The National Book Festival 2014 in Review

 The National Book Festival was awesome. As usual. Held indoors this year and limited to only one (very long) day, I felt like I was surrounded by my people.

If you were following me on Twitter, you would have seen my little adventure, but I thought I would give a quick recap with a few thoughts.

This was my first visit to the Library of Congress. Although I regularly have to deal with them for my job, I have never actually been inside the building. I imagine that when some of these buildings in DC were built, they determined that the best way to build a building was to impress the pants off anyone who walked in the door. They succeeded.

Can I tell you that I was a bit disappointed that I was not able to actually be in the same room with the books. Obviously, I will just have to plan some sort of research visit next time because staring at them from behind glass from the mezzanine is not going to cut it.

We hoofed it over the Smithsonian Museum of Art, but due to my feet absolutely killing me, I don't think I really got to enjoy it. Plantar fascitis is a beast.

According to my sources, the reason the National Book Festival had to move indoors is because some rules regarding the National Mall changed and the cost of having the convention outside was just going to be too much. After spending one year outside in the rain, soaked despite my umbrella, I am very glad to see the Festival indoors. At the main desk on the first floor, volunteers handed out posters, schedules, and big green bags. Signage was fairly good, although I did get a little confused as to where certain rooms were at one point. It was easy to get turned around, especially if you are unfamiliar with the layout.

We started our day with Jeffrey Brown, author of Star Wars: Darth Vader & Son, Star Wars: Jedi Academy, and Sulk. The kids were fully engaged and when it came to the Q&A halfway through, there was quite a cue at the microphones as kids requested that Mr. Brown draw their favorite Star Wars character. One little girl in particular walked up and shouted, "R2D2!" That's it. Just R2D2. She had to shout it again before Mr. Brown realized she was asking him to draw the beloved droid. As a fellow Star Wars fan, this was perhaps my favorite talk of the day.

In line for Jeffrey Brown. The best part about standing in lines is that you are surrounded by other people, and specifically kids, who love that author too. Since some of the kids didn't get to go to the talk, I was able to share some of Jeffrey Brown's pearls of wisdom with his little fans.

I also met up with a friend and former classmate and her daughter. I think the National Book Festival is one of the few places where you can just plop down on the ground and start reading and absolutely no one will be bothered by it.

Anne Ursu is one of my former advisers at Hamline University and I would like to consider her a friend. There was an awkward moment during the taking of this photo because apparently me coming around the table, even though we know each other well, was against the rules. As was her writing my name in my book. I get it. I really do. If everyone did this, the poor author's would feel accosted. But dammit, I haven't seen Anne in almost 4 years and I sure as hell wanted to at least give her a quick hug.

One of the best things about the National Book Festival being inside was that there was a ton of great comfortable seating. Admittedly, I usually chose to sit in the back. Gene Luen Yang's talk was great, but as you can see, I wasn't keen to be on the front row. Another introvert tendency perhaps?

Lines. They are synonymous with the National Book Festival. At one point I had to hold this A and direct people into my line for Gene Luen Yang's book signing. It was a bit awkward because people did try to skip in line (often out of confusion). However, the volunteers were very good at noticing when people were in the wrong place or bypassing the line, and they quickly showed them where to go.

The final bit of the evening, we went to a Book Into Film panel. We left after listening to two authors talk about how much they hated the movies that were made from their books. Although I don't think an author has to love an adaptation, the sheer arrogance and rudeness on display made me viscerally angry. One author admitted to walking out of his film's premier after only 10 minutes. All I could think about was the poor film director along with the rest of the cast and crew, and how they felt as they watched that author leave. Comparing a book to a movie is like comparing a watercolor to an acrylic and expecting them to look the same. Sure, there are some book adaptations that are done badly, however it seems that other authors have found gracious ways not to crap all over someone else's art form. I once asked Jane Yolen about how she liked the adaptation of Devil's Arithmetic. Although she was not shy about how she thought the filmmakers had missed the meaning and depth that was in her book, she at no point complained about the filmmakers nor did she announce that obviously film is inferior to books. Neither of which were things that I heard from that panel. Note to the Library of Congress, perhaps next time you should find some authors who actually like the movies that were made from their books. Or at least show some appreciation for them. I nominate John Green, Johnathan Safron Foer, Susan Orlean, and Anne Rice. Lois Lowry and Dennis Lehane could come too.