Monday, May 18, 2015

Gaithersburg Book Festival

I made my first trek to the Gaithersburg Book Festival this weekend and had a great time.  I got a later start than hoped, although the free shuttle they ran from the metro was nice and easy, so I missed most of the We Need Diverse Books crew.  But I buried my sadness in a delicious food truck veggie rice bowl. (Also, as a side note, I read the first few chapters of Aisha Saeed's Written in the Stars, and O M G.)
But I got to hear Gene Luen Yang speak.  He talked about many of the things he had at the National Book Fest, but really, the man has great thoughts about the cross cultural implications of comics, how it appeals to people who feel like outsiders, whether children of immigrants, or others.  He also talked about the rise of the nerd, how now you see "jocks" wearing Avengers t-shirts.  And, I happened to get a signed copy of The Shadow Hero (which made a wonderful read for the metro ride home). While in line I had a great chat with an enthusiastic middle school librarian.
I then listened to Phyllis Reynolds Naylor talk about wrapping up the Alice series.  She also talked about how her writing process has changed over the years. Then Ally Carter was introduced by two teen writers* who were both Gallagher Girls fans.  Ally talked about writing the Embassy Row series, and her journey to being a young adult writer.  She said her fans usually have lots of questions, and one in particular asked if she would do more crossovers.  (There is a novella containing a character from the Gallagher Girls and a character from Heist Society.) She said she enjoyed doing it, but it makes legal things like film rights tricky so she would have to be careful about that.
Kwame Alexander spoke about the process of setting up a book festival from scratch and how he had done that, and then, after not winning a fellowship, deciding to create his own, which led to a published picture book.  Then, at a children's book panel, a librarian asked him if he had ever thought about writing for older kids after he read some love poetry he had self-published earlier in his career.  He said yes (this was a theme, saying yes) and ended up writing The Crossover, which went through about eight different versions and was rejected 20 times, before finally being accepted for publication.  He read parts of it.  So great. 
And about then, the sky started to dim and it seemed like a good time to head back home.  (Wonderfully, I came out of the metro station in DC to text messages from friends letting me know that there was a storm warning.) 
Also, Montgomery Community Media put together a Storify of tweets from the festival (and yes, I am in there) which has tweets from the panels I missed, so you can experience it through tweets.

*They were likely doing this all along, I just happened to miss all the other intros and I made my way back and forth.