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PSA: The Virginia Children's Book Festival is Fabulous

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Oct. 18th, 2016 | 10:54 am

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


  • author Matt de la Peña

    author Neal Shusterman

  • 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


  • author Tim Tingle

  • 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


  • panel of authors

  • 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 oppportunities 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.

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