I can't believe after ten years of calling DC home, that it wasn't until a few months before relocating that I finally attended the National Book Festival. I hadn't even heard of it until the year before, after the fact; and if it wasn't for a friend I would have missed it yet again.
I'd rolled out of bed, an hour late, and arrived to the young adult pavilion for the tail end of Sarah Dessen (the modern day Judy Blume). I was shocked that the large tent was standing room only, predominately with children and teenagers. During the fifteen minute break before Katherine Patterson (Bridge To Terabithia) I scored a seat, dead center, only about four rows back. My skin tingled like back in my concert groupie days. I was home. And despite my rumbling tummy (thanks to nothing but a cereal bar for breakfast), I decided to maintain my sweet seat and listened intently to Jack Gantos, Gordon Korman, and Cassandra Clare.
My absolute favorite was Jack Gantos. It was like watching a stand-up comedian, where the conversation focused on, well, Jack Gantos. Don't just take my word for it; you must, must, MUST check out his presentation here.
But what made me happiest was seeing the young fans. When Cassandra came on the scene, the fan base changed from Gap teens to tweens dressed in goth. Seeing their excitement and feeling their passion as they asked their favorite author questions reminded me of the reason I am a young adult/children writer. To befriend that spunky girl and let her know that she is not alone in her fears, doubts and pain and that love and happiness is a choice always available to her. Thank God they were there to remind me.
As I finally gave into the hunger pains and left my seat to grab lunch, I realized I'd lost faith in the upcoming generation's love of reading. Between smart phones, YouTube, Facebook and everything else visual and immediate, I just assumed that most kids weren't that in to reading. Why would someone choose to read over watching the Kardashians or the latest Gaga video? Duh! For the same reason I read, whether over twenty years ago or earlier this morning...to escape into a world beyond imagination...to live through the eyes of someone I grow to love or even sometimes hate...to experience adventures and travel to places I may never otherwise visit. For fun.