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Been There, Done That – May 2019

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In our "Been There, Done That" series, Literary Mama editors and readers share their experiences at conferences, workshops, classes, writing festivals, and residencies. Fiction Editor Felicity Landa recalls her time at the Los Angeles Times festival of Books.

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What program did you attend?

2019 Los Angeles Times Festival of Books

2. Where was it and what was the time requirement?

The University of Southern California campus in downtown Los Angeles. The festival is one full weekend, from 10 a.m. Saturday morning to 5 p.m. Sunday afternoon.

3. What were the course offerings?

LATFOB is mostly author panels, and the presentations span all kinds of genres and mediums, from nonfiction and fiction for all ages, to cookbooks and cooking demonstrations. There is a wide variety of booths to visit with booksellers, MFA programs, agencies, publishers, and other resources for writers. In addition to indoor panels that are held in USC classrooms, there are outdoor stage areas where authors do book and poetry readings, or additional panel discussions. Some of the highlights of the 2019 festival included: Natashia Deón (Author of Grace) in conversation with Tommy Orange (Author of There There, a Pulitzer Prize finalist for fiction); A young adult fiction panel with Elizabeth Acevedo (National Book Award winning author of The Poet X), Ibi Zoboi, and Meg Medina; Matthew Gray Gubler reading from his children's book Rumple Buttercup: A Story of Bananas,  Belonging, and Being Yourself, and Mary McNamara in conversation with Chelsea Clinton about her children's book, Don't Let Them Disappear. During the moderated panels authors discuss various topics pertaining to their books, answer audience questions, and are available for book signings afterward.

There is also a children's area with games and activities, stages and presentations for Spanish speakers, a stage with live music and performances, and food trucks stationed in different areas on campus. The festival is huge and well attended - there's something for everyone.

4. How did you spend your time? 

My MFA program, UC Riverside Palm Desert Low-Residency, has a booth at LATFOB. I enjoyed chatting with people about the program, giving them information from a student's perspective, and recruiting prospective students. I also attended as many author panels as I could, mostly panels on YA literature, adult fiction, and memoirs. There are so many panels and just not enough time to see the everything you want. I attended several panels each day, and spent the rest of my time standing in line at book signings and perusing the booths. It's an exciting experience to be among so many people who love books.

5. What did you take away from the experience?

The weekend is long and exhausting, but absolutely worth it. There is so much to do I had to really prioritize my time. The festival is free to attend, but I ended up spending quite a bit of money on books that I wanted signed by authors I love- which is also a great opportunity to thank them personally for their work and have a quick chat with them. As writers, one of the most important things we can do to support the writing community is buying books and letting authors know the impact they've had on our lives and our own writing. LATFOB is a great place to do that.

6. Did you have the opportunity for a writing critique? Was it helpful? 

Unfortunately, no. LATFOB is not really a writing conference, more of a festival that celebrates authors, which is just as valuable. the festival was jam-packed not only with authors and aspiring authors, but also with book lovers and fans.

7. Would you attend this event again? 

Absolutely! I had so much fun meeting authors, strolling the booths, and talking with other writers. I feel a bit better prepared to go next time, now that I am a little more familiar with the festival.

8. Share some helpful tips for a writer considering this experience. (Tips may include transportation, lodging, food, classes/instructors, or anything you think future attendees would benefit from knowing.) 

Do your research ahead of time! The festival is free, however there are panels that require a ticket in advance that can be purchased online, with a $2.50 service fee. There are also wristbands you can purchase that will allow you immediate access into any panel. If there's a panel that you want to see but didn't get a ticket for, there are waiting lines for people who don't have tickets. Prepare for a long day with a lot of walking, and most likely under the SoCal sun. Parking in the USC structures is $12, and it's usually easy to find a spot, as a lot of people try to park off campus. It's downtown Los Angeles, so you always have to plan for traffic, and the fact that hotels will book quickly. Keep in mind the festival is huge, a lot of people attend, so prepare for some long lines for popular authors. It's also pretty flexible, so you can leave a panel early if you don't like it or walk in late if you're crossing the campus to get there.

I also recommend researching which of your favorite authors will be there signing books so you can bring those books with you. And If you end up there without the books you need, you can always purchase them, there are bookseller booths stationed near every signing area.

Have you attended a conference, workshop, writing festival, residency, or class? We'd like to hear about your experience. Email us at lmblogcontact (at) literarymama (dot) com.


The Literary Mama Blog Editor searches for mama-centric news you can use — including information about publishing opportunities and literacy efforts; essays and writing prompts that motivate and inspire; and announcements about events, classes, and workshops. The current blog editor is Rudri Patel; read her bio here.


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