Monthly Archives: May 2009

A Report On The 2009 LA Times Festival of Books

The Southern California book season officially kicked off last month at the L.A Times Festival of Books in UCLA. After walking the entire festival area and going to almost every booth collecting cards, saying hello to exhibitors and meeting up with a few author friends I haven’t seen in a while or for the first time, I am pooped. It was worth it as I checked out the festival with an estimated crowd of 150,000, snapping pictures with my digital camera.

It wasn’t hard to see why the festival has a great turnout annually. The Times along with its Tribune partner, KTLA 5 and their fellow sponsors does a great job attracting top level authors, publishers and celebrities. Before I left the campus, there was a massive crowd gathered in front of one of the booths to catch a glimpse of a celebrity who was in one of the Back to the Future movies. You may know who I’m talking about, but besides him, there were the celebrity authors who either finished their panel discussions or just casually strolling along with their families who made their presence known.

I met authors from across the country by walking up to them and asking for their card. Of course, they wanted to talk about their works, and I took time from booth hopping listening to how their book differed from the next writer’s. I could tell when frustration sat in their faces by noticing how they reacted when I requested their contact information. I could feel their pain, after my experience of selling books at the festival years before. Still, they gave me what I asked for and I can say I had enough contacts to fill up our Mixed Matters guest list for a couple of years, at least that.

One of our new L.A. Black Book Expo committee members Azure Antoinette had invited me to listen to her youth poetry group, Get Lit. They’re a group of young men and women who recite contemporary and classical poetry and they turned it out! This is a talented bunch who I hope to connect with in future events, including the expo. Of course, the poetry stage would be moved away from the festival’s traffic. Of course. (smile). It didn’t dampen the energy of the poets who read. Each one had a great time on stage and judging from the crowd in attendance, they loved the flow as well.

This was the first year I actually took a hard look at the festival, observing the various stages, programs, etc. The venue certainly made me think hard about future book events I plan to be a part of or directing. However, it was a fun event and I didn’t know what effect the weakened economy would have on this weekend’s affair. Judging by the massive turnout, I’d say not much. This was my first time attending the festival in three years, and I’m glad I showed up to witness it. Next up is the Black Writers on Tour so I’m anxious to see how it turns out, partnering up with the L.A. Black Business Expo.

The book season has just begun in Southern California.

Note: that’s me sucking wind and hanging in there after the long day – Saturday!

Charles L. Chatmon
Authors N Focus