#LABookFest Take-Aways

Luis J. Rodriguez 22 April 2017
Poetry is Magic

“Books saved my life” is the quote that stands with me after watching Luis J. Rodriguez read from his new poetry book, Borrowed Bones.  My students have always read books from Rodriguez. At first, it was kids from foster homes that gravitated to the Rodriguez biography, Always Running: La Vida Loca: Gang Days in L. A. But now, you could walk in and find any variety of students reading the first biography, or It Calls You Back.  As for myself, I’ve only read a couple of his poetry books: The Concrete River and My Nature is Hunger: New and Selected Poems 1989-2004.

Rodriguez is personable and he writes with a realism that can make you laugh, or feel the twist of a blade. Though I’ve had so many students read his books, though his book is so often stolen from libraries by kids who might also be able to say: A book saved my life, there were very few people out in the morning to see the Poet Laureate of Los Angeles share his work.  Regardless, he told stories as if he was among friends that he hadn’t seen in a long time.

During his reading, Rodriguez told us of one of his poems being made into a youtube video by a friend.

Writers are Interesting
Carter Higgins, Marie Marquardt, Ellen Hopkins, Maggie Thrash

When Luis J. Rodriguez finished his reading and I walked away with three signed books, my husband and I had three minutes to find the Young Adult stage where Ellen Hopkins was on a panel with three other writers (Carter Higgins, Marie Marquardt and Maggie Thrash).

Again, I am at this session because students in my classes have always read Ellen Hopkins’ book Crank and when I added Smoke to the room, they gobbled that one up too.  At the beginning of the session, the moderator, Aaron Hartzler, asked the panelists to give a brief introduction to their books.  Ellen Hopkins describes The You I’ve Never Known as a story that came out of her personal life.  After she was divorced, her husband kidnapped their daughter and she didn’t see her for three years.

After hearing Hopkins discuss how her personal life inspired The You I’ve Never Known, I knew I’d be reading the book before I brought it to school for my students.

Unexpected Interactions/Discoveries

I have many stories from the #LABookfest, but I’ll share only two more.

The first discovery is Aaron Hartzler.  I commented to my husband that he was a great moderator, and we both decided he must also be an author.  In fact, he’s penned two books.  I purchased one for Hartzler to sign, What We Saw, about a girl who has to uncover what happened to her when she was passed out at a party through social media.  Immediately drawn to the story because it happens to students, I spoke to Hartzler who also volunteered to speak to my class (writers are awesome).

Chuck Palahniuk signing Haunted for Rick Lee

The day ended with an unexpected interaction that I actually can’t tell you about.  We were standing in line, waiting to have two books signed by Chuck Palahniuk, Haunted and Pygmy. He was only signing books for an hour and we were more than 35 people into the line.  I promised the people behind me that I wouldn’t speak to him and hurry as quickly through the process as possible so that they could get their books signed.  The two people behind us were young friends and the girl told the boy, “If you don’t get the book signed, you can always return it” a little bit after she had said, “I can’t afford healthy food this week.” The purpose of this example is to illustrate that some people in this world value writers above food 😉

Despite my promises, I ended up talking to the Chuck Palahniuk, but I can’t disclose any details at this time because he specifically told me not to tell my husband anything.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to disclose everything soon.


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