Last year was my first year to attend any type of book event; I went to the Texas Teen Book Festival—then called Austin Teen Book Fest—and met my favorite author ever, Brandon Sanderson. I also met several other authors whose work I enjoy, and got books signed. I arrived around noon, bought books, and attended two panels in the afternoon, then went through five signing lines and had a great time. The event was indoors, at the Austin Convention Center.
This year was considerably different. The festival had much higher profile authors, and a much worse set-up. The panels were inside at St. Ed’s university—somewhere. I’m not even sure where. I arrived early in the morning, around 9 or so, and I had to stand in line for about an hour and a half—missing the panel I most wanted to see—just to be able to purchase my books. Once I did that, I immediately went to stand in line for a signing; the signings were dispersed throughout the day this year.
I was accompanied this year by my mom, in large part because of the number of books that I brought to the festival to be signed. We ended up with a suitcase and a rolling cart full of books, enough that I would have been even more miserable throughout the day if I had had to carry all of them by myself. My mom is the best. 🙂
At the first signing, I managed to meet William Ritter. His book Jackaby was recommended to me by my friend Jessie, over at Jessie Reads Everything, who actually sent me her copy to get signed and bought me a copy. I haven’t read it yet, but it sounds like I will really enjoy it, and I’m looking forward to it. Because this was Ritter’s first book, he didn’t have any kind of line, and I was able to walk right up to him and chat for a good 5 minutes, as well as have my picture taken with him.
It would have been enjoyable, except for the fact that, as you can see above, all of the signings were outside. In October. In Texas. I’m not sure who had that idea, but it wasn’t their best, not by a long shot. It was hot. It was ridiculously hot. They had to go out and buy those little picnic tents to cover the authors’ tables because it was so ridiculously hot. I seriously hope they move the event indoors next year, or there’s a good chance I will not be attending.
After Ritter, I made my way over to meet Garth Nix. Nix is an author I’ve been a fan of for a long time. I grew up with his Abhorsen trilogy, and even though I haven’t read them in years, they—and Mogget—have a special place in my heart. Highly recommended, if you’re looking for YA fantasy. I had some 19 of Nix’s books, including a copy of his latest, Clariel, that I had just purchased, and one for my friend Jessie, who is also a fan of his work. His line was not unbearably long, and he had time to sign all of my books for me and take a picture. He was very nice, and we discussed his books while he was signing.
By this time, the first signing period was nearly over, and I only just managed to sneak into Sarah J. Maas’ line before they cut everyone off. Her line was moderately long—she certainly has her fanbase. I picked her books up on various friend recommendations, and… Eh. I’ll have a review up soon. I also had a book to be signed for someone else, so I’m glad I went through her line. Maas has her fans sign a copy of her book while she is signing theirs, which is quite an interesting idea when you think about it. So… One of her editions of one of her books is now signed on one of the pages by me and several other people from TTBF 14. She forgot to personalize 2 of my books (Though thankfully not the one for a friend!), and I can’t say I was too heartbroken. Also, she was signing at the table next to Garth Nix, and stopped in the middle of signing my books to go fangirl over his books.
After that signing, we carried some—almost half—of my books back to my car. Most of them were Nix’s books. That made the afternoon much more pleasant, though we certainly got our exercise in walking from the parking lot to the festival and back twice. We then ate an incredibly overpriced lunch at an on-campus cafe, and went back outside into the heat to wait for the rest of the signings.
My mom got in the line to get several books signed by Marie Lu. I’ve heard good things about her, but I’ve not read her books, and two of the books I was having her sign were for friends. The line was long enough that my mom could only get four books signed herself, but the lady behind her in line was nice enough to take two of them to be signed, and so all of the copies were signed.
I went to get in line for James Dashner.
Yeah. He just had a movie out, and he’s incredibly popular with kids. His Maze Runner was a lot of fun, but I feel his later books have gone downhill, and his latest series shows just how much he doesn’t know about how computers and coding actually works. I still have all of his books, and I had something special I wanted him to sign. I think I got in the line around 1 PM, though it might have been a little earlier.
His signing ended at 2:45, as he had to go be on a panel. The line was cut off, and the rest of us were told we might be able to keep our spots for when he returned. We told the festival people that there was no way we were even remotely going to consider getting out of that line. So… I stood with my mom in Dashner’s line for a while, waiting for him to return. There was another signing before he returned that started at 3. While my mom kept my spot, I slipped out of line to see the last of the other authors I wanted to see.
I met Cory Doctorow, whom I felt sorry for. He was sitting at the other half of the table Dashner was sitting at, and while Dashner’s line stretched back over the hill and out of sight (still), Doctorow had practically no line. Because of this, I was able to chat with him for a while, and have my picture taken with him. I’m looking forward to reading his books, which sound like they’re right up my alley.
I then got to meet A.S. King, who also hardly had a line, though her books also come highly recommended, and when his line went down a bit, I stopped by to see Scott Westerfeld. He was also one of the more popular authors of the day, and there was a limit of 4 books to have signed by him. I had a bunch more of his, but I chose to have the Uglies series signed. He looked really tired and exhausted, and I honestly don’t blame him, after he’d had to sit out in the sun for that long. Because he was so busy/tired, I didn’t get to have my picture taken with him.
Back in the Dashner line I went, with still half an hour until he returned to start signing again. It was quite amusing to see the festival staff try to herd us into an orderly line; we all clumped together under trees in the shade, with gaps where it was really sunny. There was no way they were going to make us move… Some of the kids got quite creative while bored. One had chalk with him, and had some fun, but I think the best thing was the kids to my right who grabbed pieces of rock and drew this:
At long last, around 5, Dashner returned and started signing again, and the line inched forward. By this point, they had told us that we were only allowed to have 1 book signed by him, and that we weren’t allowed any personalizations. Some people obeyed those rules, but other of us, well… We were fine with everyone else getting personalizations, and we’d been in line for 4+ hours at that point, so dang it, we were getting what we wanted too. The secret to personalizations: Bring your own sharpie and post-it notes, write your name on them, and stick them to the title page. The author will appreciate not having to flip through to find the page, and he or she will usually personalize these books, at least in my experience.
I ended up handing some of my Dashner books to the kids behind me in line who didn’t have any—they were there with friends, and just wanted to see him. They were awesome, and took the books to be signed to me. It was around 6 by the time we finally got to the front of the line. I handed Dashner my special book, which he chuckled over and signed, then handed back. I got out of the way, and after a few minutes, collected the rest of my books. I now have everything except one of his Maze Runner and Mortality Doctrine books signed, and all but two personalized.
At this point, I was utterly exhausted. I had spent the entire day standing in lines, out in the heat, sweating. I had not managed to attend a single author panel, and I was ready to leave. My mom and I got out of there about as soon as we could after that. The event, overall, was a little bit of a letdown. The authors were great, and I am super happy that I got to meet and have books signed by so many of them, and that I was also able to get books signed for my friends. I just wish that it had been inside, and that the signings had been better organized and didn’t prevent me from attending the panels. If the event is outside again next year, I will have to think long and hard about whether I will be attending or not—and the ultimate decision will probably come down to which authors are at the event. Here’s my haul from the day. Quite impressive.
Oh, yeah, and that special book I had Dashner sign? I’m on a quest, and I’ll write more about it later, but for now, I’ll just leave you with the picture, which should speak for itself.