Where else are you going to catch Margaret Atwood, Carol Burnett, Lemony Snicket, and Susan Feniger tag-teaming stages across a grassy college quad? The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books is right around the corner, and to help guide your way through the largest public literary event in North America, we asked participating local author and Library Foundation Board Member Attica Locke for her tips on how-to-book-festival like a pro.
Attica Locke at ALOUD last year. Photo by Gary Leonard.
What sets apart the L.A. Times Festival of Books from other book fairs?
Locke: Besides Korean tacos and yoga pants, the L.A. Times Book Festival is the best thing ever to happen to L.A. It’s so incredibly comprehensive with an entire stage in Spanish, with music, cooking, and children’s events—it’s the most creative book festival around.
How have you participated with the festival over the years? And what are you doing there this year?
Locke: This is my fourth time being a panelist. I’m usually involved in the crime writing conversations, which draw very diverse crowds. This year, I’m on the “Crime Fiction: What We Can’t Tell You,” panel on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. But it always turns into a family event for me, so my husband and daughter come and we go around and explore.
What panels, readings, or events are you especially looking forward to this year?
Locke: On Saturday, I’m really looking forward to the Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen event. I’ve heard Lemony Snicket speak before and I’ve never heard an artist quite like him—he’s so entertaining. I want to pop in to the YA stage because as an author I’m interested in writing Young Adult fiction, and some of the greatest Young Adult fiction writers in the country will all be in L.A. on the YA stage. I want to hit the fiction panel on the “Social Novel” with Rachel Kushner, Jonathan Lethem, and Marisa Silver in conversation with David Ulin, the L.A. Times’ book editor—that’s going to be insane! I’m also curious about the “Hollywood Tales” history panel.
On Sunday, I’m amazed the day starts with the U.S.C. Trojan marching band, so I want get there early for that. Jamaica Kincaid in conversation with L.A. writer Hector Tobar sounds amazing, who is an incredible writer in his own right and he’s talking to one of the world’s most provocative writers—this will be a great featured event. Finally, the “Guns in America” panel is such a timely topic and I’m a big fan of Erwin Chemerinsky, who is an interesting thinker and a dean at the U.C.I. law school.
You’re an expert at this festival… Any tips for attendees?
Locke: Finding an out-of-the-way bathroom—away from the crowds is key. Also, to avoid lines, I think there’s some convenient stores around the U.S.C. campus that sell sandwiches for an easy lunch. Take public transportation—there’s no reason not to take the train to U.S.C. Also, if you plan to buy a lot of books like me, then bring one of those wheely things people take to Farmers Markets so you don’t break your back carrying around your load of books.
The days are jam-packed with events, but what about the evenings? What do the writers do after they leave the U.S.C. campus?
Locke: The L.A. Times Book Prize ceremony on Friday night is a big deal. But people are still talking about last year’s Book Drop Bash! I made so many connections with new people at the Young Literati’s Bash last year, and I’m a co-host of the event this year, which is at the downtown Central Library on Saturday night. It’s so fitting for everyone to gather there to continue the celebrations.