One of my favorite events of the year is fast approaching: The National Book Festival. Put on by The Library of Congress, it unites authors and their readers.
The format has changed over the years. Until recently, it was held outside in Washington, D.C. on the West Lawn along the National Mall. I have many fond memories ducking in and out of the tents, listening to authors like Lois Lowry, Diana Gabaldon and Neil Gaiman – riveted as they shared their passion for writing with thousands of eager fans.
As it was an outdoor event, we sometimes had to brave the elements. Rain wasn’t enough to stop me from listening to Katherine Patterson, even if I didn’t have a seat and I was soaking wet, standing in mud. There is a palpable excitement that exists among like-minded people who love reading and writing that not even fifty-degree weather and pouring rain can erase.
The festival is now held in the Walter E. Washington Convention Center – still in Washington, D.C. – but it is no less magical. Instead of speaking in tents, the authors and illustrators speak in large rooms which can hold twice the people. And as if having the chance to hear your favorite authors talk about their work wasn’t amazing enough, the festival also offers book-signings, performances, discussion panels, and my personal favorite – The Pavilion of States. Each state showcases up-and-coming authors and literacy movements in their area. It is a treasure-trove for teachers. I walk away with posters, bookmarks, pens, pencils, and a myriad of other freebies that I still use every year.
Last year, I stumbled upon Scholastic Books who was giving away free, hardcover, young-adult novels. My heart stopped and I dashed to get in line, jumping up and down like a child. In my opinion, there is no better gift than a free book. I also had the opportunity to hear Stephen King speak. Ever seen a grown woman geek out when one of her favorite authors of all time walks onto the stage? You would have if you’d been sitting next to me.
When I mentioned the festival to some of the teachers in my school, they had never heard of it, and so it occurred to me that, perhaps, there were fellow writers who didn’t know about the festival either. If you are in the general D.C. area, I highly recommend going. Every year I walk away with valuable writing advice. I’m inspired to kick-start a new idea. I’m reminded by the 200,000 plus people who attend, that reading and writing do still matter.
The festival is on Saturday, September 2nd this year. You can find me hanging on the every word of M.T. Anderson, Ernest Gaines, and David Baldacci.
Bethany Masone Harar is an author, teacher, and blogger, who does her best to turn reluctant readers into voracious, book-reading nerds. Check out her blog here and her website here.