Bookie Fest

NBF official Poster

NBF official Poster

And by “bookie” I don’t mean one who places illegal bets – I mean a person who adores a series of pages bound together that tell a story – fact or fiction. Over 130,000  of these bookies packed the National Mall today for the National Book Festival.

Some adore musicians and swoon during concerts. For me, the National Book Festival was my own version of that. The authors featured on the National Mall today were literally rock stars. Despite the pouring rain, the crowds did not – would not – let up. These were the die-hards.

For at least the last month, the Metro displayed ads for the National Book Festival, hosted by the Library of Congress. The ads were fun. Whimsical. It made the left side of my brain light up.

So this morning I dashed over to the Mall after a weekend seminar called “Baseball in the District” (and yes, we did go to a D.C. Nationals game, and yes, they lost).

While I missed out on Jodi Picoult (of the famed My Sister’s Keeper), I got hear literary words of wisdom from the following:

  • John Irving. The author of Cider House Rules was a fatherly figure of sorts. He spoke to his audience with sage and wit.
  • Nicholas Sparks. He’s the acclaimed author of novel-turned -movies, The Notebook, A Walk to Remember and Nights in Rodanthe. Honestly, though, he mostly talked about himself, his dogs, the award-winning track teams he coaches. (Read: full of himself)
  • Gwen Ifill. This accomplished journalist (NewsHour with Jim Lehrer) moderated the historic 2008 presidential debate. She spoke to a packed tent about race, politics and her new books Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama). The LoC twitter account captured her as she visited the media tent, which as we learned – was only for the media (hey, what about my NPR badge – doesn’t that count?)
  • Jeff Kinney. He started out as a cartoonist-wannabe. He said he ability was that of a 7th-grader. So now he writes books with accompanying illustrations with that 7th grade quality. He’s a newer author, with his hit Diary of a Wimpy Kid.
  • Patrick Carman. He was a fun surprise. I headed over to the “Children and Teens” tent to wait for Blume. This guy was animated and loves to use technology to get kids to read. (I think he and I need to be friends!)
  • Judy Blume. Naturally, the 71-year-old Blume was the headliner for the “Children and Teens” tent. Families must have staked out seats all day waiting to see her. Can’t say I read all her books, but I know I read something of hers. She was a kind woman who seemed pleased as punch to call on kids with questions like, “Where did you get the character for Fudge?” or even suggestions like “I have an idea for your next book…”

My social media desires were satisfied when I saw the LoC tent had a TV “Tweet Board” featuring the live twitter feed of the event. The official hashtag was #nbf – and you can be sure I tweeted several times that day about what the authors were saying.

#nbf was used to follow the conversation on Twitter

#nbf was used to follow the conversation on Twitter

It seemed like the Washington Post took a lot of credit (and coverage) of the event; in fact several WaPo journalists acted as emcees for the acclaimed authors. There were, however, plenty of other media there, including NPR (love!).

The rain didn’t stop the determined bookies, fans, teachers or tourists from crowding under the big top tents, appropriately labeled by genre. PBS made a big showing – since each author’s appearance will be featured on

While I was impressed to hear from accomplished writers and journalists, I think I most enjoyed the children’s authors. They were the most engaging -and spoke on a level that readers of all ages could appreciate.

I think it has something to do with all the reading I’ve done from an early age – with favorites like Roald Dahl, C.S. Lewis and Maud Hart Lovelace, and series like The Boxcar Children, Anne of Green Gables and the really wacky ones like Sideways Stories from Wayside School.

If I end up living in this city in coming years, you better believe I’ll be the first to sign up as a volunteer. Hey, I didn’t say I wasn’t nerdy.


About Meg Biallas

Thoughts From A DC Intern Turned DCist. A twenty-something goes beyond traditional tourism to achieve Washingtonian authenticity.
This entry was posted in Butler Program, Internship. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Bookie Fest

  1. Patricia Biallas says:

    Lovin’ books is nerdy? Wish I could’ve joined you!

    Your book lovin’ nerdy Mom


  2. Dorothy Vaughan says:

    Meg–could you sign me up to volunteer? What a great time that would be. Aunt Dorothy


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