rhcrayon: The Blog! - For the Love of Books: LAPL and the LA Times Festival of Books
May. 1st, 2008
12:49 am - For the Love of Books: LAPL and the LA Times Festival of Books
FOR THE LOVE OF BOOKS
LAPL and the LA Times Festival of Books
Rita and Damon support the Los Angeles Public Library!
(This photo was taken on our first wedding anniversary—in 2003—because I wanted to make our own Celebrity READ poster. We can't live without this place. We almost got married here.)
(Camera on auto timer on a tripod. I'm holding Meredith Ann Pierce's The Darkangel Trilogy. Damon is holding The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster.)
by RITA CRAYON HUANG
First of all, Save LAPL.
The Los Angeles Public Library is in peril!
The good news is that the recently proposed $1 fee for every book obtained through interlibrary loan has already been defeated. (Ayy me! That would have ended my ability to use the library completely.) But they still need our help, right now! Go, go, go! Read all about it! Write your letters! Hurry!! Please!
Second, I went to the LA Times Festival of Books this past weekend.
The LA Times Festival of Books is truly incredible. Every year, hundreds of thousands of authors and fans converge on the UCLA campus for one weekend, and the Festival get all these stages and panels going simultaneously, all for the love of books. Normally I pay lots of money to hear these same people speak, but at the LA Times Festival of Books, you can hear everyone speak for free!
Of course, the major difference between going to the LA Times Festival of Books and going to a writers' conference is that the audience members sitting around you aren't your fellow writers; they're fans. This changes the dynamic of what's being said—and heard. At least, that's especially true if your chief interest is middle grade and tween fantasy series, and the audience members around you are kids.
"Oh! There she is! It's Erin Hunter!" a little ten-year-old Asian girl said behind me, as she whipped out a camera just like mine. (I loved this kid!!!) "She does Warriors—the Warrior Cats series," she informed her hapless chaperone.
I only attended two sessions this year (and they overlapped in time, wouldn't you know it, so I couldn't even go to all of the second one). The two panels I saw were:
"Tween Series Writing: Other Worlds," with Rick Riordan, Erin Hunter (Victoria Holmes), Cornelia Funke, and moderator Sonja Bolle;
"Young Adult: Fantastic Fiction," with Francesca Lia Block, Geraldine McCaughrean, Neal Shusterman, and moderator Jonathan Hunt.
(I took pictures at the second panel, too—right before I was told it wasn't allowed. D'oh. At the Tween panel, they only said No Flash. Maybe it would've broken the kids' hearts too much to tell them No Pictures outright.)
I originally hoped to stay at the Book Fest all Saturday and Sunday. For one thing, I knew Jay Asher was speaking with Cecil Castellucci on Sunday, and Robin and Eve were coming, and, in addition to wanting to say Hi, I really wanted to see them interacting with fans. I thought that'd be so cool!
I also wanted to hear Sherman Alexie speak Saturday afternoon. (How much do I love The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian! That book is crazy good, yo. Crazy good.) And, basically, there were tons of speakers I was excited about. (I'm currently obsessed with the picture book Thank You Bear! Ohhh, that book kills me!!)
Also—just as an aside to Irvin and others—Danica McKellar was going to do math on stage—or at least read from her new book, Math Doesn't Suck—and Damon was going to that. (Back when Irvin passed us her Web site years ago, we were most interested in her "Mathematics" section, in which readers of all ages could write in math questions—of any level—and she would explain how to solve them. The first question wasn't even hard—it was basic fractions—but after reading her first reply, Damon was all, "She's awesome . . .")
But, after about five minutes of agonizing indecision, I ended up going home after the first two panels because of something Cornelia Funke said.
On the age-old topic of Writing For Children (or, in this case, "Tweens")—and right after Erin Hunter (as voiced by Victoria Holmes, the lead writer of the trio behind the Warriors series) had given this fascinating, insightful reply that, in fact, she doesn't write "for children" and gave incredible examples of the intense issues you can tackle when you use cats instead of humans as characters, and also what you can do with a concentrated life span (which was amazing), Cornelia Funke said,
"I do write for children." And she went on to explain that the absolute best part of her job was the way, in a room full of a thousand children exactly this age, you could drop a line—drop a word, even—and watch it "implode into a world" in all their heads. She said you could see this happen, and that we lose this ability as we age.
Sitting there amongst the kids, feeling their energy, feeling them hearing the words, made me remember what it was like to hear this as a kid. Every day of your life, during that time, you're told how much potential you have; how truly powerful and special is your imagination. How great you are during this exact window of your life in a way you'll never be again. (I think this has something to do with why I "arrested" at this age.) I always bought into it completely.
Sitting there amongst the kids, I could hear and feel them buying into it, too. (Because it's true!!!) It made me remember, far beyond my love of writing and my need to do it, a certain belief and faith in myself, and how much I had loved reading as a kid.
You'd have thought I'd never forgotten this—especially as my reading patterns today are exactly the same as when I was ten—but it made me remember it in a new way. There's an extrasensory love that surrounds you as you read. That lifts you and intensifies every feeling. That makes anything possible—especially magic.
It was liberating and freeing (both!). It woke up a feeling that was both inside and outside me. I wanted to drop one of my lines into this room and watch it "implode into a world."
I had to go home and write.
P.S. Cornelia Funke has the most charming accent. Hearing her say the words "implode into a world" really does make it happen. In your mind. Like that.
And so, after last week's post, I go back from being a Fan (among writers) to being a Writer (among fans). But charged with something different.
Talk to me like I'm a kid!