We went to the LA Times Book Festival last weekend, which was the first time that we’d ever been to their festival. As it’s the biggest literary festival in the US, we felt that some exploration was called for.
And also, they kindly nominated our author Gene Luen Yang for the LA Times Book Prize, so then we really had to go.
So! We flew to LA (sharing a plane with the excellent Tucker Stone of Nobrow) and then promptly headed over to the awards ceremony.
And then Gene Luen Yang, and his amazing graphic novel diptych Boxers & Saints, won the LA Times Book Prize for Young Adult Literature!
That was really great. And it was the first time that a graphic novel had won one of the non-graphic novel prizes. The LA Times, since they are very advanced, has also had a prize specifically for graphic novels since 2009 — this year it was presented by the wonderful Vanessa Davis.
But this was the first time ever that a graphic novel had won something not in its own category. Next year: science? Poetry? We will see! Graphic novels may conquer all the categories!
Following the delightful award ceremony and reception, we headed back to the hotel to prepare for a big day of programs and signings the next day.
The LA Times Festival of Books is held at the University of Southern California. So they have lots of exhibitors who are all outside in tents lining the walk ways and then some outside stages and inside stages set up.
It’s a gorgeous campus full of flowers and classic brick buildings and students skateboarding about (this seemed to be a theme in California), so it was a really lovely setting for a festival. And it’s California, so it doesn’t actually rain there — I kept thinking that this would never work on the East Coast because one year there would come along a torrential downpour and everything would be cancelled.
The first thing I did at the LA Times Festival is go to a graphic novel panel with Hope Larson, Gris Grimly, Gene Luen Yang, and Jen Wang. There was a lot of delightful talk about process and collaboration and adaptations.
Then we headed off to a signing, where someone brought Gene’s old mini-comics from pre-American Born Chinese days!
Jen Wang also drew adorable sketches in copies of Koko Be Good. We’re so excited for her graphic novel with Cory Doctorow this fall, In Real Life — it’s going to be so good!
This year’s theme for the LA Times Festival of Books was, ‘inspire your fire,’ which is an excellently vague sort of theme. No real fires were experienced in the course of the festival (at least by us), about which we were all relieved.
The LA Times had giant canvases put up on which people could write about the books that inspired them.
Gene, of course, being the winner of the LA Times Book Prize, one of the most prestigious and literary awards in the country, had a choice that matched perfectly with his credentials.
Later, we headed over to a talk about Writing Culture and Identity, with Jonathan Hunt, Gene Luen Yang, Maurene Goo, and Cynthia Kadohata (who had beaten Gene out for the National Book Award last year — but we’re not bitter, we swear). It was a really interesting discussion in which it was discovered that not enough people on the panel had been watching Avatar: The Last Airbender.
Other fun things: we got to spend some time with Cecil Castellucci, the author of the Eisner nominated graphic novel Odd Duck. This book is one of the most fun things we’ve published — if you haven’t seen it, you should definitely check it out.
Also, we got to meet John Green and Rainbow Rowell — both great authors whose books we admire! Who doesn’t love a festival that has those connections?
And bonus: the LA Times Festival of Books official hotel was across the street from the LA Public Library! So we got to see that, too. It turns out to be very attractive.
All in all, the LA Times Festival of Books was a lot of fun — and very excited about graphic novels! We hope we get to go back again.