by Laura Davis, managing editor
It’s April once again, and book fans from all over are getting ready for their weekend of glory: the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books (LATFOB), the nation’s largest consumer book festival. LATFOB is held on the beautiful campus of USC, in the West Adams district of Los Angeles, and attracts about 150,000 visitors each year. It’s little wonder, with more than 450 authors in attendance, over 100 discussion panels, and at least 300 exhibitors, ranging from artisans to indie authors, publishers big and small, and bookstores who bring a mini-store to the event for the weekend. Oh, and it’s not all books, either; there are musicians, filmmakers, and photographers, too!
If you’ve never been before, it all sounds like it might be a little dry, but honestly, it’s a fun and vibrant weekend for people of all ages and interests. The USC marching band is on hand to keep the atmosphere lively, and there are cooking demonstrations and two entire stage areas dedicated to activities for kids. There’s a poetry stage, a couple of music stages, a young adult stage, the Hoy stage which features mariachi music and Spanish-language programming for all ages, and, if you want to take a break in air-conditioned comfort, you can head over to the School of Cinematic Arts’ Broccoli Theater for a screening of Frankenweenie or Looper. Check out the full schedule of events here.
Of particular interest to our geeky following are John Scalzi’s Redshirts: From Page to Screen panel on Saturday; a young adult sci-fi panel featuring Leigh Bardugo, Cecil Castellucci, Sarah J. Maas, and Marissa Meyer on Sunday; and Veronica Roth discussing Divergent, also on Sunday. There’s also the Dinosaur Encounters, presented by the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, and the DC Super Friends in a couple of different presentations, like “Skyscraper Showdown” and “Joker’s Joyride,” which repeat throughout the weekend on the children’s stage. We’ll be covering all of this for you, so if you can’t make it to the festival, stay tuned!
If you’re going to the festival, there are some things you’ll want to know! If you have a smartphone, be sure to download the festival’s app. It has maps for parking and the festival (and it lets you plant flags on the map … where you left your car or where you agreed to meet your friends for lunch, for example). Get the app before you go and you can actually use it to plan out the things you want to see, and it’ll send you reminders. It makes a nifty little personalized calendar of the festival for you, and it will also help you find food; it lists all the food at the festival, as well as nearby eateries.
Speaking of food, the festival features food trucks (including my beloved Grilled Cheese Truck), and has increased the number of trucks and space allotted to them each year, to accommodate the huge number of hungry festival goers. You can also buy food from the campus store or eat at one of the campus eateries (which are quite good, but finding a place to sit can be a challenge). Still, if you have an early afternoon event to get to, you’ll want to get in line for food by about 11:30, or you’ll probably be late. Lines are at their worst from around 11:30 to 1:30, so if you can eat early or late, you’ll spend a lot less time standing around, and more time having fun. Some food trucks only accept cash.
Getting there is another point worthy of mention. If you have access to the Metro, the Expo Line train will drop you off about 30 feet from one end of the festival, and showing your Metro ticket will get you a 10% discount on official festival merchandise. If you drive, be aware that parking costs $10, and depending upon when you arrive, you may have to walk some distance from the parking lot to the festival. The parking lots are supposed to take credit and debit cards, but sometimes they break (this happened to me last year), so it’s good to have cash on hand just in case. During the festival, some streets in the area are closed off, and there may be delays, so put your “patient hat” on before you go.
And speaking of walking, it’s important to know that the event is mostly outdoors, partly on grass, and is fairly spread out. I attend a lot of panels when I go, and I walk 5-6 miles a day there (burns off the grilled cheese). If you are just wandering through enjoying the booths and stages, you’ll probably walk more like 2-3 miles. You will probably be glad to have comfy shoes and a hat. The campus has a lot of lovely shade trees, but you’re still going to spend a good deal of time in the sun if you’re walking through the booths. Water. Sunscreen. Yes, please.
How to see the panels (they are calling them “conversations” these days) you want? If the panel is held in one of the indoor venues, you will need a ticket. The tickets are free, but if you want to get yours in advance (some of the panels are already sold out), there is a $1 per ticket service charge. They also have a ticket booth on site, where you don’t have to pay the service fee, but if you want to go that route, get there early. They over “sell” the tickets (to compensate for likely no-shows), so even if you have a ticket, go to the venue early to be sure you actually get in. How early depends on the popularity of the panel. For Veronica Roth or John Scalzi, I’d go a minimum of an hour ahead (I waited in line for a bit more than two hours to see Ray Bradbury talk). For less-wildly-popular panels, 30-45 minutes ahead is probably plenty. The outdoor venues don’t require tickets, but you may want to arrive early to get a better seat and/or shade.
The Los Angeles Time Festival of Books runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday April 12, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, April 13, 2014. For additional information, and to learn about the Book Prize Awards Friday, April 11, and Festival After Dark event on Saturday night, please visit the event website.