If you’re following me on social media, you’ll know that I recently attended the Texas Teen Book Festival in Austin. (And if you’re not following me on social media, you should! I’m obviously hilarious and obviously not biased.)
This isn’t the first book festival I’ve attended, but it’s the first in a few months and OH. MY. GOD. It was AMAZING.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s rewind.
A book festival is basically an event where authors and readers (and sometimes publishers) gather to promote reading! There’s usually Q&A’s, panel discussions, keynote speeches, and more, along with book sales and chances to meet the authors with signings and picture opportunities!
No where else will you find a larger gathering of readers who appreciate the same authors and books that you do. This is especially fantastic because who doesn’t love being recommended more books??? (By the way, the stacked books picture below is from when I visited a booth Macmillan Publishing was running. They were giving away free advanced copies of books, but you had to pick the one on the very top of the spiral!)
I can’t advocate enough for attending these for anyone who enjoys reading. But especially for writers.
Typically, writers like to read in the genre they write. Of course we love to read more widely, but I don’t think there’s a writer that exists that doesn’t read within their chosen genre(s).
So not only are you listening to authors talk about their books that you love and enjoy, but you’re getting helpful writing tips!
From all the book festivals I’ve attended, there’s usually a primary focus for each panel (ranging from something as broad as world-building to something as specific as fairy tale retellings). To start, a moderator will ask questions directly for any and all authors at the table to answer. Cue hilarity and good advice. The second half of the panel is usually dedicated to audience Q&A. And because other aspiring writers are also attending the event, there are tons of great questions.
Go ahead, I’ll be here.
Okay, so you have an idea about what the schedule looks like and how it works? Are you not super pumped to check out ones in your area? Obviously there are other book festivals that don’t revolve around “teen” or YA, but since I write in that genre mostly, they’re perfect for me. (Though I’m so pumped up about book festivals that I’m debating attending the Texas Book Festival, also in Austin, in a few weeks! It has authors of all sorts of genres attending and looks like it’ll be a blast.)
Now it’s time for me to geek out a little bit because OMG I saw my celebrity spirit animal Mindy Kaling! And a totally adorable and insightful Laini Taylor! And I fell in love with Leigh Bardugo! And my author-crush since high school, Ally Carter, was there! And total bad ass besties Renee Ahdieh and Sabaa Tahir!
Okay, I’m just naming people. BUT I SAW THEM!
I’m done. Promise.
As an aspiring anything, it’s always nice to hear from people who have made it in your field. Especially when they reiterate how if they can do it, anyone can. (And, within the writing community at least, they almost always do!)
So what am I doing during these panels, Q&A’s, and keynote addresses? Besides laughing, enjoying them, and nudging whomever I managed to drag with me during the good parts, I’m taking notes!
Here are some of the notes I took from this past weekend (filled in with links after-the-fact):
- Look up Tale Type Index for histories/legends/myths
- Recommended books: East of the Sun, West of the Moon; Romancing the Duke; Uprooted
- Layer in world-building with each draft so that the world grows organically within the story; this also keeps you from info-dumping (Sabaa Tahir and Roshani Chokshi)
- More good-advice about world-building: “Let your reader fill in the blanks” – Renée Ahdieh; not everything in every scene needs to be described
- Look up Fantasy World Building Questions by Patricia
- “Can what inspires our attention truly be evil?” – Sarah Porter, in regards to making a believable villain or character
- For inspiration: Everyone’s success and failure is not indicative of your future success or failure. “Don’t settle, work hard, the world needs dreamers.” – Laini Taylor during her Keynote Address
- The twists and turns in mysteries/heists are all about adding clues in with each revision!
- Ally Carter writes a screenplay version for her first draft, with dialogue and bullet points for what’s going to happen, filling in the details later.
I also came up with at least two ideas for new stories I’d like to percolate on and eventually explore. I received all kinds of free swag from publishers. And I got to take funny pictures with authors and fans alike!
See what I mean? About how amazing book festivals are?
Now I’m not personally huge on getting my books signed (I know, I’m weird, I know), BUT for my readers and friends that are – my sign-happy companions managed to get all of the books they wanted signed (over 10 books and six authors each).
If I haven’t convinced you of why you should google book festivals in your area, like NOW, there’s nothing more I can do! But for me, I’m about to add a few more to my schedule.
Before I leave, let me know if you’ve been to any book festivals! If you have, what’s your favorite part? Don’t worry if it’s the signings, I totally won’t judge.