Thursday , November 30 2023
Photo of National Book Festival visitors at the book sales area
National Book Festival visitors peruse hundreds of titles in the book sales area, September 5, 2015. (Credit: Shawn Miller)

Preview: 2018 Library of Congress National Book Festival

The 2018 Library of Congress National Book Festival will be held on September 1, 2018 from 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. The festival has long catered to readers of all ages, offering an array of free events and exhibits at the Walter Washington Convention Center.

It’s amazing how many famous authors have spoken at the festival in years past, including astronaut Buzz Aldrin, journalist Cokie Roberts, and Hidden Figures writer Margot Lee Shetterly. First, I’ll cover a few highlights about the 2018 roster, followed by information to keep in mind for your successful visit to the festival.

Authors in 2018

The Library of Congress (LOC) confirmed that the festival will host 115 authors this Saturday! Main Stage, or headlining authors, include former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, historian Jon Meacham, and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Another main stage speaker is Amy Tan, author of Joy Luck Club. Her book was adapted into a film that is being revisited in the news after the success of Crazy Rich Asians, another film featuring a mostly Asian cast.

Other major highlights include an appearance by E. Annie Proulx (Brokeback Mountain, The Shipping News), who is the winner of the 2018 LOC Prize for American Fiction. Ron Chernow, the author of Alexander Hamilton, returns to the Biography Stage for his book about Ulysses S. Grant.

At the Children’s Stage, you’ll find Jacqueline Woodson, the Library of Congress National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, with insights about two new books. Another Children’s Stage author is Danica McKellar, whom you might remember from the hit TV series The Wonder Years. That’s not even scratching the surface on this year’s line-up, so be sure to check the full list of authors.

Getting Around

If you’re planning to ride the Metro to the festival venue, make sure to allow plenty of time. This D.C. area train system has been riddled with track maintenance all spring and summer. Check for delays and plan your train trips on the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority website.

When you arrive at the Walter Washington Convention Center, you’ll have to go through the security lines. Once you’re past security, head straight for one of the information booths for a program guide and a free tote bag. Volunteers are easy to spot with their colorful t-shirts and they are always happy to answer your questions if you need help.

What’s in the Exhibit Hall?

Photo of Sonia Sotomayor
Sonia Sotomayor (Credit: Elena Seibert)
You’ll find the exhibit hall on the lower level. If you want to snag any historically themed freebies like post cards and books, start with the LOC booths in the exhibit hall early in the morning. Those items go quickly!

Other institutions and companies have included The Washington Post, Scholastic, AARP, and Wells Fargo to name a few. This year, PBS is running a booth where you can have your photo taken, try some literary trivia, and vote for your favorite book as part of their promotion of a new series, “The Great American Read.”

Another interactive section of the exhibit hall is dedicated to what’s called the “Parade of the States.” Affiliates are there representing all of the states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories. It’s a great way to understand the diversity and history of the U.S. through the posters and by speaking with the affiliates and state volunteers.

Sometimes an author will be there, helping run the table for the state they are from. In addition, children can claim a prize if they collect 52 stickers, one from each Parade of States table. I also love this section because every year I’ve attended, I’ve seen Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden passing through to greet festival attendees and volunteers.

Book Signings

As you plan your festival day, be mindful of the book signing times. The book signing area is on the lower level as well. If it’s already busy when you get there, look out for the volunteers holding up very large “end of the line” signs.

These signs will have the booth number and the name of the author clearly indicated. It’s one of the most effective line control strategies I’ve seen at D.C. events. If you forget to purchase a book ahead of time, there’s an area nearby in the exhibit hall where you can buy a book.

I missed seeing an author on my wish list.

With 115 authors in panel rooms across the convention center, it’s likely you’ll miss one or two that you wanted to see. If you miss their talk, don’t despair. A number of the LOC-scheduled panels will be available through C-SPAN2 Book TV to view later.

Large media outlets like C-SPAN2 also have a small area where they conduct brief interviews with authors. If you find a good spot to stand near the barrier, it’s easy to get a great photo. Lastly, check the festival program to see if the author has a book signing later in the day.

I’m ready for the festival!

There’s one more useful tool before you head out! On the festival website, look on the left-hand side for the “App for the 2018 National Book Festival.” It’s handy for building your list and for staying on top of any last-minute changes to the schedule. Good luck, book lovers!

About Pat Cuadros

Pat Cuadros frequently covers theater and television for Blogcritics Magazine. Her portfolio includes interviews with Ndaba Mandela and actors Juliette Binoche, Fran Drescher and Derek Jacobi. She's also spoken with notable voice actors Petrea Burchard, Garry Chalk, Peter Cullen and Brian Drummond.

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