This past weekend, the third annual Virginia Children’s Book Festival took place on Longwood University campus in Farmville, VA. I’m not affiliated with the festival except as a gleeful, starstruck visitor, but let me tell you: it is the best. They bring in some real rock stars of the writing and illustrating world for panel discussions, presentations, workshops, signings, and more. The local schools know what a great event this is: thousands of schoolkids of all ages are bused in, some from schools more than two hours away.
Oh, and did I mention the part where it’s all free?
A few things I got to do at the festival:
- Listen to Matt de la Peña talk about how he went from reluctant reader to author and Neal Shusterman explain how he develops book series
- Attend a lively, funny panel discussion wherein Rita Williams-Garcia told the story of how she missed the call announcing her third Coretta Scott King award, then waxed enthusiastic about using money made by her books to finally buy a new refrigerator
- See author/illustrator John Rocco’s fantastic presentation on how he makes book covers like the ones he did for the Percy Jackson series
- Listen to Tim Tingle tell the story – accompanied by music! – of his picture book Crossing Bok Chitto
- Watch a panel of fantastic authors talk about civil rights in children’s literature, with the event being held in the historic R.R. Moton museum
- Hear Neal Shusterman and Christy Marx – who created the show Jem and wrote for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, G.I. Joe, and more – discuss writing for TV shows and video games
- Learn about how one writes a Choose Your Own Adventure book from Anson Montgomery, whose late father was a founder of the series
Despite all the classes of schoolkids who get bused in, there are absolutely opportunities for one-on-one conversations with the authors and illustrators. They’ll sign your book, take a photo with you, answer questions, smile patiently while you fangirl at them . . . it’s great. If you get the chance to check out this festival, go for it. You’ll be glad you did.