Welcome to my North Texas Teen Book Festival 2016 Recap! It was April 23, 2016 in Irving, TX. It is only the second year for this festival but it has grown so much from its first year. I will do my best to properly review this lovely book festival.
The festival was at the Irving Convention Center. It is a very nice place for an event like this and thankfully more of the center was used as opposed to last year. This festival was on four different floors. Let that sink in. Four different floors. That meant there was a LOT of walking and carrying of books up & down escalators. I heard a lot of attendees being confused where things were. They were upset about missing panels because they weren’t sure where GB3 was located. That’s fair if you hadn’t been to this center before.
What booknerd doesn’t love book sales??? Half Price Books provided the books again this year and they did a great job. They had (nearly) all of the books alphabetized and easy to find. Absolutely no complaints here.
Oh have mercy on me, lines. There were lines nearly everywhere you went. There was a line to get into the festival first thing in the morning. This year they did not open doors until 8am, which caused a huge backup/congestion of attendees. They were standing into the garage, which was almost blocking traffic. Last year they let us in to wander around before 8am. That way you could buy books or just get familiar with the building.
The organizers did something new this year where you had to wait in another line for signing lines tickets if you wanted to see one of three authors: Marie Lu, James Dashner, or Gayle Forman. Those tickets were going to be handed out at 11am, but with the way the crowds were going…. waiting until 11am would not be an option. I was in the book signing line with my new friend, Cherie (HI!! *waves*), at 9:30am when we chose to forgo any panels to sit in line for the ticket signing passes. Once I found out where the passes would be handed out, I sat down and saw many people fall in line after me. Somehow I managed to be first in line for the passes! But I clearly was not the only one who wanted these golden tickets.
That line wrapped around to the right of this picture and kept going. We found out later that they had 160 tickets to pass out. I had to be the muscle and kick people out of line for trying to cut in front of everyone, or asking if they could just hang out with us ignoring the hundreds of people that were already in line. The topic of Manners will come later in this post. Needless to say, I only got passes for the authors I wanted – Lu and Forman. I was trying to be mindful of the people who truly wanted to see Dashner and did not just grab all of the things.
The other line that is the real focus is the signing lines… but that will come later. Let’s just say that it was insanity, terrifying, and maddening in the worst ways possible.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to make friends at these events! Not only is it awesome to have new book friends in general, but you are able to have a partner in crime throughout the day! I drove to this event with the mindset I would be by myself all day. That was not the case! While standing in line for some swag, my new friend Cherie started chatting me up. I swear we became insta-friends! She was my better half on this day and I am forever grateful she turned around and asked me some weird question. 🙂 Cherie found a friend while standing in line to buy books, Han! Here we all around in front of the “Endless Stories” display. I’m standing really weird because the girl taking the picture did NOT get all of our books in the picture. If she would have, there would be about 7 large bags full of amazing.
Festivals are also a GREAT time to meet up with wonderful friends you don’t get to see too often! I ran into two of my favorites: Xander and Mary. ❤
Let me take a moment to talk about manners. This is something that should be common sense to everyone but it seems to have skipped some (a lot of?) people. I saw a tremendous lack in manners and common courtesy through the entire day. Not only in verbal manners, but physical as well. I was ran into, knocked into, ran over, shoved out of the way, and cut off more times than I can ever remember. Not one time did anyone stop to excuse themselves, it was all about them and clearly I was in their way.
Please always remember that the Golden Rule still does mean something and it works. I could use other phrases like, “You get more flies with honey than with vinegar” but you get my point. Being a rude, inconsiderate, screaming attendee is not going to make anyone want to help you. On top of that, if as an attendee you are rude to other attendees, you just lost any chance you had of me helping you. Just remember, you are not the only one at this festival. I am not saying I am better than anyone else, please know that, but when I asked for guidance or help from a volunteer, believe me when I say they were more apt to want to help me than if I had started screaming at them. And they remembered me in a good way! I would run into the same volunteers later in the day and they would ask if there was anything they could help with. That was amazing.
Also, please do not ask or assume you can cut in line with someone that you do not know. We had this happen many, many times while waiting for signing line tickets early in the day. I spent a good portion of my time in line directing people away from cutting in front of us. I swear I came across as a bully but I’m not. Please know that I am not. One boy even asked if he could hang out with us. I kindly told him this was the front of the line and he would have to go to the end of said line. He said, “I know, but I want to hang out with you at the front.” No, sweetheart, that is not how this works. Another girl pretty much begged us to get her book signed for her by one of the authors. Sorry, but that doesn’t work either.
I was only able to attend about 1.5 panels throughout the entire day. I spent the rest of my time in lines or grabbing lunch. One panel I attended was really good and I enjoyed it a lot. I felt bad for Marie Lu, who was on this panel, as the poor girl was mobbed by fans before the panel started and then had to be escorted out by security.
Now we get to the topic that you really want to know about (unless you have really been curious about the entire day). I know, you are probably like me and want to know about the authors and the rush of meeting these awesome people. Yes, it was a rush but it was more terrifying than anything. I don’t mean meeting the authors was terrifying… the 1.5 hours leading up to the signings were terrifying. I have never been involved with a mob rush before, but I can now say that I have. My friends and I did what we were supposed to do: we sat by the door that was going to open and let people into the signing area. This year, it was in one large room, not like last year where it was in three different areas. About 45 minutes before the doors were supposed to open, things got really scary. With no communication and out of nowhere, there was a mad rush of thousands of kids running to the far side of the convention center and they were all screaming at the top of their lungs. Try to picture that. Thousands of screaming kids running. I had no idea what was going on but it was truly horrific. I found myself smacked by book bags and more bodies than I care to count. We found out later that the kids/teens mob rushed to the far side of the center because someone told them the line to get into the signing area was moving over there, where everyone would be put into another line. If you did what you were supposed to and waited by the doors, You. Were. Screwed. You lost your place in line and you found yourself at the end of an 8,000 person line. And with only an hour and a half for signings, that meant you were pissed and screwed. Kiss any and all chances of meeting the authors goodbye.
Now, I want to say that I am sure that the line was moved for the safety of everyone because one cop walked by at one point and was a d-bag yelling at kids, telling them to get out of the hallway because they were blocking the walking path. I am all for rules and safety, but screaming like that was not necessary. If there had been an emergency and medical needed to get to someone, they were simply not getting through that crowd. But herding us into another line and only letting 20 people into the signing area at a time was not making anyone happy. I found out later that the people at the back of the line were forced to stand outside of the building and were out there for almost an hour, waiting to get in.
My friends and I were invited us to stand with another group of friends I made earlier in the day . Here is the roped line inside of the signing area – and this was to get into the author signing area:
In front of me
I did not see the lines beyond this room but I heard it was a nightmare. It still took me 20 minutes or so to get into the actual author signing area and I swear to you – I did everything reasonably within my power to make the most of my time. I was still very nice to everyone. Even the occasional author that walked by and remembered who I was! Here we are with Becky Wallace herself. I truly adore her.
Here is who I was able to meet once I made it past the ropes:
Gayle Forman was my first stop. The author next to her stole my thunder when I thought I was the first person to meet Gayle, when in fact I was the second. You will notice that I held to the two book rule, but am kicking myself. I noticed later that people were giving her (and others) 5-6 books to signed. I gave up having her sign two books to stick to the rules. It appears I was the only one.
Jodi Meadows. I popped over to her table to have her sign my ARC of My Lady Jane
Caragh M. O’Brien. She was such a delight to meet!
Marie Lu (!!!) Sorry the picture is fuzzy. We were given NO time to take photos, even if they were awkward off to the side photos.
Carrie Ryan (!!) She was so adorable! I loved chatting with her.
Amy Spalding and Jessica Spotswood. I was moving pretty quick through the signing lines so if I had the chance to get a photo with both authors, I jumped at it. Both of these ladies were just lovely.
One of my dear favorites – Victoria Scott! (TX will miss you, my dear)
Brodi Ashton and Victoria Aveyard. I was getting ready to take this picture and told Victoria, “Just so you know, I’m getting you in this photo”. She laughed and did her best to pose. She was so in demand at this event.
Rachel Caine was a doll! She was so excited to meet everyone!
Jessica Brody and Julie Buxbaum. I adore these two! They were both such amazing people.
Cynthia Hand. She was another delightful author to meet. 🙂
The ever lovely, Claudia Gray. She wanted to talk to me about her fanfiction. 🙂 If I had more time, darling, I would have let you talk my ear off about it. ❤
Andrea Cremer. She was so incredibly sweet!
Sarah Rees Brennan (!!) Sarah did tell me that she loves to collect her reader’s tears and wear them in a jar around her neck. I believe I love her for this.
Lori Goldstein (!!!!) I have been such a huge supporter and fan of hers from the start! I was over the moon excited to finally meet her in person. This had made my day!
If you are curious about how busy and crowded the signing lines were, here are two photos I took and these were at the end of the day. :-O
My Book Haul
Would you believe me if I tell you that I carried about 75lbs worth of books all day? My motto: go big or go home. I come to festivals on a mission and I get the most I can out of them. My bags for the day:
Here is a better view of all of the books I carried with me throughout the entire day (no regrets, btw):
After the maddness of the signing lines and various lines closing or being cut off early, this is what I actually got signed:
Notice a lot of my stack disappear, don’t you? I will openly admit that I am heartbroken that I wasn’t able to get to meet some authors that hardly ever come to Texas (Dallas or Houston). There were some books I was okay with not getting signed, but the rest really did upset me. I will count myself as one of the fortunate ones that was able to move through so many lines. Before the lines truly shut down, I saw many kids have to leave lines because their school buses were leaving. I’m sure there were some people that didn’t get to meet anyone.
The swag I walked away with (if you want swag, we should talk. I have TONS)
Fast Pass/Super Fast Pass
This was new for 2016. For $100 you could buy a Fast Pass that got you to the front of 10 signing lines. For $200 (or $250?) you could buy a Super Fast Pass and get to the front of 25 author lines. I see pros and cons to both. I did not purchase either of these (I don’t have that kind of disposable income) but I can tell you that after standing in one line for 20 minutes at the end of the day to see the last author that was there only to find out we hadn’t moved because four girls used their Fast Pass at the same time, it made me and the other people cranky. We gave up seeing other authors to stand in that line and making us wait longer was not enjoyable.
EDIT: Overall Thoughts
I love this event and will go back next year, and the year after that. I will scream it from the rooftops how much I adore and support this event. My opinions here are meant to be heartfelt and with no harsh tones at all.
I have now been on both sides of a book festival – planning and attending. I can only hope that the planners attempt to plan the author signings better. My personal opinion (as an attendee) is that the signing worked better last year. Last year there were three different signing areas and that let the attendees plan where to go and who to see without the congestion of terrifying kid/teen mobs. Maybe there is nothing that can be done to ease congestion if the number of attendees keeps jumping. That is a great problem for NTTBF as it means they are being well received in the book community, but it is horrific for the attendees as they have to sacrifice panels to get in line for something else.
Concessions/Food was MUCH better, thank you for having multiple areas for people to get food. Last year I waited with my friend Mariah and her now husband for over an hour to get a $7 sandwich.
I urge everyone to try to attend this if you can, but either go with a friend or make friends there. Remember – BE NICE TO PEOPLE. It will get you farther than you think it will. Have some sort of game plan. If you have to sacrifice panels to stand in line, ask yourself if it is really worth it to you. If the answer is yes, there you go. I skipped panels to get tickets to Lu/Forman and I do not regret this decision.
Addition: The one question I asked to every author – every single one of them – was if they were having a good time or not. I feel this is important to mention because all of them, every single one of them, had the same response, “This festival is amazing!” They never saw what we, as attendees, saw. They didn’t experience the complete terror that was a rush of thousands of screaming kids/teens, but maybe that is a good thing. These people get noticed almost everywhere they go so I’m sure things being quiet on their side was a good thing. If they have a great time, they will tell others, who will tell their managers/publishers/etc, and that is always a very good thing.
So tell me, did you attend this event? Or would you attend this event? What are you thoughts on everything I laid out about the day? I want to hear from you.