Sunday, April 26, 2009

Fabulous blogging friends at the Festival of Books


What an amazing day! Amazing is what happens when you make a date to meet a bunch of your favorite bloggers IRL at the fantastic Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. Yes, that's the kind of day I had yesterday. I got up early, left my husband in charge of the kids (or was it my kids in charge of my husband?), and headed over to the UCLA campus for the fabulous Festival of Books.

And then I met Trish from Hey, Lady, Whatcha Readin'?, Lisa from Books on the Brain, Amy from My Friend Amy, Ti from Book Chatter and other stuff, Natasha from Maw Books Blog, Jill from Fizzy Thoughts, Wendy from Musings of a Bookish Kitty and her husband Anjin (note to Anjin--just checked out your blog and saw that we could have had quite a conversation about WoW and the new patch--my husband, sons and I play, and I'm a lvl 80 night elf druid...so, we'll talk another time!), and Florinda from The 3 R's: Reading, 'Riting and Randomness. Wow, such talented and lovely women! It was so great to meet them, and to share the day with them. I'm just bummed I missed dinner...but had to get home to make sure nobody burned the house down while I was away.

The panels I attended were very entertaining. A bunch of us started the day with "Status Update: Social Networking and New Media", with Otis Chandler, Wil Wheaton, and Sara Wolf. Otis Chandler, founder of Goodreads.com, was very interesting about the online book-loving community, and on making reading more of a social experience. Wil Wheaton, blogger and tweeter extraordinaire (and "Wesley Crusher", for those of you Star Trek: TNG fans) has a gazillion followers on Twitter (okay, 489,100--but wow!) and had some very interesting things to say about self-publishing, print-on-demand books, and the importance of the fact that in the new media of social networking, the users own it, and they define how it works. The other panelist, Sara Wolf, is a dance critic and e-zine creator, but I just wasn't interested in her "constellation" of stuff.

After that, we had a quick lunch together, and then I went alone to hear Marilynne Robinson in conversation with Susan Straight. I happen to love both writers, and they had a wonderful conversation about themes of Robinson's work, including race and the hidden abolitionist history of the midwest, and they also talked about the writing process for both of them, which I loved hearing about!

Next I joined back up with some of my blogging buddies again and we went to see the panel "Fiction: Window on the World", with Muriel Barbery, Vanina Marsot, Jonathan Rabb, and Lisa See.

I immediately got a girl crush on Muriel Barbery, who spoke in French and had a translator, and was completely charming. All four writers spoke about the importance of place in their novels, as all are set in foreign cities (well, foreign to us--Barbery writes about her own city of Paris, and so does Marsot, who lives both in this country and there).

Lisa See spoke about her new novel Shanghai Girls, which I am interested in for many reasons, not least of which is that it is set in two worlds I'd like to explore--Shanghai and Los Angeles from 1937 to 1957. During the question and answer period she recommended a novel, and I immediately scribbled down the information: The Age of Dreaming, by Nina Revoyr. It is set in Los Angeles in the 1960s, but is about a film star from the age of silent films. I'm going to be on the lookout for this one!

The book Jonathan Rabb spoke about is his newest novel, Shadow and Light, a sequel to his earlier novel Rosa, which tells the story of Rosa Luxemburg, a socialist who was murdered in 1919. His books depict the particular world of Berlin between the wars, a world that also sounds fascinating to me.

Muriel Barbery spoke through a translator about The Elegance of the Hedgehog, which has been a runaway hit in Europe, and which I just read for my book group and reviewed. She spoke about the genesis of the character of Renee Michel, the surprisingly intellectual concierge, who also made a brief appearance in Barbery's first novel. As I remember, Barbery said she struggled with the voice for the concierge, who spoke simply, until her publisher reminded her that as a novelist, she could make the character speak any way she wanted. And thus the intellectual concierge was born.

Vanina Marsot spoke about her novel, Foreign Tongue, which is set in Paris. It is about a Los Angeles native with dual citizenship who, after a bad break-up, runs away to Paris, and becomes a translator. She examines the differences between the cultures through the difficulties that come up during translating a novel from French to English.

After the panel, I wanted to buy another copy of The Elegance of the Hedgehog so that Ms. Barbery could sign it, but the book had already sold out! Annoying! But Lisa recommended Vanina Marsot's book, Foreign Tongue, so I bought that and had it signed. Ms. Marsot was very nice, and I'm looking forward to reading her book. I also got to say a quick hello to Ms. Barbery, and told her I loved her book. So that was good!

All in all, it was a magical day. I hope everyone had as much fun as I did, and I'm looking forward to having a reunion next year.

27 comments:

Lily said...

Thanks for this really terrific review! It sounds like a huge amount of fun.

Ti said...

I didn't do the author signings.. I just went to Vroman's and bought an autographed copy. LOL. I know, not the same but I SO did not want to stand in a line.

Gentle Reader said...

Lily--I expect to go to the Festival at some point and go to your panel, have your book signed!

Ti--so great meeting you! Fortunately, the line was pretty short, but lines are sooooo not my thing...I hear you!

Gregory K. said...

It is always fun to meet blogging buddies IRL, isn't it? And particularly when gathering to celebrate the thing you all blog about!

I did the LATFOB as well, but sans panels and sans blogging buddies. But books and gorgeous weather = a good combo anyway!

Molly said...

I so enjoyed The Elegance of the Hedgehog and would love to hear Ms. Barbery speak French in person :)

I am sure the get together with fellow bloggers was such fun! I look forward to meeting some of them myself at the BEA in NYC.

Glad you had a great bookish day.

Florinda said...

It was so great to meet you, and too bad you weren't able to stay for dinner! I share your hope that we'll all be able to this again next year.

I bought The Elegance of the Hedgehog at the Vroman's booth later yesterday afternoon, but was unable to find a copy of Foreign Tongue, so I may have to order that one online.

I also bought an already-autographed copy of Andrew Sean Greer's The Story of a Marriage after finding him quite engaging during the 3:00 fiction panel I attended.

Such a long day, but so much fun! Great recap of the Social Media panel, BTW.

Gentle Reader said...

Greg--This is my first experience meeting blogging buddies IRL, and it was great! Glad you got a chance to get to the LATFOB, too :)

Molly--Ms. Barbery was great--I hope she comes back to town because I'd definitely go see her again. Hope you enjoy the Book Expo--wish I could get there, too!

Florinda--next year, I'm definitely staying for dinner! Looking forward to hearing what you think of The Elegance of the Hedgehog, and glad you liked your other panel--I'll be on the lookout for The Story of a Marriage, too.

Marg said...

How awesome that you got to meet so many bloggers!

lisamm said...

Tracy, what a lovely wrap-up of a near-perfect day! I so enjoyed meeting you and the whole gang. I went back yesterday with my family and attended one more panel, then spent some time shopping, visiting the kids area, and walking around. I also bought Hedgehog,because I was also crushing on Miss Muriel! Wish I could have had it signed. I bought The Story of a Marriage, too, based on everyone's enthusiasm over seeing that panel! So many of us bought 'Marriage'.. we could have a virtual LATFOB book club meeting!!

Jules said...

That looks like so much fun! I wish Canada had a Book Festival, there used to be one, but it looks like they cancelled it. Maybe I'll save up my buttons, and go next year. Glad you all had a great time.

Gentle Reader said...

Marg--that was the first time I'd met any bloggers in person--it was soooo nice to put faces with names, and get to know them a little better :)

Lisa--I so enjoyed meeting you, too, and I hope we can all get together again next year! I'm glad you got to go back again the next day. I can't wait to hear what everyone thinks of The Story of a Marriage--sounds like the author must have been very charismatic!

Iliana said...

I'm so jealous! In a good way of course :)
How fun that you got to meet all these wonderful and talented bloggers and the authors too of course! I'm just over here pouting because I've yet to meet a book blog friend. One of these days...

Beth F said...

I'm glad I can get a hint of the fun and camaraderie from all of your posts. Thanks so much for sharing.

softdrink said...

Great write up! I had a total blast, so glad I got to meet you all. And I see you've committed to dinner next year...we'll hold you to that!

Gentle Reader said...

Iliana--you are so invited for next year! It was a great experience meeting such talented bloggers, and of course I felt like I knew them already--a wonderful feeling!

Beth F--A really good time was had by all, and I'm hoping we'll do it again next year :)

softdrink--(now I'm not sure I can call you by your alias any more!) I had a blast, too--can't wait until next year!!

litlove said...

This sounds just wonderful - how I wish I could have been there! It's funny because I was attending the book festival in Cambridge on the same weekend (that's here in the UK, not Mass.) But I had to go alone (or at least with my husband), no lovely group of book bloggers to meet up with, boo hoo!

Gentle Reader said...

litlove--I remembered that you were at a book festival, too! Was it a good one? Did you meet any interesting authors, or find any intriguing books? Hope it was good! It was lovely to meet some blogging friends--a first for me. I hope to make it an annual event.

Wyatt Doyle said...

Vanina Marsot is a gifted photographer as well. You can see her photos at www.NewTextureBlog.com

Lisa said...

I'm soooo jealous.

Literary Feline said...

I am so glad I got to meet you, Tracy. Meeting all of you was the best part of the weekend.

The panels you went to sounded great. You've got me curious about Jonathan Rabb's books. They sound intriguing. I've been wanting to try something by Susan Straight. I first heard about her a couple of years ago at the festival and discovered she lives right in my town.

Anjin said...

Oh no! I told Wendy (Literary Feline) that I wouldn't have anything to talk about with everyone since I'm not a book blogger and I doubted anyone played WoW. If only I'd known! Next time, we have to talk.

Gentle Reader said...

Wyatt--thanks for the link--I checked it out, and indeed, she is a talented photographer, too. Thanks!

Lisa--Wish you could have joined us!

literary feline--I feel the same way--meeting all of you was so great! I was intrigued by Jonathan Rabb's books--noir in Berlin between the wars--very interesting setting. Also, I love Susan Straight's writing style, and she sets her books there in the Inland Empire, so I'd love to hear what you think. I remember reading "Blacker Than a Thousand Midnights", for sure. She teaches writing at UC Riverside, and she talked a lot about teaching--wish I could take a writing class from her!

Anjin--I know--what a missed opportunity! Next time, we'll definitely have to talk :)

Dorothy W. said...

Wow -- days don't get any better than that, do they! I'm jealous! How great to meet bloggers and to be able to see such great writers. I would love to see Robinson and Barbery.

Stefanie said...

What a fantastic day! I am so jealous. It almost makes me want to move back to LA. Almost. :)

Laff said...

Sounds like it was a great time. Thanks for the update.

Gentle Reader said...

Dorothy--it was really great, and I only wish I'd had the time and stamina to attend more author panels!

stefanie--Nah, not enough inducement to move back. Maybe to visit, though. Next year?

Laff--It was a pretty darn great time. You're welcome for the update :)

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