Friday, April 29, 2011

Festival of Books: Go In With A Plan

I remember the first time I attended the L.A. Times Festival of Books three years ago. It was overwhelming. UCLA is a big campus and there was something calling for my attention in every nook and cranky of it. I didn’t know where to begin and by the time I realized I wanted to attend a panel it had already taken place either earlier that day, or the day before.

Lesson learned. When attending a big event such as this, go in with a plan.

Here are some tips for navigating the festival (can be applied to other like events).

Look at the schedule ahead of time:

There are many different panels and such and their times overlap. You’ll have to make decision on what you’re interested in most. If you can only attend one day and can choose which, this is how you’ll make that choice

Procure tickets as soon as they become available:

The festival and the panels therein are free, but seats are limited so it would be wise to get tickets ahead of time. There's a dollar service fee for each ticket when you get them online, but say you attend three or four panels, that’s only $3-4 out of your pocket. Even my jobless self can afford that. And some panels do sell out so when the tickets become available a week before the even, swoop them up quickly if there’s one you really want to sit it on.

Write out your schedule for the day on one page:

Seriously. Not only to keep the events that you got tickets for in order, but more importantly to make allowances for the stuff you couldn’t get tickets for. You might not have gotten tickets for a particular panel, but you can line up to get in anyway. If there are open seats after the ticketed folks get in, you just might make it in there. But you’ll want to get there early so’s you can be in the front of the line. Also, if you want to stand in line for an author’s signing, that’s something else to configure into your day. I don’t know about you, but I cannot keep up with all of that without the aid of a pen and piece of paper.

Set a budget:

There will be all kinds vendors selling all kinds of stuff, most books and including of course, books at a discount (my weakness). Plus, you have to buy like four bags of kettle corn (my other weakness). Oh, and you might want to eat lunch while you’re there, if it’s gonna be an all day thing for you. Giving yourself a limit will force you to pace yourself and reign in your spending.

Wear comfortable shoes:

I’ve never been on USC's campus, where the festival has moved this years, and don’t know how it compares to UCLA but I think a lot of walking is still a given.

Grab a map as soon as you arrive:

Self-explanatory, right?

Check the weather:

It’s an outside event, and yes, it’s LA and the weather is usually fine this time of year, but nothing’s worse than being outside all day and wishing you’d worn pants instead of a skirt or needing a thicker jacket than the one you brought.

And most importantly, identity all locations where the kettle corn is being sold:

It’s another line you have to stand in and you might have to wait until you’re not rushing across campus for a panel to procure the warm, fresh, sweet and salty goodness.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

OMG! OMG! OMG! It’s Almost Time!

It’s the biggest thing happening this weekend! I’m sure you’ve been hearing about it for weeks, months by now but you never tired of the coverage. In fact, you got more and more excited about it as you eagerly waited, wondering if the day would ever come.

That’s right.

Animorphs re-hits shelves this Sunday, May 1!

(What else would I be talking about?)

Animorphs means so much to me that I am officially declaring next week, starting Sunday, Animorphs Week! Well, officially on my blog because that’s the only place I’m authorized to declare any week an official anything.

As a precursor to Animorphs Week, I’m reposting an entry from last December:

Dear Ms. Or Mr. Appleagete (originally posted 12/20/10)

A couple of weeks ago, someone extremely awesome sent me some very exciting news. Animorphs is making a comeback! The series will be once again seen in bookstores starting May 2011. I can’t possibly express how exciting this news is for me.

Animorphs was my first love. Sure, I had books I thought I loved before Animorphs came around and I’ve since said that I loved many a book, but I’m talking true love. Such a deep love that it can’t be contained in only one post, especially since just yesterday I found a letter I wrote to K.A. Applegate when I was in the 7th grade. (It was tucked away for safe keeping in a copy of that other childhood sweetheart of mine, Ella Enchanted). Apparently it’s the second letter I ever wrote Ms. Applegate, but this one didn’t make it out.

Of course, that’s because I was meant to share it with you thirteen years later.

September 6, 1997

Dear K.A. Applegate,

I Love Your


I just got finished reading Animporhs #11. And girl (or Boy) [Yes, I do now know that the “K” is for Katherine], you are tal-en-ted. I mean, usually [I] can read book after book, but after reading Animorphs I just have to take a break and say hmmmm… I honestly need time to recover. I can’t wait for #12 and The Andalite chronicles. I’ll be at the bookstore with a grin on my face and money in hand (hopefully) read[y] to buy the book. Yesterday, (more this morning) I read the whole book. I started at about 11:00pm and finished at about 1:00am. [I remember that night and that exact book! That was the weekend my family took our annual trip to Palm Springs.] I literally could NOT put the book down. I wrote a letter to you before, you probably get thousands and might not remember but I said stuff about I have ideas for future books and we should get together [on] starting a t.v. show or movie and my volanteering[sic] to play Cassie

because I [have] so much in common with her (even our names have somethings[sic] in common {I’m Cacy}), and I (he he) asked for an autographed picture of you and book (I’d still like to see those three things happen.) [Still waiting to hear back, K.]. I [know] right now you’re thinking, Gee, what a description, sarcastically.

Oh, I just remembered I sent three pictures, a half way finished Hork Bajir, a pretty good Taxxon and a retarded looking Andalite. And speaking of drawing, I drew those pictures for the art contest [I didn’t win– sad face]. Today my family and I ate at a chinesse[sic] food resturant [sic – geez, twelve-year-old me really needed to invest in a dictionary and/or learn to spell] and the fortune I got after dinner said,



I couldn’t helping thinking Animorphs [Oh, I get it. Like the animal instincts the characters had to contend with! Ha, clever twelve-year-old me!] And my dad’s been telling my sister to get a job all summer and her cookie said something about being a hard worker, so we had our he-he’s.

Maybe you can put the instinct fortune in one [of] you[r] book[s].

Marco and his dad (or Jake) can be eating chinesse[sic] food and after morphing into something then letting it take over he reads over the fortune cookie then he says, “Sometimes these things scare the cuteness outta’ me.” [I still think that totally could have been something Marco said!]

And I think that they should try acquiring, the Aliens (espielly[sic] the Visser) they can get Ax easily (if he lets them).

If they can morph into a yeerk, when Vissie[sic] Three gets out of the Andalite’s head for Kandra Rays one of them can sneak in and get into his head and run or morph into something big and V.T. is out of a Andalite host. Woohoo. [Wow! I was a violent-minded child, wasn’t I!]

The letter is obviously unfinished, which would explain why it was never sent. I can’t imagine what other awesome randomness twelve-year-old me would have had to say.

(And back to the present)

Oh yeah, and about that other thing happening like today or something. Seeing the same story on every channel and every show and every time I sign out of my yahoo account got old real quick, but sometimes even when you’re over an event’s constant coverage (Can we please stop calling it a once in a lifetime event? I’m pretty sure my parents and grandparents and lot of other people in the world were alive the last time something like this happened. Anyway, I digress…) Sometimes, even when we’re tired of hearing about the same thing for weeks on end, a little spark of awesome noses it’s way through the sea of sameness (I think I stole that last bit from a Disney Original Movie.)

Thank you, Neill Cameron, for existing.

Come back next week for the awesomeness of Animorphs, Adolescent Me: A Child Obsessed, a list of other favorite (mostly) alien stories of my younger years, and more

Thursday, April 21, 2011

In Need of a Good Shelf

Aaah. To be off my feet at last.

Several months ago I put up a post titled “Overbooked: A Hedonistic Tale of Excess.” I’m currently working toward a solution for the question posed at the end: where are all the books I don’t have room for on my shelf supposed to go?

Today, I’ve spent about twelve hours on my feet painting what will be the most awesome shelves to ever hold a book. If there are more typos than usual in this post despite it’s brevity that’s because I’m exhausted. I’ve been up ‘til the wee small hours almost every night this week working on my shelves and stuff. I can almost see the finish line.

Random image!

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs (who can do no wrong as far as I'm concerned) by Ryan Kelly

Too tired to procure a relevant image. But there are a lot of pictures in the post linked above, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Although I guess I could put up the latest drawing Jose posted over at that other blog I sometimes say something at. That would kinda be more relevant, right? Sorta?

Ta-dah! There it is. Gorgeous, ain’t it? It's for a story I wrote called "Of Nothing." I can't wait to see the rest of the images that go with this.

Okay. To bed with me.

Next Time: Prepare to be amazing by my amazing eye for amazing design!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Liquid Diary: A Few More Thoughts After Seeing a Borders’ Store Liquidation Through to the End (Pt. 2)

(I meant to have this continuation of my last post up sooner, but I unexpectedly started a new writing project on Monday. I know. You’re like, “But Cacy, I read your last post. I know you ain’t gots a job. You couldn’t find one spare second in all that newly found free time to meet a deadline of your self-imposed posting schedule?” To answer a question posed this week by Misty at Nothing Cannot Happen Today, how do I balance blog posting and an intense period of that other kind of writing? Not very well at all, it turns out. Anyway, Part Deux…)

As I looked at the empty shelves, the fixtures pushed to one side of the store, the big expanse of open carpet, I thought of what I’d learned while at this Borders. I don’t know if it’s just because I was at an especially awesome store, but working there made me an even bigger lover of books, and more appreciative of readers of all types. No matter what their genre or how completely opposite their tastes, book lovers all have one passion in common. It’s a passion for reading that doesn’t go away easily despite any changes the publishing industry will be forced to go through.

While at Borders, I learned about the little bit of influence a single minimum wage bookseller can have even though she is only a small cog in the big ol’ publishing industry machine. I understand why a stack of ARCs sat in the back offices. Customers do pay attention to what booksellers say, and to the Staff Recommendation bay.

But you know, booksellers also pay attention to what customers are saying. Okay, I shouldn’t speak for every bookstore employee, so I’ll amend that to I paid attention to what customers were saying.

I'll miss striking up conversations with customers and learning about the books they love. I’ve picked up certain titles specifically because a customer has told me I HAVE to read this book, or because I’ve seen so many customers flocking in to buy the latest novel of an author that wouldn’t have been on my radar otherwise. At least once, one of those customer-recommended books made it onto my slot on the Staff Recommendation bay.

The superbly awesome thing about the Staff Recommendation bay was that if we only had one copy of a book an employee wanted to recommend, we’d order more copies of it. Suddenly, there are six copies of what may be a little-known book in the store instead of one. Suddenly, that title is sitting in prime real estate, right at the front of the store. Suddenly, all six are sold. (It helped when an employee talked it up to anyone who’d listen.) Six books don't equal enough in sells to get an author onto a best seller's list, but maybe that represents six people wouldn't have known about the book otherwise.

Bookstores are major points-of-convergence for all kinds of readers. Booksellers can influence customers, yes. But additionally, through booksellers, customers influence other customers without ever having to say a word to one another. Even if a book recommended to me by a customer didn't make it onto my spot on the Staff Recommendation bay, I often still ended up mentioning it to other customers.

I don’t know how often I’ll go up to strangers in a bookstore and strike up a conversation now that I don’t have an excuse to do so, but it’ll be even harder to do that from here on because, more significant than the fact that I’ve lost a job, my neighborhood has lost a bookstore.

And it may surprise you to learn this, but there's a lack of mainstream bookstores in “the hood,” which is what many call my part of city.

When I was a kid, my family had to commute all the way to the other side of town to get to the nearest bookstores. And I had a regular appointment. A new Animorphs came out the first of every month. My parents probably paid more in gas on a trip there and back than I paid for the book I so desperately needed. (And how awesome are they for it?) Overtime, more bookstores opened a little closer to home, but still a trip there was always out of the way.

Then finally, it was there. Only ten minutes away. A bookstore near my neighborhood. It sat at a crossroads location, near enough to both sides of the track to be of service to a diversity of people, including my community.

Well, it was nice while it lasted.

Though I will continue to find my way into bookstores for a long while yet, there will be less “just swinging by” a bookstore because I happen to be in the area. It’s gone back to being an out of the way journey.

I know it is ridiculously easy to buy books online these days, but buying online doesn’t replace the experience of stepping into a bookstore. So often I made recommendations that I might never have bothered to bring up if I’d been making recommendations based solely on what they’d already picked up. Also, I’ve found and purchased books vastly different than anything else on my reading list because it was faced-out on a shelf.

Readers will always find books to read, because that’s what readers do, but I appreciate what bookstores contribute to the industry and I really wish what remains of Borders oodles of luck. I wish the same for Barnes and Nobles and all the independent bookstores out there too. After all, having to go out of my way to visit a bookstore is better than having no bookstore to go to at all.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Liquid Diary: Thoughts After Seeing a Borders’ Store Liquidation Through to the End - Pt. 1

Just this past Sunday, I worked the closing shift at a Borders that is now no longer there. It was strange to walk around the empty store. Books gone, of course, as well as all the tables, the signs, a bunch of fixtures, the café, and the customers – which made the place feel even more empty because on the last day of business, we closed at 4 o’ clock in the afternoon.

The emptiness reminded me of the end of last day of high school, senior year – lockers cleared, classrooms empty, knowing you’re never going to return, or if you do it won’t be the same. Except in the case of a closing store, it’s final. There’s not going to be a fall semester after summer break, no returning students, no freshman class.

As I meandered the desolate front-of-store, I couldn’t help place things where my memory knew they should have been. The tall “major new” table with its waterfall of latest releases; the new hardcover table with 20%-off stickers on half the titles; the BOGO (buy one get one 50% off) table stacked with paperbacks; the bestsellers, staff picks, New York Times Editors’ Picks, Children’s, YA, and various genre bays. So much prime real estate gone completely.

I thought of what I would have been doing that night. If that hadn’t been the store’s last day, I would have had pages of lists, instructions for what needed to change around the store. We’d prep as much as possible and switch out what titles we could ahead of the time-specific lay downs that happened every Monday after closing since new books are released Tuesdays (unless you’re James Patterson).

I really liked doing the change-outs. You can’t help but absorb information while switching out titles displayed all around the store and I got pretty good at guessing what book a customer was looking for when they didn’t know the title. If someone created a game show called Name That Book, I’d feel pretty good about my chances if I were a contestant.

During my last look around the store, it was seeing the children’s section barren that made me saddest. The children’s section that I hated because it was always in completely and utter disarray at the end of the night. Always. The children’s section that I hated because no matter how well I straightened it up through the day or the night before, it always looked so bad that the end of the night that I wondered if parents just watched their kids pull every book from the shelf and throw them to the floor, or if they actively participated. The children’s section I hated because that was where teenagers always seemed to migrate to make out (or look at sex books and adult magazines) and I didn’t want to have to be the one to come through with a hose.

The children’s section I loved because kids books are just a whole bushel of pure awesome. The children’s section that I loved because so often a parent would be more than happy to buy their kid a stack of books even if they only rarely bought a single book for themselves. The children’s section that I loved because parents would bring their young reluctant readers there and ask the staff for a book that makes reading exciting. The children’s section where the love of reading is cultivated more actively than probably any other section of the store.

The children’s section that I loved because it was as a child that I fell in love with books, and am a writer today. The children’s section where I could come across one of my favorite childhood books or authors and be filled with the same feeling from my childhood when I’d read late into the night because I couldn’t put a good book down (and okay, I do still that now, but it was especially magical when I was a kid). The children's section where I could try to pass that feeling on to a kid who might be a reluctant reader now but just might become a lifetime lover of books, if I could only help him find a book to ignite the spark that was ignited in me.

I wish there was still a children's section for me to straighten up.

Next Time: What matters more than the fact that I’m out of a job and a thing or two I learned, including why bookstore customers are beyond awesome.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Twice As Stylish As Before!

Special thanks to Jen, conqueror of possums (...or maybe ambassador to possums?), for giving me a Stylish Blogger Award. I really appreciate it. Thanks for letting me feel the love!

Now, I don’t have all my blogger etiquette down, thus I’m not sure what the etiquette is for when you’ve gotten a certain award twice in a row. So I’ve decided to forge my own rule and instead of doing a repeat of the same thing I did last time (because do you really care to hear seven more things about me? I mean... Can you handle even more awesomeness of me?!) I’ll post something that I think Jen will appreciate.

Recently, the original voice cast of Invader Zim got together to do a stage reading of two unproduced and therefore never before seen – or heard – Invader Zim scripts: “Day of da Spookies” and “Mopiness of Doom.” Here’s the article about it, and here are the videos:


EENJOOOY! (I think that was my Zim impression.)

I haven’t watched them yet, but I don’t see how this can not turn out awesome.