it would be a party. I’m just saying. 😀

  5. Lee says:

    I finally got a chance this weekend to read this whole post through and to bookmark and follow-up on all the things you mentioned/saw/checked out. SO AWESOME! Thank you for this live-blog, which is so, so, SO perfect! Quotes! Impressions! I am seriously envious I didn’t get to attend because it sounds all-around fantastic, but on the other hand, I feel like you have highlighted all the things I would’ve looked forward to checking out myself!

    Laini Taylor!!! I love her writing so much, and she always has SUCH great things to say about writing. You got to see Kristin and Cara!

    If you guys ever make it up to San Francisco…LET’S MEET UP?!

    • samchaffin says:

      Haha YAY! I’m so impressed that you read through the whole thing… I look back on it and cringe because it’s so long. BUT it is so cool to hear that I covered most everything you wanted to hear about!

      I DID get to see Kristin and Cara! Love those girls. And YES LET’S. San Fran, here we come. 🙂

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