"Yes, dudes and dudettes, major league butt-kicking is back in town!" -Michelangelo
For those not clued into all things awesome, that's a quote from the original TMNT. I saw a bunch of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles gear this weekend and kept thinking about one of my fave movies whilst having a blast at this festival.
I'm still pretty wiped out from it all, but it's the kind of kid-tired where you just keep running around because you're down for the count once you stop moving. That said, I'm still grinning like a madman over here at how much fun I had this past weekend.
I'm on my third cup of coffee, (apologies if I start to ramble), but I wanted to write down some fun stories, advice, etc. before I fall asleep again and risk forgetting them.
(Oh, and big thanks to YA author Caylen Smith for taking the below picture of me and sending it on. You rock!)
Okay, so I'm going to list these out as they come to me because my coffee's running low. In no particular order, here are my fave stories of the weekend:
Know Your Audience
Friday night, my adoring wife (Karen) asked what I would wear to the festival. Naturally, I revealed my Batman shirt.
Cue Karen eye roll. "Please don't wear that," she said. "We've been over this. You need to dress appropriately."
I reminded her there's a little thing called 'knowing your audience' and my audience is people who think like me...and we wear wicked cool Batman shirts (ahem, that my wife also purchased for me as a birthday gift, btw).
And you know what?
My Batman shirts led me to having some awesome conversations, like when two awesome girls approached me to do a video blog interview, (I'll share the link when they send it to me later on). To quote them: "We were wondering if you'd be up for a vlog before we came over, but we knew you'd be cool when we noticed your Batman shirt."
Aaron - 1, Karen - 0.
How age appropriate are your books?
It's a question I'm often asked. My general response is PG-13 and that my books have a darker bent to them. I also strongly feel that age appropriateness is subjective as I was reading Stephen King in 6th grade and loved his stories. Still, I err on the side of caution (even if it cost me sales) when I'm asked the question by parents with younger kids.
Yesterday, one short, skinny little girl with dark hair and bright eyes approached my booth with her mother. I put the little girl at somewhere in the 4th-6th grade range and, after asking if they were enjoying the festival, I inquired as to what kind of books/series she liked to read and some of her favorites.
She gave me some familiar standbys, (Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, etc.), and then she blew me away. "I've started George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice & Fire series, (more commonly known as Game of Thrones)."
Cue Aaron's shocked expression.
Her mom laughed at my surprise and told me her daughter has always loved reading and darker stories. They then purchased both Salted and Salem's Vengeance.
Little Girl, if you're reading this, email me. I'd love to hear more of your Game of Thrones theory predictions as you impressed the heck out of me. ;)
Gimme Some Sugar
I offered Dum-Dum lollipops for free at my table. It annoys some parents, while others are thankful. I loved seeing how many adults stopped by for them, particularly one older gentleman and his wife.
The old timer took two lollipops, thanked me, then offered one to his wife and said, "Hey, little girl, can I give you a little sugar?"
Annnnd then his wife blushed as he and I laughed.
Get ready, Karen. That's a picture of your future.
Saturday was wicked hot, especially in the afternoon.
People would stop by my booth and I'd see their face dripping sweat. Sales were down as people looked for shade anywhere they could find it.
That night, I came home and told Karen that, if I wasn't so tired, I should go out and try to rent a cattle fan to rig up in the corner of my booth with the air stream shooting down right in front of my table to cool people off and give me a second to chat them up.
Karen laughed and said, "You're such a 4-Her. I would've said industrial fan."
So don't get it twisted, Indy fans. I may live in Cali now, but I'm forever Midwest born and raised.
We met Aaron Galvin!
...said no one ever.
Heh. I didn't expect to see many familiar faces this past weekend. The wife and I only really knew a handful of people out here, so I was shocked to see two of my daughter's teachers approaching my table.
Odd as it may seem, in a sea of however many thousands of people were at the festival on Saturday, their paths crossed with Little Miss and Karen's. And that's when her teachers learned what Daddy does for a living.
They bought some Salem books for their book club (yeah!) and returned later with another couple of teachers. Apparently, they went up and had the following exchange:
"Oh my gosh, you're not going to believe it. Aaron Galvin is here!"
"He's this awesome author who wrote Salem's Vengeance. He even signed our books!"
"He's here today?"
"Yeah, you don't know who Aaron Galvin is?"
"No, should I?"
And then they clued her in on the joke.
I love it because I'm usually the one to drop our daughter off at daycare in the morning and typically pick her up too. I told her teachers for the past couple years I've joked with Karen that the teachers must be like, "Pssh. He's worthless. He doesn't do anything. Dude comes in here wearing his Batman shirts? Really?"
They were kind enough to say, no, they just thought I worked nights or something.
Technically, they weren't far off. I do often work at night, but instead of stacking boxes or working behind a desk, they now know Little Miss's daddy writes about witchcraft, slavery, killing people...
Hmm. I guess what I'm trying to say is: Please don't call child services. I promise my wife's normal.
Books Are Special
One of my absolute favorite things about this festival was how many times I heard parents mentioning the above phrase to their kids while I signed their books.
"Look, look," they would say. "You see what that man is doing? He's signing your book. When you're reading it later, you'll know it all came from his mind and you can say that you met him."
I like to think that I don't take things for granted, but quotes like the one I just mentioned above were a constant theme this past weekend and it's one I've continued reflecting back on. Not because I think I'm anything crazy special, but how fortunate I am (and continue to be) to witness how supportive others are and have been of my dreams.
One of the things that led me to attending the L.A. Times Festival of Books was the incredible Duffie family. I met them when we were all exhibiting at the Orange County Children's Books Festival back in September.
After learning I was new to the whole festival circuit, Chuck Duffie mentioned I should look into the LA Times Festival because he thought I would do well there. I was thrilled to see he and his talented, creative family again not far from my own booth this past weekend. I had meant to buy one of their books at the OCCBF, but didn't because I was still not sure on any secret rules of festivals and didn't want to offend any other exhibitors if I bought from the Duffie's, but not the others.
Anyway, I was determined to right that wrong this time around. I'm thrilled to say that this past weekend, I joined a host of others in attendance and obtained my first ever signed copy from an author.
Btw, you should check out Nara's book. I've read the first couple chapters already and she has me hooked. Did I mention she wrote this when she was eleven years old? Girl is amazing.
Salem Wars: The Return of The Readers
On Saturday, a younger girl stopped by to look at my books. She was stoked to hear I self-published, as her mom is an indie author also, and she then bought a copy of Salem's Vengeance. I couldn't believe it when I saw her return yesterday! She had already started reading the first Salem's book and wanted to buy the sequel and Salted. Awesome, right?
She wasn't the only one to do so...
I saw one young man at least three times both days of the festival with three different family members, all of whom were interested in my Salem books.
Then another pair of young readers each bought Salted and Salem's Vengeance so they could read them together. They returned to my booth later in the afternoon just to tell me they had already started both books, were 1/4 of the way through them, and loved them so much they had to come back and tell me.
I mention these stories not out of ego, but so that on the off chance any of those readers check this blog post, they'll have a small glimpse of how much that meant to me.
"We come to the festival to meet awesome authors like you!" was something I heard a lot this weekend. I thought that interesting because I come to the festival to meet awesome readers like those I mentioned above.
I don't know if readers truly understand how much their passion for books means to authors, or how what may seem such a simple act as coming back to say, "I love your book!" can fuel an author to keep going.
This past weekend certainly rejuvenated me. Without a doubt, I can say that I'll be going back next year.
I began this post with a quote from TMNT because that's how I felt leaving the festival grounds last night. But there's another quote that I love and think all the more fitting for how I feel today. It's one I think of often and have posted in my office to remind me when it's hard to see the forest through the trees.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” - Theodore Roosevelt
Thank you, readers, fans, the Duffie family, my fellow exhibitors, and everyone in between who helped fuel my fire again this past weekend. We'll see you next year, L.A. Times Festival of Books. ;)
Author. Actor. Rascal.