Filtering by Tag: Florida

Tampa Bay Times: Festival of Reading

Halloween is my favorite time of the year. There is no better holiday, to me, than one where we run around ringing doorbells, lugging around garbage bags full of candy, pennies, and dental floss (didn't that happen to you?), while ghoulish skeletons and vampires try to scare us.

What. Could. Be. Better?

The man. The legend. R.L. Stine being brilliant.

Turns out, October brought with it a special bookish surprise that I HAD to write about. Every year, the Tampa Bay Times organizes the Festival of Reading in St. Petersburg, Florida. This was the first year I went. I couldn't resist my friend and author JB Lynn's invitation to go with her. We both learned very quickly that even the best GPS's can't find certain streets, and that neither of us never lost our nerves as we drove down neighborhood roads and trolled through overflow parking lots.

When we finally made it, the festival was in full swing. The tiny campus of USF-St. Petersburg was packed with early risers, already in line to meet their favorite authors or attend their readings. The sheer amount of people that came out for the event was awe-inspiring.

I'm so used to not attending book events, since there's a lack of them where I live. But being able to go, and with a great friend no less, made attending this festival 100+ times more awesome.

Instead of a series of panels, the Festival of Reading schedules authors to speak for about 45 minutes, and then sign books for 45 minutes afterwards. The campus was small, but not small enough to see two authors in one hour - a huge bummer, since we ended up missing John Henry Fleming by four minutes. Yes, I counted. He had disappeared like a magician by the time me and Jennifer burst into an empty signing room.

We tried seeing Carl Hiaasen first thing in the morning, but found the ballroom to be filled to the brim with his fans. All the seats were taken. Standing room taken. And with fifteen minutes before the talk began, the room was already boiling hot. From years of going to anime conventions, I knew this was a bad sign. Rooms don't get hot so soon, so fast, at the very beginning of the day when a nice breeze was still blowing outside.

We ducked out of the room and opted for lunch instead. It was a shame, but as soon as we popped open our cold, spicy sushi rolls, we knew we made a good decision.

The morning, after all, was chilly enough to wear coats. It was glorious - I think even my coat was smiling, because it rarely gets to leave my closet - for about a half and hour. Before it got REALLY HOT outside. So we buried our coats in our bags and ate our cold lunches.

I've recently become a rabid fan of Starbuck's Pumpkin Spice Chai Tea Lattes. There it is. Oh my gosh. The autumn feels.

Re-energized, we went back upstairs after the Hiaasen fans left to listen to R.L. Stine talk.

R.L. Stine was my Reason For Coming. In the sense that, if I got to meet him during the festival, I would consider it one life goal achieved.

Like many people, I grew up reading his Goosebumps series. I used to borrow stacks of those books from the library, and never moved from the couch until I had finished them all. Between my brother and I, we owned a lot of Goosebumps books, and most of them have stayed with us over the years. Here's a photo of all the books we have now, give or take a few that I have in my room, where I'm rereading them (eh, I can't help it):

Jennifer and I settled into our seats. We were both surprised that R.L. Stine's talk wasn't packed with people, but also thrilled at the same time. It meant we wouldn't slowly bake for the next 45 minutes, haha. Stine walked around the room before the talk started, chatting with readers. When he stepped up to the podium and began to talk, I was blown away by how epic he was in his presentation. I mean, he was ridiculously funny and engaging. He shared some of his fan letters, and I was lucky enough to film snippets of that, so you completely understand what I mean when I say that we were rolling the aisles over his charmingly frank delivery.

(Videos HERE and HERE, via my Instagram).  

He shared a "true" ghost story (debatable, even by him) and talked about the new Goosebumps movie coming out soon (and how he was told he was too old to play himself in the movie, awwww). When he opened the floor for questions, a bunch of kids came up to the extra mic. I've never heard kids ask questions, despite having attended panels for years. The coolest part was that the kids wanted to know what his favorite things were - his scariest book, his favorite book to write, etc. I don't think adults ever ask those kinds of questions. 

It was hard to tear ourselves away, but Jennifer and I wanted to make sure that we had a good chance of meeting Stine at the signing. We slipped out of the room and went outside where they had set up booths for the authors (thankfully shaded for them). We ended up talking to the people in line with us as we slowly moved forward in line. And then... sooner than I thought, I was face to face with R.L. Stine! 

This was probably not my shining moment of cleverness. I asked him to sign one of my favorites of his books, and we ended up talking about it a little (more like bumbling on my part, haha) as he signed the book. He was very kind, and managed to play off my awkwardness to make us both laugh. The biggest question people asked me when I started posting these photos to Instagram was what book was it that I picked? 

It was a hard decision, but I went with ESCAPE FROM THE CARNIVAL OF HORRORS, the first of the Goosebumps' Choose Your Own Adventure books. 

Do you see the holographicness?

Do you?

It's blinding. This photo doesn't do it justice, but you would know if you ever read one of these. 

I think I've read this book every way you could. My brother, mom, and I took turns reading it out loud. Many times I cheated by bookmarking the pages so that if I got a bad ending, I didn't have to start all over again (I'm sure I'm not the only one). This book, in particular, has my favorite bad ending of the Choose Your Own Adventure series, featuring the Doom Slide. 

What are you waiting for? Go read it. 

Book Haul:

 Okay, so this time, it's not a "haul." But I did get two great books. The first is R.L. Stine's newest Fear Street book, Party Games.

I didn't read as many Fear Street books (though Sunburn is one of my favorite books, ever, but my copy is too tattered to have survived the journey to the festival). But the premise sounds intriguing. It won't be long before I start reading it. Like, probably tomorrow.

Then there's this beauty. I could not have left the festival without this extensive collection of Andrew Lang's fairy tales. The thing is, I could talk about Lang for a long time. It should probably be its own blog post. But he is my favorite fairy tale curator. I only owned one of his collections, the classic Blue Fairy Book, so finding this book that covers multiple collections seemed like a dream come true. I started reading it last night before bed, and YES, it is a dream come true. 

And one more thing: when I first saw this book sitting underneath B&N's vendor booth, I thought, my gosh, the cover art reminds me of Thumbelina's book.

IT DOES. More magic, my friends. 

Have you ever met a favorite author? what was the experience like? What about book events/festivals? I'd love to hear about it!

Rain, Rain, Rain

At this time of year, Florida likes to hoard the world's rain. I dream of the land crying out in greedy thirst, spreading its sticky nets from every corner of the state line to catch unsuspecting clouds. We don't need all this rain. Not really. At least, that's what I think when I jog to my car each morning, covering my head with my hands until I've come close enough to unlock it and slide in. Thunderstorms paint the sky with flashes like spotlights, as if Batman is being called by someone greater than the local police. Sun showers make me smile; the clear drops splatter my windshield like globs of pudding.

Summer rolls on by with her meaty arms and watermelon-breath, refusing to give me the rest I think should come with a few months off from school. Instead, she lifts her armpits and humidity flows into the air. If I were only a little lighter, I bet I could swim up over the rooftops like a fish.

I used to think that rain was beautiful. As a child, I watched the rain drip, drip, drip off the trees and abandoned toys in the backyard. I'd stick my hands in puddles and watch the ripples distort my reflection. I liked when the rain was cold, so I'd come inside with a red nose. This was back when I lived in a world of changing seasons and kinder temperatures.

Today, I sit by the window and watch the rain fill the pool until it overflows. The rubber duck thermometer bobbed bravely and never leaves the deep end. The chair legs shiver when the water spills onto the deck.

"It looks like snow," I say to my cactus. It's been around for years, insisting on growing in an unhealthy shape - ready to dive from its pot.

Sometimes I can't tell the difference between snow and rain. Snow, in many ways, is merely a whispered legend in these parts.


So suffice to say, it's been raining a lot. I've been more busy now than I have been all summer, balancing work, future semester prep, and writing furiously to meet my self-imposed deadline for Birdcage Girl. The days pass slowly, and yet, at the same time, I can't believe that summer vacation ends in just a few short weeks. Strange too that I haven't lifted any of my new video games (poor, lonely dears) or made a dent in my pile of unwatched movies. But hopefully I'll have a complete first draft of a novel manuscript. And that just might be worth it all.

Great news! The witty and all-powerful Linna over at sleuthy has interviewed me on my writing (among other things). I'm honored that she asked me. It's my first time being interviewed about writing and the like, so I'm smiling and blushing all over from seeing it up. Linna's words are so kind and it's fun to see her own view on my writing style.

I talk about quirks, not-so-old ambitions, fairy tales, and, of course, writing. For anyone who's read any of my Figment writing, you might find it especially fun to read.

Check it out here

Photo from We Heart It

It's Winter Now?

The grass is green, the trees are heavy with leaves, and the sun is beating down on my back. Yes. This sounds like winter. And again, like every winter before, I'm disappointed in my lack of aching fingers and wind-raw cheeks.

It's amazing to see what kinds of snowy contraptions are created to help us Floridians realize it's actually winter. Without wreaths hanging from palm trees and Christmas lights burning up the night, we would continue walking through the days without any knowledge of the seasons. Some people, surprisingly, don't mind this.

I ran into a lady a few weeks ago and we fell into polite conversation in the grocery line:

Me: It's getting a little cooler out, isn't it?
Her: Oh, god. You're so right. It's terrible.
Me: What?
Her: I hate it! You know, last winter it was so cold! We had two whole weeks of it. I thought I was going to die.
Me: (After frowning a bit) But don't you find the chilly wind even a little helpful when you get hot flashes?
Her: (Blinks slowly) Oh. I... never thought of it like that. I guess you're right.

Small victories, ladies and gents.

This morning, we spent a few hours at the mall. I came away with a Little Twin Stars ring and a giant sticker of the same Lala and Kiki that I will be sticking on something very special - when it comes in the mail (More on that in future posts).

Every mall has a Santa to sit on. This mall was no different... except, well, they pulled out all the stops. The exhibit (I can think of no other word) is called the Ice Palace. The theme? Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader. I stood on the second floor, admiring the giant bubble palace of ice and snow. Photos of all the characters decorated the gates around the palace, and there were even life-size plastic figures of such characters as Lucy and Edmund, acting out scenes we'll see when the movie comes out. It was beautiful.

There were two difference spots to get your picture taken. One was shaped just like a throne that would hold the caboose of the evil White Witch. However, the other one was a cozy chair made just for Santa. As I watched the little kids run up to the bearded man and beg for gifts, I saw a teenager dressed in a Cinderella dress waiting in line.

I thought that she was working there at first. A weird crossover, but hey, it's possible. However, she moved with the line and did get her picture taken on the White Witch's throne. The Cinderella dress was full of sparkles, just like the crown on her head. I never related Cinderella to winter, though, now that I've seen the snow and ice side by side with the dress, I wonder why I never did. I thought the teen was very brave too. Wearing costumes is a lot of fun, but usually is the norm when you're at a Halloween party or at a convention. Seeing her wearing it out at the beginning of December was just plain awesome I'm proud of her.

So I think I got a bit of a good chill when I got home. The plastic snowmen and penguins outside amongst the flowers made me believe, for a few minutes, that there was frost on the ground. It was fleeting, I admit. But the stirring of hope was much appreciated. Time to break out the apple cider.

Hm. And make more progress on my manuscript. Heh.


Okay. So only a few days after posting this, I found that a bunch of people are buzzing about the Narnia Ice Palaces. They're invading malls all over with Aslan goodness. Here's an article all about it that I had to share.

Small world!