Written by: Beth Woodward, CC2K Books Editor
Sadly, our fearless Book Editor, Beth Woodward, was unable to attend the National Book Festival this year in Washington, DC. But here’s a flash back to last year’s festival with the article that Beth ran after 2010’s festival.
Anyone want to share stories of this year’s festival? Post them below.
The one event that makes me grateful to live in Washington, DC, is the annual National Book Festival.
I attended this year’s festivities on Saturday, September 25, and, I have to say, I had a better time this year than last. Thousands of people turned out on the National Mall on an unseasonably hot day, celebrating the written word and waiting for their favorite authors to speak and sign books.
When I got there, I immediately left my friend to her own devices (she swore she didn’t mind!) and ran over to the Teens & Children tent to see Suzanne Collins, author of The Hunger Games series, speak. I’d like to take this moment to say a big “boo, hiss” to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. There was track work going on this weekend, resulting in single-tracking and huge delays. Why, exactly, would WMATA schedule track work over a weekend when the city was having one of its biggest events of the year. Why can’t they do this kind of stuff in the middle of February when there’s nothing going on? Sadly, I missed the first several minutes of Ms. Collins’ presentation. However, I did get to hear her speak about the genesis of The Hunger Games series, how she was inspired not only by her own fascination with Roman gladiators, but also by her own life experiences: living in New York, with young children, after 9/11, and of being a child herself when her father went to Vietnam. She talked about how she doesn’t feel we have meaningful conversations with children about war and the effects of war soon enough, and how those 12-18 year olds she had fighting in the Hunger Games were close to the same age as those fighting real life wars across the world. As someone who lived about a mile from Ground Zero on 9/11, and someone whose own younger brother is in the Army and will likely be in Afghanistan in less than a year, listening to this was touching–and overwhelming. I know I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: The Hunger Games is one of my favorite series, and Mockingjay is one of the most emotionally wrenching books I’ve read, ever. If you haven’t read the series yet, it’s definitely worth your time.
I rushed over from the Teens & Children tent to the Fiction & Mystery tent, where Diana Gabaldon was speaking at 11:00; unfortunately, Suzanne Collins’ presentation didn’t end until 11:05. As an aside, a request to the organizers for next year: please, please don’t overlap the presentation times. If Collins and Gabaldon had been speaking at the same time, I would have had to pick one and that would have been that. But since the presentations only overlapped by a few minutes, I tried to make both. As a result, I missed both the end of Collins’ presentation (after missing the beginning thanks to WMATA) and the beginning of Gabaldon’s. Gabaldon is a recent discovery of mine. Very recent–when I looked at the list of attending authors a month ago, I thought Collins was the only one I was really interested in seeing. Then last week, I picked up a book called Outlander. A strange hybrid of historical fiction, fantasy, and romance, Outlander tells the story of Claire Randall, a former World War II nurse who accidentally travels through time from 1945 to 1743 Scotland. It’s epic and romantic, but at the same time harrowing and scary. It was a roller coaster of a read, and definitely worthwhile. So imagine my surprise when I found out that my “recent” discovery was not only 19 years old, but had also spawned a series of six more books and a graphic novel. The hero, Jamie Fraser, is a 23-year-old , 6’4″ redhead who wears kilts. Gabaldon told the story of how she was once asked what the appeal of a man in a kilt was. Her response: “Well, I guess it’s because they can have you up against a wall in a second.” There was much laughter, and every female member of the audience started drooling. (And if you haven’t read Outlander, trust me: Jamie Fraser is certainly drool worthy.) I bought a paper copy of Outlander hoping I could get Gabaldon to sign it. (And given that I’m a Kindle devotee now, that’s saying something.) Unfortunately, by the time I got in line (12:15) for her signing (at 1:00), three separate lines had already formed, and I was terribly dehydrated. Ah, well, maybe next year. (Another hint to the organizers for next year: more concession stands, and more water. I understand you didn’t know it was going to be 90 degrees yesterday, but it was.)
All in all, it was a great time, and I hope I’m able to attend again next year. Our society is illiterate? Our society devalues the written word? I think those people gathered on the National Mall in the scorching heat yesterday would disagree. And so would I.