A year ago I went to a book festival. It was the first one I’d ever attended. YALLWEST is located in Santa Monica, California and after going last year, I couldn’t wait to go again. My second experience at YALLWEST was at the end of April this year, but a few months previously I went to the Tucson Festival of Books. At this point, I’ve gone to three book festivals and a few other small book events in between. Somewhere in the midst of the past year of my literary adventures, I realized something… book people are the best people. And by book people I mean everyone involved in these events. All the way from the authors, the event hosts and coordinators, the volunteers who help keep things organized, the donors who fund these events, and down to the readers of the books. There are even the social media specialists who promote the books and the events, and who have online giveaways and contests through. Book people, are agents of change.
What do we mean when we think of an agent of change? Honestly, it can be anything. Some people go on missionary trips, building houses and providing clean water for villages. Some people are caretakers for their loved ones who need them. And some people write and promote books. Being an agent of change can encompass any form of kindness extended to others, no matter how small. When I think about it, I think we have a responsibility to try and be agents of change for others.
YALLWEST is a book festival for young adult books. Think about the average young adult reader for a moment, and try to remember who you were around that age. These are our teenagers. Adolescents are so vulnerable to societal pressures at this stage in their lives. It’s our responsibility to provide and promote safe spaces where they can be comfortable with who they are. How better than to coordinate a book festival where they can escape to fantastic fictional worlds or face real world problems with strong young adult characters as their guides? To make it better, give them free books and the chance to meet the wonderful people who brought their on page heroes to life. Put this event in a beautiful city like Santa, Monica so that they also have an exciting destination to travel to and experience. So much good can come from events like these, and so much good does. Book festivals are organized by agents of change, and they move me to be one as well.
Now, I may not be the typical young adult reader but I thought this event was a blast, so much so, that I have now gone two years in a row and intend on going next year as well. Like last year, this year’s festival was quite a successful experience. I met tons of authors and acquired their signatures in my books, and with the help of a few friends who allowed me to be in two places at once, I was able to capitalize on the free book giveaways. With my 19 free books, in addition to the books I had packed in anticipation of getting them signed, I stuffed my suitcase and flew back to Arizona.
A travel mishap always makes for a good story especially when you are able to laugh at yourself, so here’s mine from this trip. When I got my suitcase (full of books if anyone needs a reminder) at the baggage claim, I discovered that somewhere during it’s time out of my hands, it lost a wheel. What was I to do? I begrudgingly had to use my big girl muscles and carry it (FULL OF BOOKS) through the parking lot all the way to my car. This, by the way, was after my flight was delayed and I was stranded at LAX for two extra hours. The walk to my car was unpleasant but it is so laughable now that I have to share it.
Getting back on track here. Once I was able to get home and examine the works of literature I hauled from California to Arizona I started thinking, “Oh this sounds so good, I bet so and so from work would like this!” or “Oh this is a sequel to a book that so and so was telling me about, I’ll have to let them borrow this!” My books are now all over Tucson, being borrowed by friends, family members, and coworkers as if the books haven’t done enough traveling. The book festival creates a snowball effect, because now as I’m promoting literacy and loaning out my books, I too am becoming an agent of change by sharing literature.
So here is my ode to book people. If you’ve ever written a book, promoted one online through any form of digital media or word of mouth, read a book and loved it so much that you suggested it to a friend, worked at a bookstore or library, volunteered at any kind of literary event, or simply gave a book a good rating on Goodreads, I thank you. For the countless others involved in keeping books alive (especially the bloggers), I thank you. For all the teachers across the entire globe, especially the English teachers who promote literacy and learning, I thank you.
And for the teenagers… I know life is so frustrating sometimes and at this point in your life everything might feel like the end of the world. I know because I remember. I promise you it gets better. You’ll get your braces off, the bangs you cut yourself will grow out, and you’ll realize it’s okay to make new friends and let old ones go. You don’t have to know what you want to be “when you grow up” yet, and it’s okay to tell annoying adults that when they ask you. You don’t have to have a date to prom, it might even be more fun if you go alone anyways, and you should never under any circumstances ever be embarrassed if you get good grades. Being a good student is kickass and you should be proud of it. You are cool if you care about school. Always be nice to your family, be goofy and have fun, and don’t forget to lose yourself in a good book from time to time.
Addendum: In practicing what I preach I want to use this space to continue promoting books and book people. My dear friend, who has accompanied me to all of the book festivals and book events I mentioned in this blog post (and was featured beside me in the above photos) writes a blog of her own. Check out From Jen’s Bookshelf for full reviews of many of the books we acquired at YALLWEST the past two years and more! You can also follow @fromjensbookshelf on Instagram for updates and fun bookish photos who’s production has been the subject of many of my travels. Perhaps you’ll read about those adventures here on Ciao Mariah soon.
Thank you for reading… now go start a new book!