In one section, we noted a group of probably 200 people all standing in a temporary queue line, all waiting to get their books signed by author Mary Higgins Clark, who was seated in a special tent.

Most of the folks in line appeared to be carrying new copies of 'The Second Time Around', while others were literally wheeling along suitcases stuffed with her books. Ya gotta be kidding me.


In certain areas, the set up made for uncomfortable situations.

Sitting at a booth, behind a banquet table was a man, who at first glance one might have mistaken for an insurance salesman.

Ah, but wait, it was actually Kevin Fagan, artist and writer of the comic strip 'Drabble,' who sat at his booth, pen in hand, waiting for someone to buy his book, so he could sign it.

A small 8 x 10 sign announcing Mr. Fagan's appearance was sitting flat on the table. It just wasn't working.


Free tickets to some of the panel discussions [featuring the likes of Arianna Huffington, Elmore Leonard, Peter Bart, James Patterson and A. Scott Berg] had been snapped up before the weekend.

So, we stumbled around, glanced at some of the activities at the outdoor stages, wandered past the food booths, and then ended up at a children's craft corners.

The LA Children's Museum sponsored this activity area, where kids were encouraged to make small books out of construction paper, and scraps of paper and cloth. Cute, but again, sitting [or standing -- see below] elbow to elbow in the name of making a craft project ain't my idea of fun.

The Los Angeles Times was giving away free Sunday papers -- that was pretty cool.

At one booth, a guy from Starbucks handed me a free sample of Frappuccino. As we walked away, Dianne told me that I had inadvertently cut in front of a long line of visitors, and as I turned to look, I could see them shaking their fists at me. So much for spontaneous and easy-going.

For future festivals, I would recommend that the planners provide some casual sitting areas. Perhaps some simple lawn chairs, and a cloth canopy set up in a configuration that encourages people to read, and rest and hang out. As it is, visitors end up sitting on the grass, or on the steps of Royce Hall.

While it's described as "a two-day celebration of the written word and one of the country's premier literary events," I don't know that it's really succeeding. For true fans of a particular author, it must be great.

But honestly, Barnes & Noble and Borders have both built beautiful new multilevel stores in the past couple of years here in Southern California. With large open aisles and plush easy chairs that encourage you to leisurely browse and sit and read, why schlep to an outdoor event that has more in common with a scene from 'Oliver!' than buying books?

And after all is said and done, isn't it easier to avoid all the pushing and shoving, dirty looks and hassle, and just click the little button below that says '' to order all the books you want?

Obviously not, as the place was packed. So that's good. All those rumors of Americans being shut-ins isn't really true. And two hours later, as we headed for the car, book fans were still mingling around, getting autographs, eating Krispy Kreme donuts, buying T-shirts, and enjoying the day.

And bless her heart, Mary Higgins Clark was still in that tent signing books.

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