I’d been wanting to go to the National Book Festival every year, but usually the ragweed pollen thwarted my plans. This year I was determined to go! Mike and Lesley were coming up for Atlanta just to go and there were a number of authors I wanted to see.
The day of the festival dawned dry, but rain was in the forecast! I was hoping that it would hold off. The clouds were an advantage though because the Mall would have been brutal in the sun.
Susan and I had made plans to meet at the Smithsonian Metro at 10 am – I got there just a little bit before 10 and had a chance to check out what was going on. There were huge tents for each genre – Fiction, History & Biography, Children’s, Teens, and I can’t remember what else. These big tents were for the author presentations. There were also I think 16 smaller tents where the authors signed books. The signing tents had plenty of room around them to accommodate the long lines. There were also a few other tents – the book sales tent, the Reading Across the USA tent, the PBS kids tent and another tent with kids reading displays. They also had book characters in costume for the kids to “meet & greet”.
The first thing you have to do is get a schedule. This tells you which authors are signing when and when they are presenting. There were a whole bunch of authors I wanted to see, but I’d set my priorities on three children’s authors/illustrators David Shannon, Mo Willems and John Scieszka. I’m glad I’d narrowed it down, because three authors was about all I could get in! David Shannon and John Scieszka were signing at the same time, so I decided I’d just go for David Shannon, because I hadn’t brought a John Scieszka book anyway (I’d been hoping to buy one there). Turns out they were both signing in the same tent! Little did I know at the time, but David & John had a brand new book out that they’d done together! Mo Willems was scheduled to sign right after David & John. They were all presenting very late in the day and I wasn’t sure I’d make it that long.
I finally met up with Susan,Mike, Lesley, Judy, Lucas, Leah & Dottie about 10:15 – they’d taken the yellow line and got off at a different stop. Susan, Judy and Lesley wanted to see Judy Blume, who was signing at the same time as David and John so we both had about 45 mins to kill before we needed to get in line. We wandered over to the Reading Across the USA tent. This tent was way cool! Each state had a table where they highlighted reading in their state – the featured authors and other reading events! Most tables also had some sort of freebie – mostly bookmarks. I didn’t get to see much though because the tent was very crowded (it’s those free bookmarks!) After that we went to the PBSKids tent and the other kid tent – got a few free books and some other free stuff. By this time we figured we’d better go get in line for our authors.
I went to the David Shannon line and Susan headed over to Judy Blume. It was neat seeing who all was in line for the signing. Not sure what I expected, but there were a lot of kids! Most of them were holding worn copies of what were clearly favorite books! How exciting for these kids, to meet the author of their favorite book! There were also a lot teachers! I got behind a lady who was a librarian at a school near Phelps, KY (where I went to work with Habitat for Humanity of a mission trip in High School.). This is an enormously poor area way back in the mountains. We chatted almost the the whole time were were in line! I waited about an hour and half to get David Shannon to sign my “No David” book. When I got up there I had about 20 seconds to say something to him and that was that.
I immediately had to go back to the end of the line because up next was Mo Willems. This time I got in line behind a gal who taught 2nd grade in Prince William County! Again we chatted the whole time! Her friend eventually came and joined us and the three of us had a grand old time! There was also a family in front of me – the mom and the son had gone to Judy Blume while the dad and the daughter waited for Mo Willems. When the mom and the son got back the son told his sister “She wrote in the book!!!!” Clearly he’d been taught not to write in books and was blown away by the fact that this lady they’d just met wrote in the book! Once again I had about 20 seconds with Mo Willems and I was done.
While I’d been waiting Susan had texted me that they were going to the American History Museum for lunch. It had been over an hour since she texted me, but I hightailed it over to the museum to meet up with them. When I got there the line to get in was longer than some of the signing lines. I texted Susan that I wasn’t coming in. Turns out they were heading out. I decided to head over to the “Vegetarian Food” stand I’d seen and get a sandwich and go from there. I’d just found a spot of grass to sit on when it started to rain. I ate quickly then went to wait in line with Susan, Mike, Lesley, and Leah. I hung out with them for a little while before heading over to the Children’s Tent for Mo Willems presentation.
This was the best part of the day! I got there early and got to see Tony DiTerlizzi, who I’d met at few years ago at my Children’s Lit professor’s house, he was great! Then Mo Willems was next. He was hysterical! He read a few of his books, acted out one of them, made jokes, very entertaining! He even had his daughter Trixie read part of one of his books!
By this time it was pouring rain and I hadn’t sat down for more than 5 minutes since I’d been on the metro so I decided it was time to go. I made my way to the metro. It was so crowded in there! I missed the first train, but got on the second – even got a seat just one stop after I’d gotten on! The seat next to me was taken by a gal who taught Reading Recovery in Prince William County! We talked all the way back to Franconia-Springfield! Even exchanged email addresses!
What a great day! It was so exciting to meet three of my favorite kids authors! It was also a little weird. David Shannon and Mo Willems are a part of my daily life, I read their books several times each to my kids and their book are perpetually favorites. I never gave any thought to what they looked like though, so it was a bit weird to actually see them in person!
What a great day! :-) I can’t wait to go next year, although I plan to do a number of things differently. First of all, I’m bringing a picnic lunch! I’ll stop at Subway or something and have everything I need already with me. I also think I’m going to make the author presentations a priority rather than the signings. The signings are a lot standing around waiting, whereas the presentations give you a sense of who the author is. You can still take pictures and stuff.