~post by Julie W.
(photos courtesy of Julie’s phone & Texas Teen Book Festival)
We had a long, crazy, wonderful day at the Texas Teen Book Festival on Saturday, October 18th. This was a big year for us. The festival evolved from the Austin Teen Book Festival into the Texas Teen Book Festival as the Texas Book Festival became an official partner. It’s also the first year the festival was held on the campus of St. Edward’s University. We’ve been working with the Festival Director, St. Edward’s University and the Texas Book Festival for months to book authors, coordinate programming and promote the festival. We’re proud and grateful to be a part of this incredible day that brings together young readers and today’s top Young Adult authors.
Here’s a glimpse of the view from the book tent.
The day before the festival, we loaded up the U-Haul with many, many, many boxes of books and headed to our tent in a parking lot at St. Edward’s University. With the help of many awesome volunteers, we set up seventeen tables, unloaded nearly 6,000 books, organized books by panel and stacked them up tall. (Big thanks to the volunteers who stayed to the bitter end and counted ALL of the books for us before we closed up for the night, y’all earned all the gold stars.)
While we sorted and stacked books throughout the day, authors stopped by to sign stock. We try to have festival authors sign all of their books ahead of time, this way fans can go home with a signed book even if they miss the in-person signings during the busy festival.
Check out the crazy tower of Afterworlds Scott Westerfeld signed. This was only a fraction of the books Westerfeld scrawled his signature on that afternoon. Together, we were speed demons. I slid him the books and he signed without cease, like a pro, all while talking to one of the teen volunteers about writing. The next day, fans snapped up every single copy you see here, and then some.
When all the authors had come by, all the stacks were arranged and every single book had been counted, we locked up the tent for the night, ran back to the store and finalized details for the big day.
Our first bookseller arrived on site the morning of the festival in the wee hour of 6:30am, when the tent was dark and we uncovered the books by the lights of our phones. As the sun rose, we hung signs, set up our registers and got to work. From 8:45am until 2:45pm all of our registers were running at top speed to serve a long, long, long line of customers, many of whom waited in the unrelenting Texas sun to scoop up copies of books by their favorite authors.
The demand for books and the size of the crowd exceeded expectations based on our previous years at the Teen Book Festival. To everyone who had the patience to endure the long wait, thank you. We promise you we were scanning those books as fast as we could and are already making plans to speed up operations next year. The festival grew in a tremendous leap from one year to the next. We’re thrilled, of course, and preparing to grow and adapt for 2015.
The book tent was so packed with eager readers that the author signings were moved from our tent to the parking lot next to us. Topher, BookPeople’s Literary Camp Director and moderator of the Danger Is My Middle Name panel, made a quick run off campus to buy pop-up tents to keep the authors in the shade.
(Pictured: Will Ritter, author of Jackaby)
The day was a whirlwind for us. Somewhere around three o’clock the line parted and we lifted our heads, looked out at our tables and saw we had sold out of hundreds of copies of The Maze Runner. Where once had stood a mountain of Marie Lu’s The Young Elites and the Legend Trilogy were now only a few copies of Prodigy. We wiped the sweat from our brows, ate a few Nutri Grain bars and the pastries leftover from the breakfast we hadn’t had time to eat, and kept going.
While most of us slung books in the tent all day, two of our booksellers were holed up inside a secret cave in the Ragsdale Center uploading the live coverage of the BookPeople Teen Press Corps. Ellen and Ta’Necia polished and posted a whole, whole, whole lot of very excited teen reporting. View it all here. The teens did a terrific job covering the panels, interviewing authors and documenting the festival. They’re the best!
The Teen Press Corps wasn’t alone in tracking down their favorite authors. Demi and Jan slipped out of the tent to meet Garth Nix, whose latest novel, Clariel, they’ve been raving about. (Spoiler: Clariel is our featured Young Adult book in this year’s winter catalog, enthusiastically represented by Demi, our Kids and YA Inventory Manager.)
The Texas Teen Book Festival is an enormous undertaking. All of the planning and promoting lead up to two solid days of long hours, heavy lifting, and very fast book slinging. But, of course, every second is worth it. Why? Because of this right here:
At one point late in the afternoon, when the madness had calmed down and I could take a walk, I headed into the Rec Center to check out one of the panels. As I approached the door, a teenage girl came out and found her mother sitting on a bench. The girl threw her arms around her mother and, in excited tears, recounted every word one of the authors had said to her at the signing table. Her emotion was contagious. I welled up and walked inside where, in an auditorium that seats over one thousand people, four authors were holding court to the shouts, cheers and laughter of young fans.
Yes, the festival is fun, but its meaning runs deeper than fan bases and frivolity. Teenagers from across the state of Texas come to Austin once a year to feel even more connected to the books they love. They meet not only authors, but also fellow young readers who are hardcore enthusiasts for the stories that enrich their lives. There is no energy akin to the energy of thousands of teenagers absolutely stoked to meet authors. If the stacks and stacks of books in their hands are any indication of the future of this country, or at least the world of books, friend, we have nothing to worry about.
The Teen Book Festival is one of our favorite events of the year. We’re thrilled to join forces with Texas Book Festival and look forward to building an even better festival in 2015.
For more photos of the day, check out the Texas Teen Book Festival’s Flickr feed.
For coverage of panels and author interviews, check out the TTBF blog, where the BookPeople Teen Press Corps posted its live coverage.