Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The L.A. Times Festival of Books - Saturday

Well, I planned and I plotted and I made it to the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. I attended the festival on Saturday and it was simply amazing.

I have to start off thanking my friend Michael Alatorre because he secured my panel tickets. He sent me an e-mail earlier saying "good news and bad news." The first two panels I wanted to attend he easily got the tickets for, but the panel with Robert Crais sold out immediately. However, he said, I'm not giving up. There are still some chances that we could get in. Well, Michael got us in! He went to the festival first thing Saturday morning and snagged some of the tickets that they hold back from Ticket Master. So as my sister was driving us from Oceanside to L.A., he called to give me the good news. I literally squealed into the phone. Very unbecoming, I know, but I was excited!! Robert Crais is who ignited this who trip for me in the first place. I wanted to see him!! But here is the man who made it all happen, my friend Michael:

So, we arrived on the UCLA campus and parked. Then we headed to Dodd Hall where all three of my panels would take place throughout the day. The very first panel was at 10:30 and it was titled "A Dark and Stormy Night." The moderator was Lee Goldberg (who writes the Monk books based on the TV series) and the panelists were Jan Burke, Stephen J. Cannell, Robert Dugoni and yes, it is so, Craig Johnson! Here are a few pics, but the light wasn't conducive to pictures, so they aren't a great quality:

The panel started by talking about developing a series. All the panelists have series and none of them set out with the idea to create a series. Stephen Cannell had experience with series having written for several television series before starting to write crime novels. Craig Johnson offered up the advice that Tony Hillerman offered him, "don't forget, it's about the characters. That's the A-number-one rule." Robert Dugoni's advice was "every book needs to surprise the reader."

Lee pointed out that Craig Johnson's considered not just a crime fiction writer but also a literary writer. Craig responded by saying he feels that the readers are at a high level and expect a great deal from the books they are reading. One of the elements he values (surprise, surprise) is humor! He shared another tidbit of advice, a tidbit he received from his training officer when he was a police patrolman, "You can lose your badge; you can even lose your gun; as long as you don't lose your sense of humor, you'll be alright." I think he's doing pretty dandy in that arena. Craig said that when he starts a book, he looks for a social issue he wants to address through the novel.

When asked if they felt a need to "break out" or chance losing their jobs in writing, Robert Dugoni pointed out that people in the publishing industry need to remember they aren't competing with each other but rather they're on the same team. As he pointed out, "there are enough great books to go around." And ultimately, you have "write honestly." Stephen reinforced this point by saying it's about the quality of the books. If the quality is there, the rest will take care of itself.

When Lee asked the panel to address the issue of "the audience has seen it all," Craig started to describe the readers as "cheap dates" and then decided, "I think that's all I'm going to say about that." The entire audience was laughing. It was truly a fun panel.

Lee Goldberg did an excellent job as moderator, and the audience enjoyed many laughs throughout the hour.

After this panel, we had a little time to roam and check out the various booths. Of course there were many booths and we didn't see all of them, but I made sure to see the important ones: Mysterious Galaxy Books, Los Angeles Sisters in Crime, and the Mystery Bookstore's booth. The Mystery Bookstore piggy-backed with SoCal's MWA organization, where I bought a GREAT t-shirt. I'm going to have to check and see if more MWA chapters have great t-shirts like this. I say this as though I actually need more t-shirts!

I also especially liked this booth. A better message couldn't be expressed!

I'll finish up the second half of the day with tomorrow's post. Hope you'll check back to hear about my panel with Michael Koryta and of course the final panel with Robert Crais!

Happy Reading!


Jess April 29, 2009 at 10:42 AM  

Sounds like a wonderful trip -- I am so jealous!

le0pard13 April 29, 2009 at 11:57 AM  

OMG! I look so L.A. with those sunglasses in that photo! Hopefully, my T-shirt makes up for that. Since you can't really see what it says entirely:

Eat Right

Die AnywayYes, my wife doesn't think much about that garment.

Jen, nice summary of that book panel. I'm going to have to catch Craig Johnson next time. Sounds like an author I need to read. Thank you for the rundown and for your kind words.

Serena April 29, 2009 at 9:03 PM  

sounds like a great trip...I love Stephen J. Cannell!

did you get to meet up with the other book bloggers too? Hey Lady whatcha readin and Maw Books?

beauvallet April 29, 2009 at 11:40 PM  

I like your shirt, Michael, I can use it to rationalize my next donut.

You guys clearly had a wonderful time. Like Jess, I'm so jealous.

Kay May 3, 2009 at 9:16 AM  

Thanks for sharing your great time. I loved living vicariously through it!

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