The LA Times hosted its annual Festival of Books on April 23 and 24 at USC. Considered the nation’s largest literary event, the Festival of Books took place in person for the first time since 2019.
According to the Festival of Books website, approximately 150,000 people attend each year. This year was no exception with thousands of people attending both days.
The festival featured over 550 authors, poets, artists, chefs, celebrities and musicians who participated in scheduled panels or partnered with local businesses to advertise their work. Some speakers included activist and U.S. inaugural poet Amanda Gorman, investigative journalist and author Carl Bernstein, and actors Terry Crews, Valerie Bertinelli, Josh Peck and Billy Porter.
The event kicked off at 10:00 a.m. with a performance from the Trojan Marching Band. Afterward, attendees could peruse the hundreds of booths erected around campus.
Some booths included sponsors of the festival, as well as independent authors, bookstores and publishing companies. Attendees could also attend live panels taking place at the various outdoor and indoor stages. Speakers and panelists discussed a variety of topics, from writing during the pandemic to women who changed history to vegan cooking.
For the expansive Young Adult audience in attendance, there was a YA stage dedicated to the latest YA fiction authors. Here, fans could pose questions to their favorite authors and wait in line for book signings following each panel. Several prominent YA authors took the stage for a range of discussions on fantasy writing, queer romance, and coming-of-age themes, and a few even distributed advanced readers’ copies of their upcoming novels.
In a panel titled “Magic and Myths,” writers Victoria Aveyard, Daniel Jose Older, Tahereh Mafi and Allison Saft talked about world-building, creating realistic and relatable characters, and incorporating themes of self-discovery and teenage independence — hot topics in the writing community. Another panel, featuring authors E. Lockhart, Rektok Ross, Gretchen McNeil and April Henry, discussed the components of strong thriller writing.
The festival was not only a fun opportunity for fans and readers to connect with established authors and celebrities, but it was also a formative experience for young writers looking to enter the industry. With over 50 publishing, editing and marketing companies present, the event made the process of reaching out to publishers and learning about the industry more accessible.
One publishing group, Acorn Publishing, was advertising its unconventional approach to the publication that combines the benefits of traditional publishing with the freedoms of self-publishing. The company, which accepts almost every genre of writing, works with independent writers and is interested in representing younger authors.
“My business partner [Jessica Therrien] and I started this company as writers, [and] we feel that it is really important that writers are running the show,” Holly Kammier, co-founder of Acorn Publishing said. “We know…what it feels like to be a writer and to be vulnerable and put your work out there and how scary the process can be the first time you go through it. We would love to have more younger authors, too. The idea of having high school students that have written YA books I think would be wildly popular with readers.”
In addition to the resources available for young writers to browse, the festival also provided a great platform for debut and independent authors to publicize their works. For many writers, this can be an especially difficult stage of the publishing process.
Putting your work out in the world can be one of the most challenging yet fulfilling aspects of being a writer, Jason Primrose, author of the “Lost Children of Andromeda” series, said
“It was really powerful to be able to create something that stands out in the market,” Primrose said. “I’ve had this story since I was nine, and being able to hold my book and tell people about it…it’s kind of surreal.”
The festival proved a positive experience for writers and readers alike.