Wednesday, April 4, 2012

UCF Book Festival Recap

Let me start off by saying that this event gets better and better each year. Though it’s only the third time around for UCF, their ability to coordinate inventive and interesting panels, attract world famous authors, and get the surrounding community excited about reading really indicates a tremendous effort and capability that just keeps growing and growing!

The events kicked off on Friday night at the Authors’ Reception, which was held at the stunning new Morgridge International Reading Center. This is a state-of-the-art facility that was a perfect backdrop for the reception. I arrived with Sandy and we were there to witness the unveiling of the signature painting that commemorates the festival; this year done by Fred Rosa and entitled Fountain of Imagination. While we were walking around and schmoozing, we found ourselves in the midst of a knot of amazing authors who we were delighted to speak to! Eventually we all decided that some noshing was in order, so Sandy and I packed a few of the authors into her car and went out for dinner. We got the amazing opportunity to dine with River Jordan, Rachel Hauck, Joshilyn Jackson, Marybeth Whalen, Karen White and Lisa Wingate, and had one of the best dinners I’ve had in a long time. There was laughter, silliness and complete literary goodness coming from our section of the restaurant, so it’s safe to say that the festival kicked off in an amazing way!

Saturday morning, my husband and I arrived bright and early and met up with Sandy, Heather, Jenny, Anita and Michelle. It was a day packed with panels and we were lucky to get to attend four great examples of the many amazing offerings that were available.

First up was Imperfect Justice with Jeff Ashton. Mr. Ashton was one of the lead prosecutors of the Casey Anthony trial, and he spoke about his book on the subject entitled Imperfect Justice: Prosecuting Casey Anthony. This was a stimulating talk and Ashton had the large audience eating out of his hand. He discussed his real feelings for Jose Baez and Casey Anthony and why he thought the jury came back with the verdict they did. There were many questions from the audience and Mr. Ashton answered them all in a witty and charismatic manner. He was quite different than I expected because his natural manner is rather jocular and witty, which is a different side than what he portrayed at the trial. All in all, I enjoyed this panel and made a note to go out and get a copy of the book for myself.

Next, a few of us headed off to our second panel of the day, entitled Writing Place: New Fiction from the South. This panel offered us a second visit with two of our dinner companions, Joshilyn Jackson and Karen White, in addition to new-to-me author Nicole Louise Reed.The short of it is that Karen White was poised and elegant, reading a bit out of her book The Beach Trees and fielding questions about her writing process, while Joshilyn Jackson was sassy, funny and energetic. She read a bit from A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty, and I swear, it was like listening to the audiobook all over again! Joshilyn spoke about what keeps her writing and a bit about her characters. Nicole Louise Reed was also amazing and shared a bit of her upcoming book, So There! It was a very interesting excerpt and had a few of us talking about it after the panel.

Next, the girls and I attended the panel entitled Tragedy and Triumph: Celebrating Nonfiction. Our authors for this panel were Sheryl Needle Cohn, who told the story behind the creation of her book The Boy in the Suitcase; Allan Wolf, an amazing innovator who penned the stylistically unique The Watch That Ends the Night: Voices from the Titanic; and the wickedly funny W. Scott Poole, author of Monsters in America. Listening to how these three authors got the inspirations for their work and some of the strange but true tidbits that made their way into the pages was an absorbing experience.

The fourth panel was called Stories from the Ladies of the South, where we were entertained by some more of our dinner guests: Marybeth Whalen, Rachel Hauck, Lisa Wingate and River Jordan. Listening to these ladies speak was wonderful because they all know each other well, so the conversation was very natural and felt organic and cozy. I had a great time at this panel and felt that each of them did an amazing job representing not only their work but themselves as well. They each had interesting perspectives on the process of writing and what works for them individually.

Last but certainly not least was the late afternoon panel: Embracing Imperfections through Young Adult Literature with Ellen Hopkins, Jessica Martinez and Ty Roth. This was a very intriguing panel that dealt with the censoring of young adult literature, the power that YA books can have over their target audience, and the real-life events that pushed each of these particular authors to write the books that they featured. It was a very enlightening panel, and the room was packed, with some attendees seated on the floor.

After this last panel, all of the bloggers decided that we’d like to go out to dinner to catch up and review the day as well as get the chance to catch up with each other. We were all excited to hear about Michelle and her husband’s baby who will be arriving very soon, and to get the chance to talk a bit about books as well as our lives and families, including pets! It was a great time to decompress with friends.

I have to say that I was really inspired by how many people turned out for the event and hope that this festival continues to grow as the years progress. It’s become something that I eagerly anticipate each year, and this year was no exception. The chance to mingle with authors, bloggers and people who love reading is one of the many reasons I love doing what I do, and I can’t tell you how much fun I had at this one-of-a-kind event. I’m looking forward to next year’s festival and hope that perhaps a few of you will be there with me too!

16 comments:

bermudaonion said...

That sounds like such a wonderful event. I'm glad to see fairly young book event like that growing. I was with you in spirit!!

Nymeth said...

How fun! The fourth and fifth panels sound particularly interesting to me. It's awesome that got to go and spend time with fellow interesting bookish people.

Jenners said...

It just sounds like an amazing festival that has come into its own. I'm so glad you were able to be a part of it in such a wonderfully involved way!!!

Beth F said...

This sounds like one fabulous event. And it looks like it has a promising future. Plus you got to meet up with some great women bloggers.

Harvee said...

Fun time with authors! Sounds like a good time!

Sandy Nawrot said...

So. Much. Fun. And right in our back yard...we don't even have to drive seven hours to get to it. Great job on the recap - it was a fabulous day and I look forward to many more!

Mary (Bookfan) said...

What a wonderful opportunity to meet authors and hear about their books! Sounds like it was a fantastic event.

Suko said...

Wonderful post! This festival sounds absolutely terrific. What fun to "wine and dine" with well-known authors and book bloggers! I love how you arranged the text and photos.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

It's really fun when like Sandy says it's all right there in your backyard! Sounds like a great time!

Darlene said...

Great post Heather! I'm glad you had fun. I'd have loved to have been there

Amy said...

I understand why you love this festival! You met such great authors and I cannot imagine how much fun you had at the dinner with authors and bloggers. You attened some fantastic panels, too. I'd really like to get to this Festival one year.

Thank you for sharing your experience!

Athira said...

I've been curious about this event ever since you first talked about it. Thanks for sharing this post! Looks like you had so much fun at the event.

Lisa said...

Sounds like a fantastic time and you got to see/hear so many interesting authors. So jealous!

Stacy at A Novel Source said...

I am going to keep this festival in mind...sounds like y'all just had way too much fun! And omg, to hear from the prosecutor in the Casey Anthony trial, I would have given my right arm for! Ok, did anyone ask whether he thought she did it???

Thank you for sharing your experience with us...I really would like to join you gals next year.

Jules said...

Sounds like you had a great time. There aren't many festival like this by me, and the ones they have are always at a time that makes it difficult for me to attend. Some of the panels you got to sit in on sound interesting.

nomadreader said...

This event sounds fantastic! I need to investigate what book festivals might be going on near me--your reports always make me jealous!

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