Stefani Sloma

Authors Are My Celebrities: The Decatur Book Festival

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If you’re anything like me, you get way more excited about the opportunity to meet one of your favorite authors than you would get for the latest pop star. Then if there is the opportunity to meet several of them, and even interview a couple of them, you have an inner nerdgasm as you attempt to keep calm. This past weekend, I went to the Decatur Book Festival in Decatur, Georgia and met several celebrities of my favorite authors.

The Decatur Book Festival, held every Labor Day weekend, is the largest independent book festival in the country. Over 600 authors and more than 60,000 people gather in downtown Decatur for a weekend of author panels, readings, signings, and fun, fun, fun!

First impressions

When I arrived on Saturday morning, it was to a bunch of people, a sea of white tents, and a ridiculous amount of heat. If you’ve ever been to Atlanta in the summer then you know it’s called HOTlanta for a reason. It was outrageously hot and I may have gotten a little bit burnt. But with my press pass I was able to cool down in the author hospitality area, where the authors could recharge (both themselves and their phones/laptops), meet with other authors, conduct interviews, and have something to eat.

Some highlights

This is where I had my first highlight of the weekend: I interviewed Jennifer E. Smith (author of several books, most recently The Geography of You and Me). She was lovely and brilliant and gave me some insight into her new book! Look out for my interview soon!

After I interviewed Jen, I had my second highlight of the weekend: I interviewed Maggie Stiefvater – who is one of my absolute favorite authors, so as you can imagine, this was basically a dream come true. I interviewed Maggie at what is probably the cutest book shop I’ve ever seen in my life, Little Shop of Stories. I had a blast talking with Maggie, and we played a short little round of bookish Would You Rather? That will also be up this week!

The Panels

I attended several panels over Saturday and Sunday. Since finding out about the festival, I’d been looking forward to the “Map of My Heart: Love Stories” panel featuring Isabel Gillies, Stephanie Perkins, Adi Alsaid, and Jennifer E. Smith. They didn’t end up talking too much about travel or the places in their books, but they did get asked probably my favorite question and answer of the festival:

Elizabeth Lenhard, moderator: Are you thinking about your teen readers? Or are you thinking of everyone? Or are you thinking of these adult readers out there, and does that affect how you’re writing at all?

Adi Alsaid: [after some other stuff] I never heard of people asking young adults why they would read an adult book when the character’s not a young adult. I don’t think that really matters, as a reader. I think we just want to connect with a story and a character, and it almost always is someone unlike ourselves, so why would the age matter?”

As an adult reader of a lot of young adult literature, I really loved this answer.

Another highlight of the weekend: after the “Map of My Heart” panel, I met Stephanie Perkins (who I LOVE), and I told her that Cricket Bell (love interest in Lola and the Boy Next Door) was my favorite boy out of the three; she told me she loves when people tell her that because he’s the most kind-hearted and sweet of the three.

The weekend wasn’t just about panels though. There were also hundreds of booths with exhibitors, publishers, authors, and artists. ListenUp Audiobooks followed me on Twitter the week before the festival, and I found out that Daniel Thomas May (Allen on The Walking Dead) was going to be at their booth on Saturday, so I chatted with him for a while about the different between the comics and the TV show.

Twitter really is a great thing, you guys. Both Jennifer Mathieu (The Truth about Alice) and Adi Alsaid (Let’s Get Lost) recognized me from Twitter – I’d tweeted my reviews of their books. How cool is that? In fact, Jennifer Mathieu followed me on Twitter after I met her in person.

Final thoughts

If you couldn’t tell, I had an absolutely amazing weekend full of stories, authors, books, and happiness. I ended up with a grand total of 13 signed books (plus one signed ARC)! I met some of my favorite authors (Stephanie Perkins, Maggie Stiefvater, Jennifer E. Smith, and more), plus some debut authors that I really like (Adi Alsaid, Jennifer Mathieu, etc.). Honestly, if you weren’t there, you missed out. I can’t wait to go again next year! Other than the almost unbearable heat, I thought that the festival was wonderful: the set up made it easy to move around without feeling like you were in the way; there were over 15 stages with authors from all genres; everyone who worked for the festival or volunteered was exceedingly friendly (I even had someone write me a note that I needed to move to Decatur so it was an official statement). As I mentioned earlier, my interviews with Jennifer E. Smith and Maggie Stiefvater will be up on WPR this week – make sure you look out for those!

 

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