Gaithersburg Book Festival

Yesterday was the Gaithersburg Book Festival. I had to skip volunteering at the library and wake up at 6-effing-thirty to drive there; there was a 15 minute window in which you could arrive to unload in front of your spot. The directions I had were a little wrong, which caused me to freak out slightly, and I didn’t have a proper address to put into Gillian–my own darn fault. I wasn’t able to get money out of 2 ATMs I went to, but luckily I had enough cash in my wallet for the day. But I am listening to an audio book I adore (City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare) so I wish the journey had been even longer! I got there a few minutes early (a good 3 minutes before SqueakyChu arrived with the parking pass I needed to have) and unloaded the 10 boxes I had at the BookCrossing tent.

My local BookCrossing group attends several festivals every year where we have a tent & table where we give away free books. Our spot this year was exactly the same as last year’s: on the corner by the street. It was great because we could catch people coming and going and we didn’t feel like we were taking business from any of the authors or groups in the middle of the festival who were selling books. There’s also a nice stone wall right behind our location, where we can set our bags, our books, and our behinds during the day.

I helped set up, counting the books I brought as I did so. Turns out I’d brought 473, which brought our total to a little over 1,700. When melydia showed up, 6of8 and I went to get her car and bumped (not literally) into MaryZee. We were able to plead our case and the book festival people let us drive through the festival to unload at our spot.

Setup took no time at all and, for the first time, we were able to put out the BCinDC banner I made on VistaPrint. It turned out to look so pretty; I’m proud of it :-) And, as you can see from the books in the children’s bins, we still have Choose Your Own Adventure books haunting us post-convention! A lot of the books we released at the festival to attendees were leftovers from the convention. It’s amazing how much space 12 boxes of books takes up!

I spent a few hours giving out books and, mostly, chatting with my BookCrossing friends. They’re such a great bunch; I’m lucky to have such an awesome local group. And it’s just so much fun telling people about BookCrossing and pressuring them to take awesome free books home to enjoy. Who doesn’t love free books? There was a lot of drama going on at last year’s festival, and I was right in the center of it. So it was a relief to actually be able to relax and enjoy the festival this year.

I went to explore the festival and pick some items up for my help_japan friend. I think I chose some nice items for her, but there was SO much going on at the festival! I talked a little while with a woman who makes beautiful art out of books that are falling to pieces. And I bought two gorgeous bookmarks (both of which are gifts) from one vendor who, I noticed while I was paying, was wearing a Don’t Blink TeeFury shirt I’d just bought and received in the mail a day before. So we fangirled over the Whoverse together for quite some time, in agreement with everything from how we cried during the last Christmas special to how hot Ten is. I noticed Mary Quattlebaum was going to talk, but I never managed to see her (though I don’t know if she would recognize me without the bright blue hair; apparently she didn’t say anything about BookCrossing to ResQgeek when he passed her earlier and he was even wearing his orange convention shirt). I went over to the Friends of the Library book sale and purchased a few Ghostwriter books (I later talked Ghostwriter & Square One with Ixion Squee!). And I caught sight of a poster with the author signing schedule for the day, which got me way too excited. Mary Downing Hahn, who was my favorite contemporary writers when I was a little girl, was scheduled to speak & then sign at the festival. I immediately went into the B&N and bought her newest book.

I gave away more books at our tent, saw a cat on a leash, talked with people, then got some lunch with FURBALL. We treated ourselves to some freshly squeezed lemonade which really hit the spot. It was FAR too hot and sunny out, making it pretty miserable at times. I’m glad it didn’t rain, for the books’ sakes, but the evil day star is not my best friend. After hanging out at the tent in the shade for a little while, I headed off for an hour to see Mary Downing Hahn.

The audience was made up of mostly young girls the age I was when I first read Mary’s books, their mothers or fathers, and women my age. She talked about her loves of art and literature and how her career as a writer came from those passions (though the children’s books she had hoped to write AND illustrate never came into being). She answered all the questions from the audience (favorite book she wrote: Stepping on the Cracks, which I wrote a book report about. It’s a coming-of-age story about children living in America during World War II, struggling with things like patriotism, deserting the army, friendship, bullying, etc. I remember being completely stumped when writing the report about this book and putting “Hitler” down as the antagonist LOL). And now I definitely have to finally read The Invention of Hugo Cabret, because she recommended it… and because it’s been on my “maybe I should track this down” list for at least a year.

After her talk, I headed over to her signing. The lines for other authors had 1-3 people in them. Mary’s had about 40 people. I waited patiently, in the blazing hot sun, behind two young girls (5th or 6th grade, maybe). I couldn’t help thinking about my best friend from elementary school, Courtney, and how we had devoured Mary Downing Hahn’s books together so many years ago. When it was my turn, I gave her my book and actually managed to keep my head (I’m CRAP at meeting people I admire; I always say the wrong things. Perhaps it’s for the best that I didn’t go meet Leonard Nemoy this past week with friends). Anyway, I told her that she was my favorite writer when I was a little girl and that she was the first author I had ever met in person, so many years ago at a little children’s bookstore called the Purple Crayon. She said she remembered it, and we talked a little about the demise of children’s bookstores and indie bookstores in general. Then I thanked her whole-heartedly for being such an inspiration to me when I was young and one of the reasons I started writing (probably one of the reasons I adore writing YA so much as well). She wrote a beautiful note in my book *hugs book so tightly* and hoped that I would be signing books at a book festival some time in the future. As she was writing, I looked down the row of authors signing and saw, about 4 booths away, a man standing there with an AWP tote bag. By the time Mary had finished writing and I was walking away, trying not to cry with happiness, the guy was talking to the author next to her.

So I went up to him, tapped him on the shoulder, and asked if he’d been to this year’s AWP convention (it’s a silly question, given the tote he was sporting, but I didn’t want to assume and what else could I say to break the ice?). He said he had and I introduced myself as the AWP webmaster. He excitedly introduced me to the author he was talking to and his friend and we talked AWP a while; they seemed impressed to have met me. LOL!

When I got back to the BookCrossing tent, TOTALLY on a high, I told them about meeting Mary (again) and about seeing an AWP tote bag (AWP was kind enough to give BCinDC their extra tote bags this year, and so all our convention attendees had them as their goodie bags, so all the BookCrossers knew exactly what I was talking about). I stayed at the table the rest of the day (lie: I went to get cold beverages for us once) and we (read: 6of8) did a great job of getting rid of all but about 150 books! We’ve never, ever had so few leftover at the end of a book festival. We done, us!

l-r: FURBALL, KateKintail, 6of8, nat4lee, Ixion, MaryZee

Afterward, we packed up and some of us headed out to Zio’s, a pizza place with the BEST white pizza I have ever tasted (granted, it’s the ONLY white pizza I’ve ever tasted, but it’s unbelievably yummy). I was such a good girl and didn’t snarf anything on the 3 minute drive from the festival to there (even though I passed a Civil War Trail marker sign and thought I probably hadn’t snarfed that last year). The six of us managed to finish almost a full 2 large pizzas while I regaled them with “behind the scenes” stories of the two volcanoes that had threatened to shut down the 2011 BookCrossing Convention (a union strike of sorts and then the government shut-down). I knew I needed to make the drive home, but it was tough leaving the restaurant at the end of the night. Such great times :-)