We pretty much dropped our stuff off in the suite and then explored the exhibition floor for about an hour. I bought MANY books. The admission to this event was free and the books for each author there were on sale in the middle of the exhibition. I was super excited to see the artwork of Pamela Miller and her husband, George Miller, who are Florida artists. Pamela was commissioned to create the artwork for this year's event. The print chosen by the festival is this one to the right. Do you see the books? I loved their art because not only was it beautiful, but they incorporated books and reading into a lot of their work. (Pamela also had the winning art for the upcoming Jacksonville Jazz Festival and I love it!) I bought two of her prints to hang in my "reading room" (aka computer room, work room, storage room, but one day I'll have an actual reading room...) One of the prints is called "Read to Me" and that one's below. The other one is called "The Book of Love" and that's the one that she and I are standing next to in the other picture.
Okay, so after some hanging out it was time for lunch already. Jason and I went to lunch with Heather and Sandy right outside the arena at a college-y place called Tailgaters. (Which by the way, did I mention I graduated from UCF only 6 years ago and NONE of that was there then... the new arena, the little community on campus with all those restaurants and stores??? It's so nice!!)
After that we had an afternoon full of panels. At 12:20 pm Jason and I attended one called Capturing American Life with Leonard Pitts Jr. (Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for the Miami Herald), Tayari Jones (Leaving Atlanta), and Jeff Zaslow (The Girls from Ames). Tayari Jones told a funny story about meeting Judy Blume without realizing it was her. Her path to publication for her newest book, Silver Sparrow, was so interesting and the message at the end was to finish your book, and don't give up! She also made the point to do it at least for yourself. I was excited to see that her newest book was available for this event (since the publication date isn't until the end of May). Apparently, Tayari had even been told the books wouldn't be ready for today's event and was surprised to see them there. I had the honor of having the first Silver Sparrow book signed by her, and we laughed about her excitement at seeing the finished book for the first time. (She even date/time "stamped" the book to commemorate, haha!) She was so sweet and wonderful. It's so awesome when you enjoy someone's book and then find out they're so great in person too! I can't wait to read this!
After that we rushed to the next panel, Conflicting Loyalties: Cross-Racial Relationships, which I have to say may have been the most interesting one because it's a topic that interests me but also because the conversation definitely had the potential to be heated, LOL! The members of the panel were Dolen Perkins-Valdez (Wench), Susan Gregg Gilmore (The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove), and Nina Revoyr (Wingshooters). There was discussion of experiences of being different based on where you're from as well as some discussion on how biracial individuals choose to identify with one ethnicity/race over the other. I can 100% relate. I had a giggly star struck moment at the beginning of this panel... back in the first panel I mentioned, I was sitting next to a nice woman. She leaned over and cracked a joke about something that was said and we laughed. So imagine my surprise when we go to the next panel and she walks up to the table to take her place as author, LOL! That was Dolen Perkins-Valdez, author of Wench! I did a blog tour back in January and really enjoyed the book. I've read tons of other blogger reviews that loved it too. Also on the panel was Nina Revoyr whose book, Wingshooters, I had really hoped to read prior to the festival but I hadn't been able to yet. (I will fix that soon!) Wingshooters is about a young half-Japanese girl who lives with her white grandparents in Wisconsin. I have a feeling I'll really relate to this novel, as I did to a lot of what Nina said during the panel about her experiences being half-Asian. Then when I talked to her afterwards I learned that we also have in common our field of work: child welfare! She works for an agency that provides services in this field (including forensic interviews which I do) so that was so cool to learn about her. In looking at her website once I got home I realized she's the Executive Vice President of said agency, LOL! I'm very excited to read her book!
Then the last panel of the day was Family Secrets with Lori Roy (Bent Road), Susan Hubbard (The Season of Risks), and Eleanor Brown (The Weird Sisters). They had a fun discussion about their favorite villains from their novels. Lori Roy's book has a villain of sorts that you might find yourself starting to feel for.... I did, but then I'd have to remind myself why I didn't like him! As I mentioned in my post yesterday, Heather, Sandy, and I had the opportunity to meet Lori and Eleanor at the author reception the night before. Both of them remembered me from then which was so nice. They are both awesome people, friendly, and funny, and great authors! I truly can't wait to see what each of them writes next... but considering they're both new releases (Lori's especially which was just released earlier this month), I might have to wait a bit. Doesn't mean I can't make you go read their current books! ;)
Then it was the end of the day. Heather, Sandy, my husband, and I spent some time in the suite while Sandy did some blogging, and then we headed to Macaroni Grill in Waterford Lakes for our first official Florida blogger get-together! There were six of us bloggers total (and two husbands). We had a blast and there was never a lull in the conversation. And the conversation didn't just stick to books. That was lots of fun and I hope we do something like that more often! Clockwise from the left is my husband, Jason, me, Sandy (You GOTTA Read This), Liz (Cleverly Inked), Heather (Book Addiction), Heather (Raging Bibliomania), Michelle (My Books.My Life), and Michelle's husband, Ben.
Make sure you put next year's UCF Book Festival on your calendars... it's March 31, 2012!