2006 National Book Festival

For the third year running, I attended the National Book Festival on the Mall in downtown D.C. I think I'm finally getting the hang of this thing. In past years, I was all about the free stuff (who doesn't love pens, bookmarks, and bookbags?) and ignored most of the author talks. This year, I went downtown with a plan of attack, I was going to hear three authors speak, have a book signed, see all the pavilions, and then sprint back in time for the kick-off of the Notre Dame game. I had it scheduled down to the very last minute.

Well, what do you know. My schedule, for the most part, when ka-blooey. Not in a bad way, though. It all worked out for the best in the end.

I stupidly followed the timing of the metro that WMATA.com gave me. Silly, silly Meghan. The website told me I would arrive at 9:45 a.m., the first talk I wanted to attend was at 10:00 a.m. This would have worked out perfectly. Instead, I arrived at 9:15 a.m. I could have slept in for another 45 minutes! Oh well, I wandered around the pavilions at that point, seeing everyone set up. Since that did not take long, I found myself a set at the "Mysteries & Thrillers" pavilion and read The Red Tent as I waited for my first author to talk.

Since it was so early in the morning (read: early in the morning for a Saturday), the tent was pretty full, but there were still a few seats. My first author talk of the day was Brad Meltzer, the author of The Book of Fate. I've only read his book The First Counsel, but The Book of Fate is on my list. Let me tell you, he was a great way to start the day. His talk was funny, vivacious, and set the tone for a great morning. He opened his discussion with how Bulgaria loves him. Apparently, when he first arrived in the country, flashbulbs were going off left and right - he turned around because he thought someone really famous was behind him. This all makes sense considering he looks kind of like former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer.

Meltzer discussed his writing style, and how he could have the greatest plot in the world, but if the characters were flat, the book would be too. The Book of Fate began because he spent a few days with former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Meltzer also said that "if you recognized yourself in the book, it probably was you" because he gets all his character descriptions from riding the D.C. metro. "Kind of skeezy guy, balding, no chin - there's my villain."

Directly following Meltzer's talk, I bounded a few feet over to the "Fiction & Fantasy" pavilion to hear Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner, speak. I knew he would be popular, but I didn't that I would be stuck standing outside of the tent. It was amazing the amount of people who showed up for his talk, I don't think I've ever seen it that crowded. Then again, considering how phenomenal his book was, I should have expected that turnout - even with the rain drizzling down on those of use who were unfortunate enough to be outside the boundaries of the tent.

Hosseini spoke mainly about how his novel came about. Through his discussion about his own childhood in pre-Soviet invasion Afghanistan, it was clear that The Kite Runner is a semi-autobiographical novel. What was most surprising for me was how young Hosseini looked. His book is so deep and fraught with emotion, that it was shocking to see such a young man had written such a powerful novel. I was impressed by his articulateness and attention to emotion in both is novel and his discussion. Toward the end of the speech he answered a very popular question, "Where are the women of Afghanistan?" He answered that "They're all in the audience." (It was true that at least 80 percent of the audience was women.) Hosseini also stated that his next book would be about a mother/daughter pair set in Afghanistan. I am very excited about that.

There was a gap between Hussein's talk and my next author, so I walked around the festival grounds for about half an hour. Unlike past years, I went to the Festival alone, so there was no one to wait in line with me for a picture in the big book chair. I thought it would look odd for just me, a 22-year old, to be in line with toddlers and pre-schoolwork. So I skipped that this year. Instead I wandered aimlessly. None of the non-author pavilions held my interest, mainly because they were the same as in past years. I was handed a book mark with a star on top of it. Apparently, if you remove the star, soak it in water over night, and then plant it, forget-me-nots will grow. I am so doing that... as soon as I get my hands on potting soil and a pot.

The final author I wanted to hear was Vince Flynn. I ended up arriving back at the "Mysteries & Thrillers" tent WAY early, so I also heard Michael Connelly speak. And by speak, I mean drone. I'm sure he's a great writer, but he's not much of a public speaker.

Flynn's talk more than made up for me having to stand through Connelly. He was blunt, arrogant, hilarious, and outspoken. I loved every minute of it. One of his major points is that he thinks we do not give enough criticism in this country, particularly when it comes toward our children. "We should tell them when they're wrong, and then show them how to fix it." Flynn is non-apologetic about his political stances and that came across in his talk as well as his books. I always believed he thought himself to be the character of Mitch Rapp, and his talked on deepened that belief.

Flynn teased the audience by holding up the latest book, Acts of Treason, which does not come out until October 1oth. Evil, evil man. Very attractive man, but evil nonetheless. Toward the end of his talk, Flynn apologized for the ending of his last book, which made it seem like the Rapp series was over. He said, "I have three kids. Have you seen the cost of tuition at a four-year college? I can't afford to kill Mitch Rapp." The audience howled with laughter, and gave him a much deserving round of applause.

Following Flynn's talk, I power walked it down to his author signing line. I bless my speed-walking skills because I was about the thirtieth person in line - which meant I would easily make it back to my apartment in time for kick-off. I read in line as I waited, and then prepared to find something to say to one of my favorite authors so as not to stand there in awkward silence. I only spent a few seconds at the table as he signed by book, but it was great.

"Wait a minute, this isn't Consent to Kill." Flynn said. (Note: Consent to Kill is his most recent book.)

"Nope." I replied.

"Term Limits, eh? You're a true fan." (Note: Term Limits is his first book.)

"Indeed, but a true fan would steal that copy of Act of Treason." I shadily ask. The new book, not due out for ten days, was right there, staring at me.

*author pauses*

"I could give it to you." He starts to pick it up. "Nah."

"Drat!" I replied before thanking him and walking away. He laughed.

After ensuring my book was back in my bag, and no where near my wet umbrella, I walked back to the metro - I had a football game to watch.

Notre Dame won, by the way, even though I apparently slept through the third quarter.


Anonymous said…
OMG! I'm so jealous! I ususally catch this on Booktv, but someday I'm gonna make it there!

I read The Millionairs by Meltzer and like it ... faced paced action!

I do want to pick up the fates one too!
Gates Books said…
I want to read "Fates" too. My co-worker's husband works for a small publishing company and, at the last convention the two of them went to, she was able to snag and ARC of "Fates." I'm on the list to borrow it since the library's list is hella long.
Dr. Blogstein said…
Vince Flynn is THE MAN! I'm climbing the walls waiting for Act of Treason on Tuesday!
Meghan said…
I know! At the end of the last book, I thought the Mitch Rapp series was over. Boy was I glad when I saw this book come up on his website.