And How Was BookFest Anyway?
Oh, it was great. No question. Really fun. We all showed up at 9:30 a.m., shambled in, and took our seats in a prompt manner befitting a well-educated, intelligent crowd. As I mentioned before, I was seated in front of Matt Phelan, which was awesome. The first up was keynote speaker M.T. Anderson. Now if you've never seen Mr. Anderson speak, there are a couple things that you should know. First and foremost, he is approximately 10-feet-tall. I'm guesstimating, but I don't think I'm too far off. That man's legs reach from here to... whoo boy. Good looks aside (it's one of those days) Anderson spoke eloquently on the topic of historical fiction, the creation of Octavian Nothing, and why Mel Gibson's The Patriot is perhaps not the finest example of Hollywood historical narratives out there today (delicious Jason Isaacs aside). He was a fine even-keeled speaker. A smarter person than I would have been taking notes the entire time. Instead, I simply enjoyed his words. Good stuff.
Then we broke into groups. My group was a Middle Grade Fiction category that happened to include this year's Newbery winner. The idea with these groups is that participants read the books ahead of time and discuss them with one another in the space of a single hour or so. Being on a Newbery committee and all, I refrained from talking but seemingly couldn't keep myself from nodding significantly (or so the Hyperion reps informed me) at key conversational moments. Basically, Clementine came off looking the best of the lot group-love-wise. This was too bad when you consider that her #1 advocate, Angus Killick, came into the room too late and missed all the luvin' it received. Awwww.
At one point Jennifer and Matthew Holm surreptitiously crept into our midst and sat down to listen. It was fun when Susan Pine, leader of the group, pointed out that Penny From Heaven was a historical fiction novel that she was particularly fond of and THERE sits its author. Gasps all around. Very satisfying.
Back into the auditorium where incredibly delicious lunch boxes sit. But wait! If you want Mr. Anderson to sign your book you'd better get in line sooner rather than later. I did, foolishly it seems to me, and had to wait to eat as it snaked about. That's okay, though. Nice Random House people gave me the sweetest little ole Holm gift bag complete with the Babymouse character you saw featured on Big A, little a recently. Oh! And look! There's Mark Siegal and his wife Siena Siegal. Sweethearts, the both of them. Both Jennifer Holm and Ms. Siegal were great with child, which I found oddly amusing. And I had a great conversation with Mark wherein he introduced me to Publisher's Weekly Senior News Editor Calvin Reid and told me he'd send me 2007 First Second books for review. I hope, I hope, I hope. Cause... y'know... obviously I haven't enough to read these days.
So, that was cool. Scarfed down my lunch very fast, met other folks (good news of the day: Candlewick does NOT hate me), and then it was time for the panelists to speak. I didn't know Mikayo Rocks or Calvin Reid, but they did well enough. The couples really spoke beautifully, too. A quick Q&A and then it was time to chug down some sherry. Fun facts about sherry that I didn't know; the more you drink it, the less it smells like the church you grew up attending. I was raised Episcopalian. Draw your own conclusions.
All in all, a very nice day. Exhausting but fun. There will be another in October of this year, so if you missed this one, do not cry. I'll keep you posted on when to apply for the next.