Local Children’s Book Festivals

local children's book festivals

Why I Attend Local Children’s Book Festivals

I love going to local children’s book festivals like Pasadena Loves YA. It’s a small event, but mighty in author power.

Now, I have a massive packet due to my advisor at Vermont College of Fine Arts on September 20th. I got me some serious writing and revising to do. So why would I take the time next Saturday to attend this festival? Why should a writer who doesn’t currently have a book to promote spend precious time at an event like this?

Yallwest 2016: Local Children's Book Festivals
Yallwest 2016
The Power of Small Book Festivals
  1. Inspiration: I look at the authors on the panels. They did it. They got there. So can I. I use the panels as a chance to practice my self-supportive affirmations.  I pay attention to my inner monologue, and if any kind of negative thoughts come in, I revise them right away. Yes, I can. I will. I am doing it.
  2. Panel Tips: Not every writer gives good panel, and you can tell the pros. Public persona is a vital part of being an author, especially for children. We are our own press agents most of the time. Striking the right tone of approachability, cool, humor, subtle self-promotion, and safety is a fine art. Kid lit authors like Margie Stohl, Brendan Reichs, and Veronica Roth have mastered it. I go to panels at book fests to watch and learn, and imagine myself sitting on those panels and being just as awesome as those guys.
  3. Check Out the Market: What just came out? What did publishers buy about two years ago? What has been done, and where are the gaps? What do the latest book covers look like? What is the copy on the cover? Going to book fests helps me keep track of all this.
  4. Check Out Your Target Audience: Teen and kid book fans go to these festivals. Many of them get up and ask fun and interesting questions that show you where they’re coming from. Wait on line with tweens and teens for book signings, and you’ll overhear some great stuff. If you don’t have regular contact with the target audience of your books, here’s a way to see and hear them in action.
  5. Because I love YA, too. I keep lists of what to read next on Evernote, and maybe it’s obvious, but going to book festivals is one way to find out about that book I may not discover otherwise. See below for three great books I wouldn’t have read if I hadn’t gone to festivals.
  6. Great Topics: Children’s and YA Authors are smart folks, and they care about what’s happening in the news. At kid lit festivals you’ll typically find panels about newsworthy topics: diversity, bullying, abuse, and gender equality. Sure, there are also usually talks on unicorns and magic. Anything goes in YA, and Middle Grade is pushing the boundaries, too, so you are in for some fascinating panel discussions that are fun for writers and non-writers alike.
Great Books I Found at Book Fests

Here are some great books I may not have read if I hadn’t gone to book fests:

Scythe by Neal Shusterman
One of my favorites so far this year!

A great near-future dystopian sci fi with an awesome romance. Terrific high concept, and unforgettable action from a master.

The First Time She Drowned
A haunting read













This heroine must tell the truth to her family in order to get back her power. A dreamy and evocative tale with razor sharp characterization.

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
A master class in POV













The truth is a moving target when hindsight is twenty-twenty.  Who are the mean girls, and who are your true friends? This book challenges assumptions.

Pasadena Loves YA
Pasadena Loves YA
Book Festivals I Love

If you have the chance to attend any of the book festivals below, do it! These are in my area in Southern California.

  • Yallwest: from the amazing folks who brought us Yallfest. Don’t miss your favorite bestselling authors reading their juvenalia. You can pick up some free ARCs here, too.  Usually happens in April. Yallfest is in November this year (2017).
  • Los Angeles Times Festival of BooksThis mammoth event at the USC campus hosts so many panels on kid lit alone, you can spend all weekend listening to your favorite authors. See them all for free, or buy a VIP pass and register for your favorite talks in advance, avoiding the lines. Usually in March or April. I didn’t go this year because Yallwest was so close to it in time, and I know folks at Yallwest. Because I’m fancy like that.
  • Pasadena Loves YAThis is the smallest and briefest of the three, and the easiest to get in and out of. Great authors, too. At the Pasadena Central Library, where the architecture is lovely. Happens in September.

What are your favorite book festivals? Any you’d like to try? Comment below.

Book of the Day: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

The way it looked when I read it

I don’t think it was one book, but many, that saved my life as a child. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle was surely one of them. It made me want to be a writer.

I was quiet, sensitive and imaginative. We moved to a new town where the houses were bigger, the families richer and more status conscious, and the kids more cruel. By second grade all of the kids in my class already had friends, or at least other kids they traveled with that could protect them from the truly sadistic kids at the top of the heap. I walked into class on that first day with no armor and no allies. I dreaded the unstructured time of recess and walking between school and home. I never knew what kind of mean things the kids I passed would say, but I knew they would say something. For reasons I still don’t fully understand, it didn’t get better until seventh grade. That year I started junior high, a new school with a new group of kids who didn’t know I should be treated as an untouchable.

But in second grade, the picture books gave way to longer books with characters I could spend hours with all on my own. Book by book, I built a safe space inside myself where I could journey and be free.

Meg Murry, the heroine of A Wrinkle in Time, was awkward, wore glasses, and felt like a disaster just like I did. And her faults, it turned out, were her strengths. She was like me, which helped make it okay to be me. She had my name, too, a name I’d come to hate for all the ways other kids used it against me. Meg helped me take it back. She traveled to other planets, met magical beings, and found courage she never knew she had in order to save her family. I am pretty sure the minute I finished this book, I went back and read it again.

If anything I write does for one person what A Wrinkle in Time did for me, I would be happy.

Here’s how it starts:

It was a dark and stormy night.

In her attic bedroom Margaret Murry, wrapped in an old patchwork quilt, sat on the foot of her bed and watched the trees tossing in the frenzied lashing of the wind. Behind the trees clouds scudded frantically across the sky. Every few moments the moon ripped through them, creating wraith-like shadows that raced along the ground.

The house shook.

Wrapped in her quilt, Meg shook.

She wasn’t usually afraid of weather. —It’s not just the weather, she thought. —It’s the weather on top of everything else. On top of me. On top of Meg Murry doing everything wrong. 

This book was probably my first science fiction book ever. I still remember trying to wrap my mind around the idea that you could somehow fold space and time into pleats. I’ve loved time travel stories ever since.

Thanks for reading my post! Were there books that saved you as a young person? Which ones? Comment below!