2018 National Book Festival – Storytime
Hello everyone! So, while witches and wizards were headed to Hogwarts this past September 1st, I was headed to the National Book Festival (NBF) held in Washington DC! It was a really fun and interesting day, especially as it was the first time I’d gone to the festival! Now, I come to you with the story of what I did at the National Book Festival, who I saw, and, how I almost saw Madeleine Albright (the first US Madame Secretary) TWICE! Let’s gooooo…..
So, I got to the convention centre via metro at 10ish am and it was actually really cool because
- EVERYONE in the metro that got off, plus everyone else getting off the other metro at the station, were all headed to the NBF which was pretty awesome! There were a ton of people of all ages, including a lot of parents bringing their little kids, just going to the festival for the day and enjoying the bookishness of it!
- also, the metro stop (Mt. Vernon Sq) is RIGHT IN FRONT of the convention centre!!!! Legit, got off the escalator and walked two steps into the doors of the convention centre which blew my mind! Like, Javits wishes it was cool enough to be that close to a metro stop hahahaha
Anyways, by the time I got in and picked up a complimentary bag and poster art for the festival (which was ridiculously beautiful by the way, and created by Gaby D’Alessandro), I was very late for the first author discussion I wanted to go to, Sandhya Menon’s. I only caught the last bit of it but I did learn that Sandhya has a new trilogy/series in the works with aristocrats & boarding school, and that she already finished 1st round of edits! From the little I heard about it, and how much I loveeeee boarding school books, I can’t wait to read it!!! Afterwards, Sandhya was very kind to take a picture with me and sign my NBF poster!
Next, I sat down for a bit and worked on my schedule for the rest of the day because I was getting overwhelmed by how many authors were there for talks and signings that I didn’t know about before so I ended up figuring out what other people I was hoping to see the rest of the day.
Then I headed back to the teen section to listen to the last of James Swanson’s talk which was interesting as he’s written both adult and young adult novels on the same topics (the assassinations of MLK Jr, JFK and Lincoln), and, throughout writing his first young adult adaption of his adult book on an assassination, he realized that it was much easier to just write a completely new book for YA readers, rather than just try to shorten/condense his adult books. As well, he talked about how, surprisingly, very few parents, teachers and librarians talk badly of the amount of violence described in his books nor do they think he is exploiting the assassinations, and, in fact, they believe he does history justice as he is showing what really happened.
Immediately after that was Robin Benway’s talk and boy did I write a lot of notes down for that….
- talked about how hard it is write
- how, for the longest time, she circled actually writing by being in the publishing world but never actually being an author….until she applied to MFA programs and got rejected all in the same day. Then her friend was like “you know you can just write anyways, right? You don’t need an MFA or anything”
- so she wrote and became a published author but, in 2015, she stalled out with no good book idea. She was in a Costco parking lot, though, when she heard a line from Florence & The Machine that said “a falling star fell from your heart and landed in my eyes” and she immediately got the idea for Far From The Tree
- so she started writing but she stalled out again because the entire book was only in Grace’s POV and it didn’t feel write for her to be telling the other’s stories too
- a question she asked herself in writing the book was “is this my story to tell?”
- this all led up to the idea that, just because you’re doing something you love, doesn’t mean it will be easy
- advice on writing a first draft: “it doesn’t need to be perfect, just do it”
- the idea for Also Known As came from the fact that when Robin was moving out her apartment years ago, she cracked the MasterLock from her storage unit because she had no idea where the key was
- something she realized on writing & ideas: “you can’t chase an idea, it’ll just get farther away”
After that, I walked a couple steps outside of the talk room as my mom called and told her how I was considering seeing Madeleine Albright if I had time in the middle of the schedule and she was like “OMG yes you should!!!” which I laughed about. Then we finished the call and I saw there was a HUGE line right in front of me and asked someone what it was. Ended up finding out that it was the line just to get to the third floor (we were on the second floor) where Madeleine Albright and some other authors would be –> apparently, there was a longgggg line up for Madeleine Albright who wouldn’t even be there for hours but it was so long, it had sneaked down to the second floor. The woman I had talked to asked if I could save her spot in the line while she went to go check something and then, when she came back, I just ended up staying with her in line, which was a pretty good thing considering only 15 – 20 mins later, the first line on the second floor that spanned across the bldg, was curling around the end of one side and headed back towards where the escalator to get to the third floor was. At one point, security even made people who were going down the stairs from the 3rd floor to the second, walk even further down to the first floor then come up to the second another way since the lines were blocking entrances and security was trying to keep the integrity of the line so no one could jump the line (ironic considering I accidentally did that by about 20 ppl).
We spent about 30 – 45 mins in that line on the second floor before we actually moved far enough to get on the escalator, on the third floor, and then finally in the room where Madeleine Albright would be. The catch? Amy Tan and Madeleine Albright had switched times so now Madeleine would go after Amy and not the other way around which completely messed with my schedule. So I stayed and listened to Amy Tan for a while and connected with her discussion on the diaspora between being Chinese vs American and not being able to speak Chinese very well. Then I left at 1:45 so I could catch the last bit of Robin Benway’s signing and then zip over to Deborah Harkness’ talk.
Turns out, by the time I got to Robin Benway’s signing, I was the only person there so I got my poster signed, took a picture and then headed off to see Deborah Harkness who was the main reason I wanted to go to the festival (it was the first time I’d ever gotten to meet her and hear her talk) even tho I was a little late by like 10 mins. Also took a tonnnn of notes:
- we are what we read –> books shape us
- the books her characters would’ve read helped Deborah get into her characters’ backstory
- the title “Times Convert” came from a line in Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” –> ‘time makes more converts than reason’
- conquistadors were reading genre fiction on the boat as a way of passing time
- what Marcus would have read throughout his life/what his bookshelf would contain:
- primers –> children’s reading guide
- almanacs –> the bullet journals of the 18th century
- adventure books –> like a highly adapted for kids version of Robinson Crusoe
- newspapers –> “Common Sense” was first written in newspaper columns, and it’s why Marcus is a patriot and fought in Bunker Hill
- where do you think books are going in general?
- nowadays, there are more and more platform agnostic readers who will read anything, any way
- it’s intriguing to think about
- consider a way for people to bounce between their kindle, their car (audiobooks), and a paperback
- what’s happening with Serpent’s Mirror (Matthew story in the 16th century)?
- it’s coming next! It actually was being written before Time’s Convert was anything but then Matthew did something unexpected and she hit a snag in the road trying to figure it out when the idea for TC came up and she wrote and finished that first and decided to send it out first, before SM
- will we get something about Gallowglass?
- Possibly. He currently has a notebook which is the first step to getting a book. She did also sail around Ireland for 2 weeks to get closer to him.
- how do you world build on top of history?
- if it’s knowable as a historian, it could be in the book. If it’s not knowable, she could invent it for the book.
- she shaped Matthew de Clermont from a real person called Matthew Roydon
- she actually ended up having to go to Prague at one point, for Shadow of Night, because she found out that Matthew Roydon was there in March & April which made her take longer with the book
- She doesn’t stop herself from falling down rabbit holes of research
- She once spent 2 weeks of very in depth research on horse journey just for there to be 1 sentence on it in Shadow of Night lol
- now, she panics less when she spends a lot of time researching –> it’s a balance act with writing
- research/history should be a flavouring or accent in writing
- books she’s reading/recommends
- “Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine” by Gail Honeyman
- “Girl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies about Who You Are So You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be” by Rachel Hollis
- she also reading a book about papermaking
- she reads a lot of medical and scientific journals
- how did this all change her life?
- she has bigger classroom now lol but she also has to make harder decisions about her priorities between being a teacher, author, exec producer for the Discovery of Witches TV show (which you can watch now on SkyOne if you’re in the UK!)
- what’s your worst/scariest experience with a book?
- Deborah once gave an assignment to her students and one of them chose to use Mein Kopmf (I’m not even gonna look up if I spelled that right) and she had to physically go to the university library to request it from the stacks for her student to use. She remembers going there and wanting/feeling the need to explain herself to the librarian so she wouldn’t be thought of as actually wanting the book and, as she tried to discreetly take the book out of the library, she understood why someone would be in fear of a book because of its sheer power
After Deborah Harkness’ talk, I went down to the room where all the signings were to go get into line for her, and first, I ran into the Leigh Bardugo line and asked to join but as I was getting there, they were like “we just ended the line” which I thought was kinda funny. It wasn’t that bad considering I’ve already seen Leigh a couple of times and have most of my books signed anyways. So then I headed towards Deborah’s line and ended up running into the Madeleine Albright signing line which, at that point, was only 2 or 3 lines deep and didn’t start until 4 pm whereas DH’s started at 3 pm. So I got in line to wait until I could have someone save my spot for me so I could get a spot in Deborah’s line finally. Then I ran to DH’s line, finally, got a spot, had them save it for me, ran back to the MA line so the woman behind me could go get food, then a couple minutes later got the person in front of me to agree to save my spot while I went to DH’s line to wait. Ran back to the DH line and hung out there, talking to the people behind me, and started reading Time’s Convert which they were surprised I had an ARC of. I explained that the lovely ladies of The Book Bratz were kind of to give me their copy after BEA/Book Con (thank you Jess, Emily and Amber!!!!)
After a while (like pretty close to 4) I was finally up to meet Deborah Harkness. Now, mind you, I’ve never met DH before this. For a long time, DH’s books felt like a secret special to me only, then I met Mo who loves DH too and it felt like an us thing, even though I know so many other people also love the books. It still is precious to me that it’s one of the few books I read before blogging that was mine if that makes sense. So, I was essentially fangirling soooooo much when I met Deborah Harkness and died right there on the spot when she was happily surprised that I had an early copy of Time’s Convert and asked me how I thought of it. AND THEN SHE WAS SO HAPPY WHEN I TOLD HER I WAS ONLY 19 PAGES IN AND LOVED IT AND MY HEART BURST OF HAPPINESS I STILL CAN’T BELIEVE I MET HER and then she signed my copy of TC and, as I did so, I told her how, up until I read her books, I was very much not a fan of historical fiction, but her books changed that and I love her books so much and she actually said “come to meeee” and it was really funny and ugh I can’tttttttttt then we took a picture that I shall cherish forever and then I walked a couple steps and flailed that I actually met her (and heard a couple people laughing when they saw me lol)
Then I basically very fast walked/ran to the Madeleine Albright line because the signing was about to start and there was a muchhhhh longer line now. Ended up finding my person quite easily but behind her was a break in the line where like 4 security people were standing. So, I was like, “hey, can I get back in line? someone was saving my spot.” and they all looked a bit blank at that not really knowing what to do and of course, the woman is talking to her friend and there’s no way for me to ask her to confirm (didn’t know her name to call it out) so they were like, “I’m sorry, there’s no way we could know that, you’ll have to go to the back of the line” which, tbh, sucked a bit but I appreciated it because they’re doing their jobs so well that I understand. So I went to the back and omgggggg there are already 11 full lines that I end up being the start of the 12th line which is ridiculously wow and I felt so bad for MA’s hands, I can’t imagine signing that many people’s things for soooo long (because you know it was going to be hours before I was anywhere at the front of the line). A couple minutes later I was like hold up, wait, if Imma wait in the line for so long, I better make sure she can actually sign my poster because I didn’t have any of her books with me (I didn’t have anyone’s books with me except DH’s Time’s Convert) and there are certain authors who will only sign certain things or a certain number of things (like DH only would sign one thing) so I went to ask one security person and they were like “IDK, you can wait until you’re there though and ask her” and I said thanks knowing there was no way I was gonna wait hours for there to be a maybe or maybe not. So I waited a bit then asked a new security person who asked another security person and they were like “probably not, she’s only here promoting her newest book” so I said thanks and then, when they left, turned to the person behind me and jokingly said “looks like you’re the start of the 12th line now” and headed out up to the first floor to see what I was going to do next.
I ended up meeting up with a friend and, after finding both the Roxanne Gay and Leigh Bardugo lines/talks very full, we decided to head out and just hang around and roam DC, and that was my day at the National Book Festival.
I had such a fun time at the Festival and had a lovely time afterwards hanging out with my friend so all in all it was a great day! I still can’t believe I got to meet Sandhya Menon, Robin Benway and Deborah Harkness and I am still laughing at how I almost saw Madeleine Albright TWICE lollllllll Anyways, did any of you guys go to the National Book Festival in DC this year? And what did you guys think of each author’s talk that I took notes on? Let me know in the comments below!! Thanks, I hope you have a great day/night and tata for now!!!
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