America’s largest public celebration of the written word, the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, takes place on April 21 and 22.

After 15 years at UCLA, The Festival of Books relocated to the University of Southern California campus last year, and will be held there again in 2012. Admission is free (except as noted below).

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Whether you’ve been a Festival regular or are about to be a first-timer, it helps to be prepared. We have a few suggestions:

  • Prepare for crowds. As previously mentioned, the Festival is America’s largest event of its kind, lasting an entire weekend and open to the public. It attracts hundreds of exhibitors and tens of thousands of visitors, so attendees will be celebrating books with many like-minded peers. The event is also a festival of book people.
  • Prepare for walking, standing, and being outdoors–LOTS of it. With the exception of the panels (see below), most of the Festival’s events and exhibits will be out on the USC campus grounds, and the tents don’t always accommodate all of the crowds. Comfortable shoes, sunscreen, and hats are strongly recommended. The campus is ADA compliant and will accommodate strollers for the youngest attendees.
  • Prepare for entertainment..for the entire family. The Festival’s eight stages feature programming designed for a wide range of interests on both days. The best spots for celebrity sightings are the Los Angeles Times Stage and the Target Children’s Stage, which both prominently feature authors known for activities other than writing books, and the USC and Etc. Stages offers music and dramatic presentations. Special interests are served by the Cooking, Poetry, YA (Young-Adult),and Hoy (Spanish-language) stages.
  • Prepare for authors. The Festival of Books is a “celebration of the written word”…and of those who create it. In addition to the authors appearing on the various stages, many more will be engaged in panel discussions throughout the weekend. The panels are held in lecture halls and have capacity limits–therefore, they are the only Festival activities that require advance tickets, and there is a $1-per-ticket service charge (although, technically, the tickets are free). Tickets are available to the general public via the Festival website. In most cases, authors will be available to sign their books after panels. Many of the exhibitors host book signings as well, which brings us to our next item…
  • Prepare to SHOP! As noted, the Festival of Books is a (mostly) free event–but if you’re a book lover, it probably won’t be a cheap date. Some of SoCal’s best independent bookstores, including Book Soup, Diesel, Mysterious Galaxy, Skylight Books, and Vroman’s, will be selling books and hosting author signings on-site, and there are a host of specialized book vendors – travel books, comic books, children’s books, and more – to visit as well. In addition to the hat and comfortable shoes, it would be a good idea to bring a tote bag or two (although you’ll be able to buy those there too, if you forget).

USC’s more central, public-transit-accessible location was one of the reasons cited for the Festival’s move from UCLA in 2011. Use of the Metro is strongly encouraged, and there will be free, continuous shuttle-bus service between Union Station and the campus on both days of the Festival. For those who choose to drive, campus parking will cost $10. Live traffic and parking updates will be available during the Festival on its Twitter feed and Facebook page.

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April 21-22, 2012
Saturday 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Sunday 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM

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Florinda Pendley Vasquez blogs about books and movies (including those featuring Harry Potter) and other things at The 3 R’s Blog: Reading, ‘Riting, and Randomness.