Andrea J. Loney, Ashlyn Anstee, authors, Bethany Barton, Chris Robertson, illustrators, Jake Gerdhardt, LATFoB, Laurenne Sala, Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, PAL, Robert Mellette, SCBWI members, Summer
By Jacob Gerhardt
SCBWI members have a legendary reputation for being friendly and supportive. Working the SCBWI LA Times Festival of Books booth with fellow authors proved, as always, that this characterization is well deserved.
I would estimate about half the festivalgoers who stopped by our booth were interested in purchasing our books and the other half curious to learn more about the world of children’s books. We were happy to accommodate on both ends.
Of course, I’m always pleased to sign books for youngsters, but on this day I was especially thrilled, as were my peers, to share with aspiring writers the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators literature and give little words of encouragement. I know that when I was a “pre-published writer” these random acts of kindness were more important to me than anyone would ever know.
As soon as we took our seats the fun began. I had the seat in the middle, between the talented writers Ashlyn Anstee, Bethany Barton, Laurenne Sala, and Andrea J. Loney. At one point, when I looked to my left, Bethany Barton was describing her writing process (and giving away seeds to attract butterflies) to a family and to my right Andrea Loney was helpfully explaining the benefits of SCBWI membership to a shy but inspired writer. And before me was a fifth-grader with her grandparents, checking out my books. I happily signed one for them.
When we had a bit of a break, I got to know my fellow writers. Bethany Barton, like many of us, never misses the LATFoB. “It’s all the excitement of finding your new book (or author) melted down in two days of smiles, surprises, sunshine, and signed books,” she said, adding: “And I literally mean melted down, because it always manages to be around 100 degrees.”
But a little heat was not going to slow down the authors or the crowds.
Later in the day, after lunching and checking out a panel with some friends, I checked in with Robert Mellette (center), SCBWI Los Angeles PAL liaison, who noted, “We sold quite a few books, and we didn’t completely melt. So, as they say, any signing you can walk away from is a good one.”
I think Robert and my fellow authors would also agree that we walked away from this great festival knowing we helped quite a few aspiring writers learn more about SCBWI and the opportunities and excitement to be found in the world of children’s books.
Chris Robertson summed up my feelings perfectly. “It was not only an honor to share the SCBWI booth with some incredibly talented folks, it was also an honor to make new friends as well.”
New friends and, I’m happy to add, new readers.
Jake Gerhardt is the author of Me and Miranda Mullaly (Viking, 2016) and the sequel, My Future Ex-Girlfriend (May 2017). He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and daughters. Visit him at www.jakegerhardt.com or Penguin Random House.
Photos provided by: Sally Jones Rogan, Robert Mellette, and Jake Gerhardt