The National Book Festival Just Got Even Better: Two Days of Programs Plus Graphic Novels

Books GeekMom
Image: Library of Congress

With banned book week and the arrival of library books on the Kindle, it seems like this just couldn’t be a better week for Book Geeks. Wrong! The National Book Festival will be held in Washington, DC, today and tomorrow. The event, which has been put on by the Library of Congress since 2000, has expanded from a single day jam-packed event into a day and a half. Not to mention, the Festival has added a brand new category just for Graphic Novels.

The Festival features writers spanning a wide variety of genres, including children, teens, poetry and prose, contemporary life, fiction and mystery, history, and others. There are about 100 authors who will be speaking and signing books this year, but the addition of the Graphic Novels category seems to reflect the growing popularity of this art form among readers. When we saw Jeff Kinney speak at the Festival in 2009, he was located in the Children and Teens tent. While Diary of a Wimpy Kid is a kind of crossover book, there’s no question that people of all ages enjoy the blend of art and words.

Suzanne Collins autographing at the 2010 NBS. Image: Jessamyn

At the festival, you get a chance to hear about favorite authors talk about their favorite characters, how books came to be, and what the craft of writing is like. Having spent so much time in a world created by someone else, it can be a little astonishing to see writers in person. Martha Grimes took me by surprise, with her sharp wit and frank discussion of alcohol in her books and personal life. Some authors seem distant, a few are bewildered, but most seem downright exuberant in their love of their craft and the festival that celebrates books.

The award for Most Charming, however, clearly goes to Jeff Kinney. You can see his 2009 talk here. Not only was he humble and funny in talking about his success (he still had a day job at that point), he went the extra mile for his fans. The author autograph lines are long and exhausting. My son had waited patiently in line for well over an hour when the line was closed because another author was moving into the autograph space. My son was crushed, but Jeff

Our treasured Jeff Kinney autograph. Image: Jessamyn

Kinney came to the rescue. He knew that many of his fans had been disappointed, so he came back at the end of the day to sign even more books. We walked away with my son grinning ear to ear, saying, “Jeff Kinney just called me Buddy!”  Many, though not all, of the authors are recorded and the videos are posted to the Library of Congress website. While it’s not quite as good as being there in person, it’s still a unique way to connect with the authors and books you love.

If you go: The Festival will run on the National Mall September 24th from 10-5:30 and September 25th from 1-5:30. Pack rain gear, bring books to be autographed, and snacks for the family. Plan to use the Smithsonian museums for restroom breaks, lunch, and as a respite from the chaos of the festival. Try not to get pulled into too many autograph lines. You will spend hours there and miss out on the author talks. Take the Metro if at all possible, along with a healthy dose of patience and good humor for dealing with the crowds and anticipated rain. You can follow the event through the kids and teachers online guide, or by subscribing by email, RSS feed, Facebook, or on twitter @LibraryCongress. Wave hello if you see us – we’ll be the book geeks sitting in the front row.


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