March 11, 2016

10 Tips for Attending a Book Festival

10 Tips for Attending a Book Festival: What to Wear, What to Bring, What to Expect.

I'm adapting these tips from a post I wrote last year for the Tucson Festival of Books website. TFOB 2016 starts tomorrow, and I'm excited to get to attend for the 6th year in a row! I hope you can make it to the Tucson Festival of Books one of these years, because it's really wonderful. But in the meantime, find a festival near you!

10 Tips for Attending a Book Festival

1. Review the schedule ahead of time so that you can maximize your time and catch as many events as possible! There's nothing more frustrating that realizing just too late that you missed an author you really wanted to see. 
2. Check the weather forecast thoroughly. Even though it's March, Tucson gets sunny and if you're waiting in line for an author or event, you may get quite hot. Sunscreen and water are usually a plus. But three years ago there was a freakish cold day - and umbrellas and sweaters were needed.
3. Arrive early at big-name events, especially if you don't have tickets. For safety reasons, volunteers are generally strict about seating limits and people at the end of the line often don’t make it in to see the biggest names. If your festival offers tickets to the bigger events, try your best to check the website ahead of time to get them. If not, plan to wait in line for a while. [Last year I waited in line for an hour for Noam Chomsky, and it was totally worth it!]
4. Take your kids! There are tons of great story and music times, character meet and greets, and activities. Even if you don’t have kids, stroll around and see some of the amazing things happening. And c'mon, who doesn't want their picture taken with Curious George?
5. Listen to an author you've never read before. Sure, I try and attend panels and seminars from my favorite authors. But it's also really great to meet a new author, and then get to read their books for the first time after having met them. Somehow knowing their mannerisms and voice makes the book even more fun! 
6. Bring quite a bit of money. There are lots of great local vendors providing fantastic food ranging from pizza to tamales to salads in the main food court area. You can also buy kettle-corn, lemonade, coffee, and other treats.
7. Bring books by your favorite authors. Last year I managed to get books signed by 5 or 6 of my favorite authors, and it’s so fun to have signed copies on my shelves. Here's where hard copies win - you can't get your Kindle signed! 
8. Wear comfortable shoes and have a sturdy tote or backpack. No one wants a day at a book festival to be cut short by a blister, or because you bought so many books you can't hold them all! Plan ahead for contingencies.  
9. Don’t bring a stroller/wagon. Or pets. The main mall area gets really congested. If you have children too small to handle the walking, plan to carry or wear them. It’s not worth trying to maneuver a stroller through those crowds. And I'm pretty sure most pets would be terrified by the sheer volume of people. (This might be different if your festival is smaller, but TFOB attracts 150,000 people over the weekend!) 
10. Have fun! You’re surrounded by thousands of fellow book-lovers, books, and authors. What’s not to love? Seriously, I've had the best conversations about books in the bathroom, in line for food, in line for events. It's so great to be surrounded by people who love the same things you do!

Do you have a book festival near you?