Dispatches from #BookFest 2014

by Kim on April 16, 2014 · 23 comments

bookfest collage 1

Whew! It’s been about 24 hours since I finally made it back to Minnesota from my weekend in Los Angeles for the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books and I’m just starting to get my thoughts together. Rather than a lot of words, I’ve got a photo-heavy post to try and share some of the highlights of the trip.

1. I left for LA early on Friday morning from the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport, fortified with black tea and a good book (Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates). I flew out of a fancy gate — there were plenty of tables with iPads on them so you could order food and track your flight.

2. I arrived in LA around lunch Friday where I was picked up by Florinda (The 3R’s Blog). We immediately headed to Venice Beach so I could wiggle my toes in the sand and walk in the (chilly!) Pacific Ocean. After a scenic drive home along the Pacific Coast Highway, we went out to dinner with Florinda’s husband, Tall Paul. I’m so glad they were gracious enough to host me for the weekend.

bookfest collage 2

3. Our first event on Saturday morning, the first day of the festival, was a panel with Sheri Fink (Five Days at Memorial), Charlie LeDuff (Detroit: An American Autopsy) and Amy Wilentz (Farewell, Fred Voodoo). All three of their books focused on places in crisis — New Orleans, Detroit and Haiti — so much of the discussion was about journalism and the role that writers have in telling these stories. After each panel, the authors were available to sign their books and chat for a few minutes. I love this inscription from Sheri Fink so much.

4. The second event we went to was a conversation with B.J. Novak (Ryan from The Office and author of One More Thing). While we were waiting in line to get books signed, we met up with Anastasia (Here There Be Books) for a few minutes before she had to catch a train. Anastasia and I roomed together when we went to Book Expo America in 2011, so it was great to see her.

5. When I finally got to meet B.J. Novak, I was a total spaz. I almost skilled getting a picture because it seemed too silly, but then figured what the heck. He doesn’t look nearly as excited (or sunburned) as I do!

6. One of the cool parts of the festival (among many cool things) were the giant crossword puzzles around the campus. Florinda filled out quite a few answers on one of them.

bookfest collage 3

7. On Sunday, we got to the festival a little later than we planned and missed out first panel. That turned out to be fortuitous, however, since it meant we got to spend a little extra time at the Chronicle Books booth. After I found a copy of Beth Kephart’s Going Over, Florinda got to talking with some of the publicists working the booth about the book and her friendship with Beth. It was really fun — I love when publishers are excited and nerdy with book bloggers.

8. We also bought enough books from Chronicle Books to get a free tote. It is a nice one!

9. We made it to two panels on Sunday. The first was a panel about food culture with authors Gustavo Arellano and Dana Goodyear and food critic Jonathan Gold. This panel, we learned, was the first one to sell out at the festival, which made it feel more exciting! There was a lot of discussion about how high-end food is becoming more extreme, while the American palate is starting to explore different tastes.

Our second panel, which I didn’t grab a picture of, featured more nonfiction writers: Tom Bissell, Dana Goodyear (again), Edward Humes and Greg Sestero. This panel, called “Nonfiction: Exploring a Singular Pursuit,” was more of a general discussion about books on obsession and the obsession of writing. My favorite observation came from Tom Bissell: When you start a book, you want it to be great. When you get to your deadline, you just want it to be done. Truer words were never spoken.

We spent the rest of Sunday meandering around the festival but I, unfortunately, got really lazy taking pictures and don’t have many more to share.

10. After another great dinner with Florinda and Paul (and a photo session in front of Florinda’s amazing wall of books), they dropped me off at LAX at about 9 p.m for my red-eye back to Minnesota. I got a few chapters of The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison done before I gave up on reading and finished listening to The Martian by Andy Weir.

So there you have it, some uncollected thoughts on my trip to BookFest 2014!

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

bermudaonion (Kathy) April 16, 2014 at 6:57 am

It looks like y’all had a blast! I think BJ Novak was excited to meet you – he’s just good at hiding his feelings!

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Kim April 20, 2014 at 12:16 pm

I was actually a huge dope when I got to meet him, sort of flailing all over to get my camera and bags and book ready, so I’m sure he was really hiding an eye roll :)

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Athira April 16, 2014 at 6:58 am

Sounds like you had a fabulous trip! The panels that you attended sound interesting. And how geeky and wonderful is that there were lots of crosswords around! Thanks for sharing the photos.

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Shannon @ River City Reading April 16, 2014 at 7:18 am

Looks like you had so much fun! I would have loved to hear some of those panels – especially the first one and the one with Dana Goodyear, I’m reading Anything that Moves right now! Seeing bloggers meeting up like this is getting me really excited for BEA :)

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Kim April 20, 2014 at 12:17 pm

Hanging out with bloggers is one of my favorite parts of bookish travel. There’s something really great about getting to talk about review copies and favorite authors and philosophies of commenting with people who don’t think it’s strange :)

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Bryan G. Robinson April 16, 2014 at 8:47 am

Lately I’ve been realizing how lucky I am to know some of the folks I do through blogs and Instagram, to be able to travel around the world and country with them, even if vicariously. Thanks for sharing your particular journey, which I especially enjoyed following with you, Florinda, and even Tall Paul. Glad you were able to have such a good time…and in turn, all of us too.

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Florinda April 16, 2014 at 10:27 pm

Are your “uncollected thoughts” like B.J. Novak’s “uncollected stories”?

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Kim April 20, 2014 at 12:18 pm

Yes, probably! Although I didn’t test mine out with an audience first :)

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Florinda April 16, 2014 at 10:30 pm

Oops, part of my comment got eaten! This is an excellent summation of an excellent weekend, and I’m looking forward to more bookish fun with you in NYC next month!

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Jenny @ Reading the End April 17, 2014 at 7:24 am

Sounds wonderful! I love the notion of having crossword puzzles posted up around the festival — although in my case I’d never get any festivaling done because I’d become obsessive about the crosswords. :p It looks like a good time was had by all!

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Kim April 20, 2014 at 12:18 pm

It was hard to drag Florinda away from the crossword puzzle once we found one. It had a lot of bookish and California clues, so she was pretty great at it.

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tanya (52 books or bust) April 17, 2014 at 10:24 am

Looks like you had a blast. I love that they had crossword puzzles all over the place. And it looks like you got to appreciate the California warmth!

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Jennine G. April 17, 2014 at 5:14 pm

Wow! What a trip! The scenery alone would be so different than what I’m used to, let alone all the books and authors. Glad you had a good time!

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susan April 18, 2014 at 12:15 pm

Nice write up. Very cool weekend. Sounded like fun!

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Katie @ Doing Dewey April 18, 2014 at 3:38 pm

Wow, I’m still so jealous of all the great non-fiction authors you’re getting to meet! This sounds like an event I should definitely get to someday :)

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Kim April 20, 2014 at 12:19 pm

It was a really incredible festival — so huge with so many different ways for people to celebrate books and reading. Aside from the LA traffic, I definitely recommend it.

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Monica (aka monnibo) April 19, 2014 at 4:27 pm

Glad to hear you had an awesome time on the West Coast!

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Mark April 19, 2014 at 9:56 pm

Wow, you flew in from Minnesota for it? I complain about the traffic just driving down for it!

Glad you had so much fun. I never do make it to panels, but I have fun wandering the booths and chatting with authors at some of them.

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Kim April 20, 2014 at 12:20 pm

The traffic was totally crazy, thank goodness a friend was driving. The timing of the Festival worked out on a weekend I could travel and Florinda could host me, so it was a lot of good serendipity.

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