If you’re a regular Pratt Chat reader, or if you tried to drive through Mt. Vernon during the last weekend of September, you probably already know about the Baltimore Book Festival. Still being relatively new to Baltimore, this was only my second time attending the festival. I enjoyed myself when I went before, but I didn’t plan out my visit, so I missed the panels I really wanted to see. This year, after looking at the schedule and lamenting the fact that I couldn’t see everything, I decided to attend on Friday evening and go to the “Once Upon a Slightly Different Time” panel in the Children’s Bookstore Stage.
Six authors were part of the panel: Ellen Datlow, Michael Buckley, Sarah Beth Durst, Shannon Hale, Jessica Day George, and Adam Gidwitz. I was already a fan of several of these authors, and I knew that they were all involved with fairy tale retellings, a genre that I’ve loved ever since reading Robin McKinley’s Beauty in elementary school. The topics they discussed ranged from inspiration to familiarity with the original tales to how long it takes to write a whole book. People in the crowd—many standing because the chairs were filled almost half an hour before the panel even started—asked questions and hung on every word of the engaging and hilarious hour-long discussion.
I was excited to find that the members of the panel would stay to meet the crowd and sign books. As I waited in line to get my own books signed and to say a few words to some of my favorite writers, I vowed to be cool. I’ve met a few other authors in the past, and each time, that elusive mix of effusive fan and mature individual seemed to elude me. I’m usually so excited that I just gush incoherently for a few seconds before deciding that a quick getaway is the only way to salvage the situation.
Writers are magical. They create entire worlds in their heads and somehow make me live there. If that’s not magic, I don’t know what is. Considering that, I suppose my slightly crazed reaction to meeting them is understandable. This time, I personally talked to two of the authors. The first meeting was typically awkward and embarrassing, but still one of the highlights of my grownup life. The second meeting was a complete success. I felt cool. We talked, we laughed, I got a great note in the front of my book. That night was one of the most enjoyable I’ve had since I moved to Baltimore almost three years ago.
Local blogger Aine Fey was also at this panel, and she wrote up a great post with her notes from the discussion on her blog Aine's Realm.
What about you? Were any of you at the festival? Have you ever had any good or embarrassing encounters with authors you admire?