My name is Ardis and I am an avid reader and budding writer. I want to share my love of books with others. I work with kids and am interested in finding and creating books that will ignite the reader in everyone. Contact me at: ardis.atkins@gmail.com

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Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The 2nd Annual Bay Area Book Festival Roundup

This was a wonderful event in Berkeley, California over June 4th & 5th, 2016.  Northern California doesn't have a lot of big book events (not counting last year's ALA convention).  So I was so ready to immerse myself in this festival in downtown Berkeley.  This was a well-planned event with hundreds of authors, book panels, and cool, "only in Berkeley" moments.

Arriving by BART (public transportation), I found tents partitioned by interest.  There was Teen Town, Literary Lane, Writer's Way, Radical Row, and many other areas (someone had fun creating the names).  The festival was spread out over several blocks.  Everything was close enough to each other that I didn't have to walk too much, yet it never felt overly crowded, either.  I appreciated that so much.  I have been to other Bay Area street fairs that were wall to wall people which made it miserable to attend.

There was also a beautiful, 50,000 book art display in the park where people could browse (and take) books from the installation.  There was no cost, just people being able to take the books they felt they wanted.  This is taking accessibility to books to a whole new level.  I was very moved by seeing hundreds of people interacting with this exhibit.

Books were everywhere!

There were a dozen of these book "houses" sorted by interest.
 There was even a rainbow house where all the books were sorted by color.

On Saturday, I attended a presentation by the author Caroline Paul and Illustrator Wendy MacNaughton to discuss their book, The Gutsy Girl.  I received a copy of the book from the publisher, Bloomsbury, for review, so I was excited to meet the creators of this fun book.

 Many people brought their daughters to the event, and I loved how wonderfully both Caroline and Wendy made sure to seek out the children in the audience and get them to participate.

On Sunday, my daughter and I attended a talk with fantasy writers that included V.E. Schwab!!!  I love her books.  I was really struck by how deeply all the writers were concerned by the lack of diversity in fantasy books these days.  They lead a very thoughtful discussion about how some writers make the excuse that they can't put people of color in their books because there weren't people of color in England in the olden days.  Not only is that false, but the panelists pointed out that if they can throw a dragon in mideavel England, they can include diversity as well.  Their lack of diversity is a choice, not a limitation they have no control over.  
This was also an introduction to other authors I hadn't heard of before.  Their books sounded really intriguing, so I made sure to buy their books and get them autographed!

Later in the day, we attended another panel where YA authors discussed and read from their new books.  This, again, was great exposure to some authors I hadn't known about.  The panel also included two writers I was excited to meet:  Nicola Yoon and Veronica Rossi.  I was struck by how soft-spoken Nicola Yoon was.  She seemed like she had lots to say, but everyone needed to lean in hear her because she spoke so quietly. We got to buy even more books and get them autographed after the discussion.

Finally, after that, we set off to get one more special book signed:  Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary Of A Part-time Indian.  If you haven't read this book, you should.  It is so moving and unforgettable that it is one of my all-time favorite books.  

I thought that his signing would be mobbed, but he was just sitting at his tent with only a few people milling around!  I was really nervous meeting the author, but he was kind and very personable. 

Overall, I think I acquired 13 new books (to be detailed on Saturday in my Stacking The Shelves post)!  What a weekend.  I walked a total of 10 miles, had amazing food (including Lobster Mac-n-cheese), and met so many authors I admire.  I look forward to next year when I can experience all this again.
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  1. This festival looks like an amazing experience. So much to do!

    I was interested in your fantasy diversity comments having not really thought about it before. Yes, not only were there certainly people of colour here in England then, but why does fantasy 'have' to be set in medieval England anyway? There's a whole world out there!

    Stephanie Jane @ Literary Flits

    1. Exactly! That is a trope that is all too common. Western bias?


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