Where can you find the biggest literary festival west of the Mississippi? Where can you listen to the likes of T.C. Boyle, Gore Vidal, Maxine Hong Kingston, Jane Smiley, Aimee Mann, Steve Almond (and more!) in one place? Where can you visit hundreds of writing and arts organizations lined up booth by booth? Where are you going this weekend?
If you answered the LA Times Festival of Books, then right you are. This weekend the literary world will descend upon the UCLA campus for two jam-packed days of panels, conversations, and opportunities to hobnob with writers, publishers, and editors— not to mention your classmates and us (stop by the Writers’ Program booth by Royce Hall!).
The event will feature many Writers’ Program instructors, including Antoine Wilson, author of The Interloper, Leslie Lehr, author of Wife Goes On, and Bruce Bauman, senior editor of Black Clock and author of And the Word Was.
All three are literary pros who have navigated the Fest before. What do they look forward to most?
Antoine Wilson, who’s moderating a panel on surf culture, says: “Using my author laminate to hitch a ride on a golf cart. Spending too much money on books I’d never heard of before the event, especially small press stuff. Vegging out at the poetry stage. Bumping into a completely random author whose work I’ve always admired. My annual chat with Lee Montgomery, author of The Things Between Us and editor of Tin House and Tin House Books.”
Leslie Lehr: “the ambiance, the excitement in the air about books – the antithesis of what we usually expect in LA. The panel I’m on (Sunday at noon) is Writing From the Heart, a great topic because the most fun thing about writing is to do that, to have a voice about things that are meaningful to you. Students can see live how important reading is and the multitude of opportunity and style and craft.”
What can writing students expect?
Bruce Bauman, who will participate in the panel Fiction: Grace Under Pressure, says students “can get a vast array of the type of writing going on in LA and America. They can, if they listen closely, see how different writers work. Do not expect too much— there are no magic answers on how to write or how to get published. But there are good ideas and pieces of advice that you can pick up. You can learn from the experiences of others.”
If you are planning to go, take some advice from the pros:
Antoine Wilson says: “(1) Be patient. For some reason, people who read a lot don’t maneuver well in crowds. (2) Plan ahead, but be flexible. Pick a few booths you really want to visit and let yourself discover things along the way. Whatever you do, don’t try to browse the whole thing. (3) Not only are the panels worth it, they’re actually the main attraction. Find your way to a few. Wait in the standby line if you have to. (4) The poetry stage is a hidden gem. (5) Hat, sunscreen, snack, water, big bag for hauling books home.”
Bruce Bauman says: “Don’t try to see everything. Come to the panels with some of us less famous types. Read the LA Times Book Review the other 51 weeks of the year!”
Join us this weekend on the UCLA campus. Panel tickets are on sale now via Ticketmaster. Check out the full panel schedule at latimes.com/extras/festivalofbooks.
Corey Campbell is the Program Representative for online creative writing courses.