The first weekend of September marked the 11th annual Decatur Book Festival, the largest independent book festival in America. It's a three-day event, and this year it ran from August 31 - September 2. The Festival is held in downtown Decatur, a suburb of Atlanta that is absolutely adorable. I was blown away by the number of local businesses I saw. There are various panels that are held in different buildings spread out across downtown Decatur, but there wasn't too much walking required; the most I walked was about a half mile from one end to the other.
There were specific platforms for emerging poets and authors. There were local food trucks, exhibition tents with authors selling their books or creators selling their art or shops selling their notebooks or other supplies. There was also a good deal of publishers and tents where books were being sold. There was an area for kids as well as specific events for children, and that area was adorable.
I was there from noon to 6:30, and in that time I was able to make it to five panels as well as explore the tents some. My favorite stage was the YA stage, the area devoted to writers in the genre of Young Adult. In addition to seeing several fantastic young adult authors speak on various themes (like Becky Albertalli). I also sat in for a panel called 'Teens Talk Activism,' and that was a lovely surprise. I was expecting it to be a variety of high school aged kids discussing the need and their experience with activism. That's not what I got.
Instead, I got to watch six very talented people perform various prose and spoken word poetry about different issues and discussing how the younger generation, Generation Z (my generation), is the future and therefore we need to be active about what we believe in. It was very inspiring and I got chills several times from the different poems that were performed, specifically from those who were members of the Arkansas based slam poetry group, The Wrighteous Poets.
It was inspiring for so many reasons to see the number of people that showed up to a festival for books.
As an aspiring writer, it is beyond amazing to see the kind of energy people still have for books. I did not expect the festival to be as large as it was and as crowded as it was. Part of this comes from all of the local writers; it was clear that the writers from the area had their own supporters and fans, but that the writers all supported each other a lot.
I got to see some very interesting panels, but my favorite was the interview with Angie Thomas, the author of 'The Hate U Give.' The room was packed to see her. It was crazy to see the different people of all ages who showed up to her panel discussion. It was hilarious but also serious, and I left with the impression that Angie as well as the woman who interviewed her, Kimberly Jones, are both wonderful people. I can now say that I am as much of a fan of Angie Thomas the person as I am of her writing.
During her panel, she gave advice to aspiring writers. She said that writers need to write for themselves, not for a movie deal or someone else. She gave several other examples, but what stuck with me was her main message: write for yourself. As someone who feels guilty for taking the time to sit down and write, especially while in college and always having work to do, it was nice to hear something like that. It was a nice reminder that I need to love what I write and write what I love so that someday I can be the Young Adult author being interviewed in front of a crowd of 600 people.
My plan is to go to the Decatur Book Festival every year that I can, but next time I need to bring my family of book lovers as well as money to spend.