Labor Day weekend welcomed the largest Independent Book Festival in the country with thousands of book lovers, talented authors and a roasting, yellow sun. Yes, it was hot in Decatur, GA, but attendees could grab paper fans, drink up freshly squeezed lemonade and bask in misty sprayers too cool off from the afternoon swelter. As a Decatur Fest newbie, I referred to a handy-dandy map to find my way around and followed the sweet funnel cake scent.
With any festival, a very hard decision must be made. Multiple authors speak at the same time, and I couldn’t be two places at once. I decided to plant a spot at the Teen Stage for most of the day, considering I am a glutton for Young Adult novels. Come mid-afternoon, Kendare Blake, author of Anna Dressed in Blood and Girl of Nightmares (YA horror), took to the stage and thoroughly entertained the audience and me. She started with a comedic monologue about turtle road kill that could rival any contestant on Last Comic Standing.
During the Q&A she revealed some interesting tidbits about the book cover. Anna Dressed in Blood underwent a bit of a hair makeover. Blake’s editor showed her the cover with the exclamation, “don’t worry about the hair. We’ll fix the hair.” In the first draft her hair “stood up like a troll doll.” The second revision had Anna’s hair swooped up — Team Rocket style. In the end, it took three tries for Anna’s hair to be perfectly windblown off to the side.
Girl of Nightmares, the sequel to Anna Dressed in Blood was released August 7th. Within Blake’s discussion and Q&A, copies of both books sold out in the Little Shop of Stories booth.
Another standout of the festival was Award Winning author, Neal Shusterman, who penned dystopian and sci-fi classics Unwind and the Skinjacker series. After five years, Unwind is finally seeing a sequel with an August release of UnWholly. A clear contrast to Blake’s “no outline” writing style, Shusterman knew he always wanted to show different view points in Unwind. What I found amusing was his irritation with ghosts from their lack of scientific consistency. “Ghosts can walk through walls; why can’t they sink through the floor?” So true. In his novels, he followed this logic and thought about the densities of materials a ghost could potentially fall through.
Jessie Harrell, author of Destined (YA mythology), was also in attendance. She set up camp at a booth and offered to sign swag and books for fans. In our brief encounter, Harrell was incredibly personable, and at first I was a little tongue-tied considering I own a copy of Destined and couldn’t believe I forgot to bring it. Newbie Festival Tip: Always double check the line-up.
Tents dotted nearly every blocked-off street — some selling bargain books, baked goods, jewelry and local handmade products, while others catered to artsy folk with print-making. I watched as a rolling truck (I assume it has a real name, but I am not yet acquainted with the machinery lingo), plowed over an inked-stained board that coated a sheet. The reveal was a mural of The Souls of Black Folk.
The only downside of the festival was the brutal heat, but funnel cake always makes the weather better. That and giant misters. Without a doubt, I have become a Decatur Book Festival convert. I’ll be attending next year with much shorter sleeves. Did you go to the festival and have a standout moment? Share in the comments!