The first thing that's awesome about the Miami book fair is that they invite authors from all over the place to come and speak. Miami is a bilingual kind of town so there are many Hispanic as well and English speaking authors. There is also an amazing range of authors from chefs to political commentators to fiction, poetry, non fiction, murder mysteries and kids books. In fact, it's a little hard to plan your schedule because there are so many amazing authors speaking all at the same time.
I'm really lucky because my husband is a chef and one of his former colleagues is one of the culinary geniuses at Miami Dade College (his name is Jose Casales and he is awesome!). Two years ago, Jose invited us to come and volunteer and it was a blast. My husband got to make desserts and I got to run food into the author's suite (all those authors! Squueee!!!). But this year, he got to make more desserts and I got to sign authors in at the desk. So it was pretty thrilling when Kazu Kibuishi, the author of the Amulet series (which my students are completely insane over) walked up to the desk. I tried not to gush too much or drool on his shoes but when I asked if he could sign my books it was hard not to swoon as HE DREW THE CHARACTERS right on the inside cover of the book and then signed his name! I went to the session that he did with two other graphic novelists (Ben Hatke who wrote Zita the Space Girl and Dave Roman who wrote the Space Academy) and they spent the hour drawing and talking about how they come up with their ideas. One of things they all kept saying was that they weren't particularly good artists to start with but that they really liked drawing and by doing it over and over again, they got better and that, really, the only reason they were good is just because they had done it so often and that they were doing their own thing, not copying someone else's work. The other thing that Kazu said that really resonated with me is that it takes him about 8 months to create an Amulet book and that the time includes the time to completely re-write the book 4 times. He creates as he goes and sometimes he ends up in places he doesn't really like, so he goes back and does it again. I really loved that.
I also got to sign in Katherine Applegate. I didn't remember to bring any of her books along (rats!) but she was so nice and so friendly. I really enjoyed her talk about Ivan and how she'd gotten her idea to write the story. It was also really cool that two of Ivan's zookeepers from his zoo in Atlanta came to hear Katherine speak. They'd brought a copy of a book that Ivan had personally put his fingerprint in (how cool is that?).
The last two authors I didn't get to sign in but boy was I glad I went to hear them. They were two of the National Book award finalists this year and I LOVED their books. One was Deborah Wiles who wrote Revolution, which I reviewed here. The other was Eliot Schrefer who wrote Threatened, which I reviewed here. Eliot talked at length about how he'd gotten the idea for his book which started with a pair of jeans and ended with an afternoon of watching Youtube videos. Isn't that funny how one little thing can spark your imagination? Debbie (that's how she introduced herself to me!) used a lot of her own experiences of spending summer in Alabama during the 1960s to build Revolution.
I missed some really great opportunities too... John Cleese spoke on Sunday night and Jason Seigel was there promoting his new book but you can't do everything, but I'm glad I got to see some of it! You should totally go next year!