YALLWEST Santa Monica, California

I was having lunch with my friend Jennifer when she mentioned there was an upcoming book festival in Santa Monica that she thought would be fun to attend. Since we live in Arizona it would require some planning for her to go and we all know planning a trip is no fun unless you have a friend! That’s where I come in.

I had never been to a book festival before but I had just started getting into reading for enjoyment again right around the time my friend brought up the festival so I was very interested in going. I was the person that reading assignments in high school ruined, but had been trying to get back into it whether it was to try and read for enjoyment or to break up with Netflix. Either way, the festival was a few months from the time of our initial conversation, which meant I had only those few short months to read as many books and get familiar with as many authors as I could.

We had to make the drive from where we were staying in San Diego to Santa Monica the morning of the festival. To give ourselves plenty of time in case of traffic or any unforeseen circumstances we ended up arriving about an hour early. There wasn’t much for us to do while we were waiting so we jumped into a line that had just began forming, took out our books and read while we waited.

The book festival was at Santa Monica High School and it was for Young Adult books, so the vast majority of the people in the line with us were high school aged girls and their parents. Let me just tell you- I have never felt so out of place in my life as I did when Rainbow Rowell (a young adult book author) walked by and everyone, I mean EVERYONE started fan-girling like crazy. I swear these teenagers were screaming and cheering, and some were even sobbing when their book-writing icon walked by. It was really amazing actually. I wasn’t judging these girls at all, I was in awe of how this one woman’s presence really changed and inspired the young girls that were in line with me. If there is one things young girls need, it is empowering female role models and Rainbow Rowell is exactly that.

I never would have known who she was if they hadn’t been screaming her name, but it was really cool for me when I realized it was Rainbow Rowell because when I was preparing for the festival and reading as much as I could I did in fact read one of her books. For my first book festival I was feeling pretty good at that moment being one for one on author sightings for books I had read, before the festival even started.

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However, the festival did not start on time, and that was quite annoying. We waited in line for about an hour and that was totally on us for getting there so early, but the extra forty-ish minutes of waiting in addition to that was not cool because of course in that extra forty minutes we got really hungry. And in addition to being hungry in that extra forty minutes we all really needed to use the restroom.

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Once we were finally let inside we were eager to explore all the different tents set up by book representatives, publishers, and vendors. We were very intrigued when we realized most of the tents were having giveaways at various times throughout the day. Jennifer mentioned that she had never really seen book giveaways at any book festival she had ever been to before this one. We both agreed that getting free books was a good thing and we got in line for a “spin to win” game. As we got closer and closer I could actually see the wheel that we were spinning and each panel had the title of a book on it. Basic concept: spin the wheel; get whichever book is indicated FOR FREE. Of course there was a catch. They only had a limited amount of books to give away (obviously they can’t just let this game go on all day). So any time a certain book ran out, they would replace that panel on the wheel with sneak peek chapters of books that hadn’t been released yet. And I just knew I was going to get one of those chapters and not an actual book. And I was right.

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I’m not going to lie. I was irritated. I had this plan to get a free book and then go meet the author and get the book signed. But if I couldn’t get a book signed I was going to help Jen get hers signed! My book loving friend brought so many books with her and spent most of her day trying to meet authors and get their signatures in her books. The set up was very confusing and difficult to navigate as this high school campus felt like a community college. For example, from noon to one ten authors would be set up in different areas to sign books and there was a huge line at each authors table. If you wanted to get signature from say five of those ten authors it was pretty much impossible. The lines were insane and they were only out for one hour each. Then from one to two a new set of authors came out and it was so difficult to pick and choose which ones to meet when you wanted to meet them all. I think of the 20 books Jennifer brought, only 4 got signed and that was with us splitting up to see more authors.

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Still feeling a little defeated that I didn’t win a book in the spin to win; I was determined to get a free book somehow and I knew there was another give away starting soon. Jen stayed to try and meet another author while I went to the give away tent. This one was not a game like the spin to win but instead, the first 80 people in line were guaranteed an advanced reader’s copy of The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye. I was number 36.

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As the lady was walking up and down the line counting people and giving out tickets (which is what guarantees your copy of the book) I could not in good conscience sit there waiting without trying to get Jennifer a copy too (since she was having so much trouble meeting the authors she came to see due to the crazy long lines). I very politely asked the lady if I could have an extra ticket for my friend who I was holding a spot for in line (a lie). She was kind of sassy about it at first but caved and gave me another ticket, the caveat being that my friend needed to be standing with me before the line moved all the way up to the table where they were passing out the books.

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Jen’s husband Joe who was being such a good sport all day and helping us carry books came to take the extra ticket and get her the book. And then some amazing news was announced. Evelyn Skye the author of the book we were in line for was there and signing each copy!

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After meeting Evelyn Skye (who was so nice!) we reconvened for lunch. We were all pretty tired at this point and decided we weren’t going to try and get any more books signed since the lines were only getting longer and the day was only getting hotter. But the plus side was there was a food truck roundup for us to get our lunch at. I love food trucks. The one where I had been planning on getting my food was a Mac and Cheese truck but just like everything else at the book festival, the line was insane. So I settled for a different truck and got a glorious hot dog.

We were walking to find some shade to sit in and eat our food. Jennifer and Joe both noticed a grassy hill that was being set up with stacks of books spread out everywhere. I told them it was the book yoga and before I knew it Jen was running toward it. With my hotdog in hand I followed after her and she pointed to a stack of books for me to go sit by. My heart was racing from running and trying to protect my hot dog and the last thing I wanted to do was yoga in the direct sunlight in the middle of this crowded high school.

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Here’s Jen doing some book yoga (and look at all the stacks of books!)

Guys- I feel so bad for anyone who witnessed me eating that day. It took me forever to realize that if we did the yoga we would get to keep the stack of books (used as yoga blocks). I have never stuffed my face so fast before- it was so gross, there was food everywhere. But if that’s what I had to do to get some free books than so be it. Right before the book yoga started the person organizing it announced that we were being joined by Kimberly McCreight author of The Outliers, and Kimberly wanted to sign the copy that was hidden in one of the many stacks of books. Guess who’s stack The Outliers was in? NOT MINE. But the girl sitting right next to me. The author came over and sat with the her and signed her book. That could have been me but it wasn’t. It would have been super awkward if it was in my stack though because I was stuffing my face with a hot dog right as this all went down. Sorry you had to witness that Kimberly McCreight.

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So we did the yoga and even though it was very hot out it went by fast, and at the end we were told we could keep the books! Four free books to be exact!

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And to make getting free books even better, the organizer announced that in the middle of yoga we were joined by a handful of other authors. One of whom was Cynthia Hand and her book Hallowed was in my stack! I got to meet her, get her signature, and take a selfie with her.

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The four books I got to keep from book yoga:

Hallowed by Cynthia Hand (a sequel)

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Mind Games by Kiersten White (a standalone)

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Catacomb by Madeleine Roux (the third book in a series)

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Rebel by Amy Tintera (a sequel)

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Jennifer also got another signature right after book yoga so we were both feeling really excited about how the day turned out. It was time for us to head back to San Diego but we had one last item on our agenda before we left; the book swap. We did our research before we went to the festival and one of the events we read about was the book swap. You grab a book from your shelf at home and wrap it. Then you write three clues on the wrapping about what the book is about. You put your book down and you get to take a book with you. The book swap wasn’t supposed to start for another hour at this point but we were ready to head back to San Diego and it seemed as though we weren’t the only ones who wanted to do the book swap early.

Right after book yoga it looked like a lot of people wanted to trade some of their new books out for different ones so the book swap area had a lot of books for us to choose from already, although none seemed to be wrapped. I saw somebody placing a book in the book swap area that looked very similar to the cover of one of the sequels I had just got at book yoga. It turns out it was Reboot by Amy Tintera the first book in the series so I instantly snatched it before anyone else could.

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Jen swapped her book and we decided it was time to leave. When we got in the car I was eager to read the synopses of the five new books I had and when I opened Catacomb by Madeleine Roux I was so excited to see that it has her signature inside. I mean I’m guessing it’s her signature because who else would sign this book that has been in the hands of the publisher the whole time? (Even if it’s not her signature I’m going to pretend that it is!)

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This was like icing on top of the cake. Five free books, three signatures, and two selfies with authors. I think it’s safe to say I had a great day and I am so excited for the next book festival I go to.

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P.S. My good friend Jennifer who was my partner in crime, helping plan and getting us to this exciting book festival writes a blog!

Definitely check it out at http://www.fromjensbookshelf.wordpress.com where she reads and reviews tons of books!

You can also follow her on Instagram @fromjensbookshelf

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