Sunday, April 19, 2015

I've Moved! New Author Website!

Hello there!

These past few weeks, I made an important decision: the decision to move to a website, rather than just a blog.

So, I won't be blogging here anymore.

I have no plans on closing or redirecting I Wear Milk Crowns for now, though - I'm too sentimental! But for any new blog posts and news, please visit my new site:

See you there! 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Disney's Flower & Garden Festival 2015: Let the Fun Begin


After missing Disney's Food & Wine Festival for the first time in forever (it still haunts me), I swore that nothing on this planet would stop me from attending Epcot's other annual festival: Disney's International Flower & Garden Festival.

This is not my favorite festival of the two. March is usually sweltering, and it certainly is again this year. Right on time. Also, my mom is notorious for jumping and screaming at the mere wing-beat of a bee or wasp - they are very, very attracted to her (she's like a Bella Swan for devilish insects). So all the beautiful flowers can be a (funny) obstacle course at times.

But in recent years, Disney has added a few irresistible new features, including food booths. Ooooooh yes.

I was so prepared this year to kick foodie butt with my passport and gift card loaded with money for eats (the gift cards are WAY easier to use that juggling cash, and way prettier too).

The new design for the festival too? Cute. I love the icons growing from the vines.

With only one day to spare this spring for the festival, I studied the menus ahead of time and planned what I was going to try from the booths. Some old favorites and new ones. What I hadn't expected was to be wowed by the gardens set up around Epcot. They are, as usual, very beautiful, but I lingered in some of the gardens and took too many pictures.

Both of my favorite gardens were in England. The first was the Shakespeare Garden. Be still, my English major heart! The Shakespeare bust in the back was charming, and I loved reading the quotes Disney had chosen to plant among the flora.

The other garden is the classic English Tea Garden, where you can wander in a maze of flowers and Twinnings tea, looking for your favorite among the bunch.

During the Flower & Garden Festival, you can get stamps from not only the food booths, but also the gardens around Epcot. So of course I got my stamp in this lovely garden as well:

I always have to stop at my favorite little German village, especially when there is a festival afoot. Quite the celebration, it looks like:


Then, there was the food. From left to right:

Teriyaki Curry Bun, from Hanami, the Japan Booth. 
(Totally delicious, but then, I have a weak spot for curry.)

"Piggylicious" Bacon Cupcake with Maple Frosting and Pretzel Crunch, from The Smokehouse: Barbecue and Brews, the America Booth
(This could have easily been a disaster. I wasn't brave enough to try it last year, but... wow. I was wrong. The flavor combinations strangely worked well together. I really enjoyed it.)

Pulled Pig Slider with Cole Slaw, from The Smokehouse: Barbecue and Brews, the America Booth
(Nothing fancy but... you can't go wrong with pulled pork.)

Oolong Peach Bubble Tea and Beijing Style Candied Strawberries from Lotus House, the China Booth
(Okay, two different items here. I've had bubble tea before, and I love it, and it was THE perfect drink to have when walking in the 88-degree heat back to the car. So... thank you. 

I have two old favorites that made triumphant returns to the festival this year, and the candied strawberries are one of them. I LOVE THEM. I think the sesame seeds in the sugar is what makes this dessert so wonderful. And without fail, people always ask us where we got it. Usually with drool glistening on their chins, haha.)

Frozen Desert Violet Lemonade, Pineapple Promenade
(My other favorite oldie. Violet flavoring in anything is delicious.) 

Macaron Guimauve a la Fraise (large strawberry macaron), Fleur De Lys, France Booth
(I love it when Disney makes macarons, and this new one was fantastic. Marshmallow with strawberry jam packed into the middle? WRAPPED IN FRENCH NEWSPAPER. Perfection.)

The strawberries and bubble tea were the last items I ordered before going home. I missed a few of the foods that did not make it back this year (Oooh, how I loved thee, Hamani Sushi, with your violet sauce), but even if I had wanted to try a few more, my stomach was like, "Noooo, it's too hot outside, Kim. I can't." 

So I called it a day. 

Have you had any early springtime adventures or are you still stuck in the snow? No matter the weather, it's ALWAYS a good time to try new food and have fun. 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Barbie Dream Date and Other Valentine's Day Shenanigans

This is a Valentine's Day post. I swear. But since making plans for this blog post, a number of Interesting and Newsworthy things happened. If you find books and blood pressure romantic, then hang on. You're in for a treat ;)

Since I last said hello on this dear blog, life has kept me on my toes.

Not the kind of toe-keeping that you see on medication commercials, where the actors wear big smiles and play casual sports in the park. More like where-has-my-life-gone-oh-it's-February-time-for-laundry.

It's official guys: I am a master worrier during my work hours.

When the company was offering free blood pressure readings (and even free-er boxes of Cheerios), the entire department got tested. Including me. The fun part was that I got tested at the worst possible time. I had a big assignment to finish before the day was up (as if that wasn't enough), and during my lunch break, I found out that the ARCs of my novel had been printed. I mean, how could I possibly STAY CALM????

My number was large enough to scare half the department.

It's hard not to take that number as a badge of honor. It means that I'm taking my job seriously. That I care, perhaps too much, about doing a good job.

But of course I worried even more that day, ran home, and took my blood pressure morning and night for the next three days. And my numbers were perfectly fine. I AM HEALTHY. I just really need to learn some relaxation techniques I can use at my desk. Too bad I can't blame caffeine (I drink water all day at work - I rarely leave my desk to make tea).

So that thing:

THE ADVANCED READER EDITIONS OF LOVE FORTUNES AND OTHER DISASTERS. OH MY GOSH. Swoon Reads let me know about the arrival of the books via Twitter, and I had to wait a few days after that to get my grubby author hands on them. But look.

Look at that pretty front cover:

And the pretty back cover:

Too many feels. I carried my ARC to work with me this week in my bag. I keep it on my bedside table. Sometimes, when I get sleepy, I poke it with my finger. Just to make sure it's real.

It seems like I've been waiting a long time to see my book in ARC form. Perhaps because I've been there to see Temple and Karole's books as ARCs, even while I was still working through copyedits at the time.

Around the same time, Big Swoonworthy News was announced on USA TODAY'S Happy Ever After blog:

You can find the tour dates by clicking at USA TODAY, or read more about the tour from Swoon Reads's blog. You'll find the tour dates under my "News & Events" tab at the top of the blog as well.

Are you on Goodreads? If so, you can let your attendance be known via my profile's event listings. And please do! I'd love to know if you're going, and at what stop of the tour. I can't wait to meet you!

I'm also thrilled to meet three other Swoon Reads authors: Sandy Hall, Temple West, and Katie Van Ark. Even though we've kept in touch through emails and social media, it's going to be awesome to meet them in person. I can't wait to ask Sandy what her favorite shade of Essie nail polish is, how Temple chooses what color to dye her hair next, and exchange funny/creepy teaching stories with Katie (once you've taught, you'll have stories, believe me).

Okay. So. All these events have totally dwarfed today of all days: Valentine's Day.

Or as I have the pleasure of calling it, Single Awareness Day. HAPPY SINGLE AWARENESS DAY!

If you've gotten a sneaky peek at LOVE FORTUNES AND OTHER DISASTERS, you know that I have a thing for cupids, hearts, and other sugary desserts. To celebrate this year, my mom and I went shopping and treated ourselves to appetizers and desserts at Grillsmith. I'd been having a craving for salmon bruchetta and bananas foster. And let me tell you, I feel completely satisfied now. Grillsmith is kind of a special occasion for me, mostly because it just feels fancy when you dine there, and I have fond memories of eating there with friends when I was in college (different town, same menu, haha).

I also fell madly in love today too - with notebooks. Aren't they gorgeous? The little guy at the top is a new cell phone cover. A waterfall of glitter and shiny stars. I like glitter, but only when it's safely contained!

And then there's Barbie Dream Date. GUYS. GUYS, THIS IS MY CHILDHOOD. I don't know what compelled my parents to buy this game for me when I was a kid. But whatever it was, I'm glad they did. Somehow I had convinced by brother to play the game with me (probably because you play as Ken), and it's amazing how much we both remember about it.

Now, at some point, we lost some of the pieces and had to throw it away, but I couldn't forget. I HAD to have this game again. So this year, I decided to make good on my yearning and finally order one.

Look at those sparkly eyes. They must be in love.

Nostalgia was practically dripping off of this box. I didn't cry, but I didn't hesitate to punch out the cards and put together the spinners either.

But you're probably thinking, what is this game about? 

Well, I typed the description from the back of the box, because there's no way I could have said it any better:
Every girl dreams of fantasy dates - and now girls can play Barbie Dream Date Game with Barbie and Ken! After picking out beautiful gifts for Barbie, Ken may take her horseback riding, snow skiing, or maybe even to a costume ball!  
Players travel around the locket collecting gifts for Barbie, then move around the date board collecting snapshots of their dates. When the clock strikes midnight, the player with the most gift and date cards wins the game! Players turn their cards over to see what kind of gifts Ken really gave Barbie (a box of candy, perhaps?). 
Every girl's a winner when she plays Barbie Dream Date game!

I'll let that sink in. 

My mom and I played the first game. We had to read the directions first, which are a bit more complicated than I remembered, but once we got started, it all came back to me. Like riding a bike. Once you play Barbie Dream Date, you never forget. 

This, my friends, is the game board when you're ready to start:

For this game, I chose the Orange Barbie and Ken, while my mom chose the Blue Barbie and Ken. No matter which couple you choose, Ken rocks the 90s fashion we all know and love. Enjoy it. Barbie and are separate at the start of the game. The idea is that Barbie is at home, getting ready for her date with Ken. Meanwhile, you're Ken, about to embark on an Unforgettable Night of wooing Barbie with your mysterious presents and excellent date ideas.

You travel across the board using the spinners at the bottom left of the photo. When it's my turn, I spin both of them at the same time and move with the combined number. However, if one or both of my arrows land on the little pink clock instead of a number - uh oh! I have to move the pink clock on the main game board one hour forward.

One less hour to spend with Barbie :(

When the clock's hand reaches midnight the game is over - and whoever got the most date and gift cards combined is the winner. Obviously, the winning Ken is rich and has great luck.

You go around the golden locket first; this is the only time you can collect gifts for Barbie. You're only allowed to take one gift per category, even if you landed on perfume three times. Unlike the dates, you can't look at the gifts until the game is over. In real life, then, we'd have to assume that Ken either chose his gifts blindfolded or invested in grab bags.

After the locket, you pick Barbie up at her house (I love that you have to attach her to Ken's stand - he's got room for two!) and begin the dating.

Each time you land on, well, a date, you get to pick the card that matches. Did you land on ice cream parlor? That means you took Barbie for ice cream. Great, right?

Even if you land on ice cream parlor ten times, you can only take the card once. Unlike the mysterious gifts, you wouldn't want to have more than one anyway. The pictures on the other sides are always the same. They are the same pictures already printed on the game board, in fact.

The best part is that Ken's hair color is different in a few of them. Either he had his hair dyed a few times throughout the night, or Barbie dated his evil twin(s). I wonder.

So the clock strikes twelve, right? The night is over. It's time to tally the cards and find out what the gifts are.

Here's what I ended up with. Orange Barbie and Ken had a great night. Costume ball, skiing, boating. Oh, and that box of chocolate? Nice:

But my mom's Blue Barbie and Ken truly made the most of their time together, even though her Ken forgot to pick up more gifts, haha:

Because the mysterious gifts were my favorite part growing up, I've got to show you what they are. And then you need to tell me what you would think of these gifts. Seriously:

So how was your Valentine's Day? Did you have a good time? If a 90s Ken gave you one of these gifts, what would you think? 

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Very Last 2014

People always ask me what I'm doing for New Year's Eve. Usually, my answer is the same: nothing. This isn't because I have the energy of an old lady, and like to go to bed at 10pm. More so, it's knowing that New Year's Eve is THE ultimate party night: counting down to 2015 in a room full of strangers does not sound appealing, especially when you're sure to run into a few traffic accidents on the way home (with no alternate routes. That's why I'm complaining).

Tonight is the perfect night to reflect on 2014 - that year full of big changes and surprises. The year that seemed as if it'd never end.

A few things happened on the way to 2015 that I hadn't been able to blog about until now. This is the perfect time to share them with you.

Doing Author Things

In 2014, the best news I could have ever hoped for arrived: my debut novel is being published!!! Even though I have indeed blogged about The Call, as well as posting the occasional smattering of photos on Instagram and Twitter, I haven't written about it much on this blog. Probably because the rounds of revisions, edits, and top-secret decisions I made regarding Love Fortunes and Other Disasters have kept me busy.

Facebook reminded me of some key 2014 moments, including one of the best moments (because boy does it ever feel good to finish a manuscript, first draft or fifth draft, haha!):

Not long after, I submitted my manuscript to Swoon Reads.... and the rest is history! 

Over the summer, I took a trip to see family in New York, and stopped by Swoon Headquarters to meet Jean Feiwel, my editor, Holly West, and the rest of the amazing staff over at Swoon Reads. It was an awe-inspiring experience, and I was shaking with nerves and excitement after taking the elevator to Swoon's floor. The second I saw the books, though, I felt at home. As you might expect from Macmillan, there were stacks and shelves of books everywhere, along with huge posters of beautiful covers. I felt like Charlie in Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. 

Then it was time to get to work. Holly wrote about the experience from her point of view here - which is pretty cool to look back on, since in some ways, the trip to Swoon was a delightful blur. I loved getting to talk with Holly about my edit letter, and plan together how I would tackle the first round of edits. Totally worth it. I wish I could beam myself over for meetings. Alas. Maybe someone will create a teleporter in 2015.

With Love Fortunes in interior design, and a few more months before it hits bookstores, I had thought it would be too early for any authorly things to happen. But I was wrong. My coworkers always find new and creative ways to see if I happen to have a copy hidden up my sleeve (nope), and I'm starting to have a tagline when I'm introduced to new people ("And this is Kim, she's the author."). Once, when me and the 'rents were visiting my brother in Tallahassee, we took a trip to Thomasville, Georgia and I stepped into an adorable bookshop... and then things happened and this photo was taken:

I will never get used to it - it's just too magical! Bring it on, 2015!

Meeting Robert Irvine

I wasn't able to attend 2014's Disney's Food & Wine Festival. My disappointment only grew after realizing that I couldn't write a blog post about it this year. Even though the festival was extended, those weekends in the fall had been stuffed with dog-sitting, errands, and holding down the fort as we weathered a few big changes. By the time I made it to Disney, the booths had already been packed up. I almost cried when I saw them missing (because, yeah, I really thought I had booked that trip within the festival dates. Darn).

Despite that, a dream did still come true during the festival. My mom and I got to meet Robert Irvine.

We hadn't seen Robert since he last came to Disney World for the festival in 2011. So when it was announced that he would be there this year, I hoped that we could make it to see him. The stars aligned (it really felt that way, the way fall was going for us) and we were free to go! Mom and I got up early and drove to Epcot. The sky was dark, threatening rain, but it couldn't dampen our spirits (or Robert's cookbook that I kept in a Ziploc bag, mwahaha).

We went straight to the festival center and found out that the crowd for Robert was so large that Disney decided to hand out wristbands to the first hundred or so people, and no one else would be allowed to wait in line to meet him. The wristbands? Of course there were no more left.

Dejected, we grabbed some lunch before Robert was scheduled to give his demonstration. While dunking my french fries in barbecue sauce and staring out the window at the Electric Umbrella, an idea came to me.  I tweeted Robert about the situation... and then fangirled about ten minutes later when I saw his response:

After finishing lunch, we ran back to the festival center in the rain. We brought an umbrella with us, but Florida's famous sideways rain ignored the umbrella and soaked us anyway. 

The demonstration was so much fun to watch, especially since Robert's charisma shone through from the moment he stepped onto the stage. Since he wasn't under the pressure of turning around a failing restaurant or cooking by the clock, he cracked jokes, danced, and got the audience engaged in what he was cooking. His wife and one of his daughters were there to support him - very cool! Before we knew it, the hour was over, but Robert still stayed behind to answer questions before heading over to the signing area. 

Mom and I knew that getting to meet Robert would be near impossible due to the wristbands, but we decided to try anyway. A nice cast member roped off the wristband line and let us wait behind the rope, just in case Robert finished all the wristband people before his hour was up. That alone gave us hope. So we waited. Flipped through Robert's cookbook. And waited some more. Near the end of the hour, another cast member announced that they would now open the line up for the non-wristbanders, because Robert didn't want his fans to feel like he didn't want to see them (awww, right?).

So we waited a little more, and then this happened: 

Lemme tell you, meeting Robert Irvine was right up there on my top 2014 moments. I mean, usually I get nervous when meeting celebrities, or even Disney characters (don't even get me started about being tongue-tied around Prince Caspian, haha), but the minute it was our turn to see Robert, I felt at ease. Maybe because he's more awesome in person than on TV, if you can believe that, but also because he knew exactly who I was before I could say more than, "We made it!"

He recognized me from my Twitter profile photo. And, even more magical, remembered us from when we saw him at the festival center back in 2011! "You were standing in the same spot," he said, while signing the cookbook, "right over there."

If that's not magic, I don't know what is.

Being A Guest "Player Hater:" 

Since I'm admittedly scared of playing horror games - especially survivor horror games, where you're not allowed to take a swing that the hideous things chasing you - I've been watching a ton of Let's Play videos by various braver gamers. My favorite being theRadBrad, since he's manages to be funny without eclipsing the story lines (I really, really appreciate being given the chance to ponder a plot twist and read the picked up notes while watching, thank you).

That said, my brother Bill decided to try his hand at Let's Play by starting his own channel, lovably named the Player Haters. And, since he was coming home for the holidays, he thought that having is big sister play some games with him would be a fun.

And so we did.

We both have a long history with SkiFree, and quite frankly, I think we were both at our best before ye old holiday mass eating happened and we got sleepy.

I have to admit that getting a cartoon icon of my face was pretty epic. Do you think it looks like me? Enjoy the video (and if you haven't played SkiFree yet, maybe you should add that to your 2015 goals)!

1. Write more books.
2. Read everything unread on my bookshelves (and donate the books I don't want to keep)
3. Replay at least one Final Fantasy game
4. Schedule more trips to Jellyrolls, the dueling piano bar
5. Make more time for social things, like hanging out with friends
6. Keep up with exercising and healthy eating
7. Cook something without the aid of a microwave
8. Be braver. 

What are your goals for 2015? 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Long time, no write! How are you doing? 

I've missed this blog. November flew by so quickly. NaNoWriMo tends to speed November up, but guys, it's already December. I can barely catch my breath.

The reason I'm able to write today is because of a cold. I woke up yesterday morning with a pounding headache and a sore throat. This morning, it was a stuffy nose and earache, due to a buildup of congestion.

Apparently, I am too old to have the common cold. Noooooo. I have to be plagued with extreme congestion every time, the kind that cannot be cured without vigilant meds.

Are you wondering what happened to my NaNoWriMo escapade? Swoon Reads asked me to share my end-of-the-month experience on its blog, so please enjoy all my The Nightmare Before Christmas references as I share how that went.

I have also finally made a Facebook Author page. I had been holding out on making one for a while, but once the final cover for LOVE FORTUNES AND OTHER DISASTERS was announced, I felt it was the right time. My Facebook page will probably be more focused on writing, but don't be surprised when Disney World sneaks in there sooner or later.

With my copyedits finished and LOVE FORTUNES in interior design, I've got a small break from Fallon and Sebastian's charming world. But the work doesn't stop there. More surprises are on the way. If you've been following my blog for a while, then you're familiar with the stories I've written in the past. You also know that I follow my crazy ideas anywhere, so writing something new is also a thing I do a lot. At the moment, I've got my hands in both new and old tales.

*reads that back* Hoooooo boy. Yeah. I got five stars on being vague, right there.

I'm beginning to think that being infuriatingly mysterious is part of my job description.  

At the end of the month, I'm going to put together a 2014 recap. I'm in sore need to share some great events and moments with you, but I think my medication is wearing off. I need more cough syrup. More decongestant. More naps.  

How's December going for you? Have you finished your shopping lists? Getting ready for vacation? Nursing a cold? 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Challenge of the Pantser: NaNoWriMo 2014

The weirdest part about participating in NaNoWriMo is that the rest of the world only sees the next 30 days as "November." Non-writers continue to do laundry, eat, scrub the bathtub, party with friends, NOT THINK ABOUT WRITING 24/7. I don't get them. Especially when I reach the halfway point in the month, and everyone around me is too cheerful.

But for us writers, the biggest challenge of the year has arrived. Some of us get scared. Some of us live for the thrill. I'm a mixture of both.

If you didn't catch the news on Swoon Reads, then I'll say it again here. I am totally a:

Me and my fellow Swoon authors are joining together to share our NaNo journeys, tips, woes, and strategies for success! I even made a new NaNo profile - you can find me there! The winner's shirt is calling my name this year (I think it's the dragon), but I'm going to do my best and see what happens. After all, I know from experience that November throws a lot of curve balls.

When I taught college classes in grad school, it was the month when all the big papers were due. The papers I had to write for my classes, yes, but also for my students to turn theirs in for me to grade. I'm sure my "real world" job will provide some kind of equivalent.

As part of my strategy, I'm doing two new things this year. The first is writing mainly on my iPad Mini. This is my first year using it, and I'm still getting used to Pages. I'm a Word girl, through and through, but the convenience of opening my manuscript within seconds is too good to pass up. The best part is that speed. I can wake up in the middle of the night and write a paragraph. Or come home from work and write a page. My laptop is just too slow for that - and slowness can be the enemy of motivation, haha.

I've never actually done word sprints either (I just usually look for pockets of time when they come and write then), but I downloaded some apps to try. I'll let you know later in the month how that goes.

I usually participate every November, using the camaraderie and energy of the event to help me make the final push to the last chapter on whatever project I had already been working on. It's been a while since I started writing a new novel on November 1st. I love the feeling of starting a new project, one with new characters, twists and turns that surprise even me as I write them, and finding new worlds to explore. So NaNoWriMo 2014 begins with a brand-new project, unconnected to anything I've written before.

My NaNo novel is tentatively called Brightly Wound. I made one of my famous lists-of-all-the-things-between-the-pages, to give you an idea of what this novel is made of: a somewhat-villainous boy; a powerful, heartbroken girl; talking animals, rum raisin desserts, zebras, delicious kings, shadow kings, three impossible tasks, the aftermath of a love triangle, favors great and small, family heirlooms, golden hoods, lovable henchmen, hideouts, and exactly one showdown.

This was also the extent of my planning before October came to a close.

The Muppet-ish Halloween pen did not help me find a plot.

While I am usually a panster, this year, obviously, I'm an extreme panster.

Urban Dictionary gives a great definition of what a "pantser" is:

This is the way I like to write. I have to have the freedom to improvise on the page. If I plan everything out, down to the dialogue in every scene, it takes the fun out of creating. I did all the work, but the storytelling isn't there yet, on paper, unfolding like blanket still warm from the dryer. 

But I usually spend a few weeks before toying with the new novel in my head. Sometimes jotting down notes. Starting a Pinterest board. But November took me by surprise this year. It was upon us and I was stepping into uncharted territory. There was some panic, on my part, as I opened my document and wrote the first lines, hoping for the best. 

What I did have, though, was one particular character that demanded to be written. He dogged me for weeks, begging for a world to be planted in, because he came alone. His name is Jasper. He was a bully. Now he's kinda a villain. And as long as I'm concentrating on him, I've discovered that he brings the story to him. I just have to listen. 

For those of you participating this year, how did your pre-planning go? What level or panster or planner are you? 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

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 where - 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!