Hitting the books

The year’s 18th annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books featured conversations with renowned authors, such as Joyce Carol Oates and Orson Scott Card. American icons like Debbie Reynolds and Carol Burnett took the stage to speak about their memoirs. Children were giddy from having met Lemony Snicket in person. Where else can you sit and see Carol Burnett and Debbie Reynolds and hear them tell stories about the golden age of TV and film?” said Cindy Dlughch, who was there with her daughter, Lillye Dlughch.

The familiar white tents filled the University of Southern Californa campus last weekend as book lovers came together for the festival.

“Lillye has grown up at the book fair, she’s been coming here since she was little… I used to bring her in a wagon and now she’s going to college,” said Dlughch.

“I’m kind of as old as the book fair then,” said Lillye Dlughch, who has been coming to the festival since the age of 1. She is now 18 years old.

On stage, Molly Ringwald, of "Sixteen Candles" fame, read an excerpt from her new novel, "When It Happens to You."

“Writing is something I’ve always done, since I could pick up a pen,” Ringwald said. “It was something that I didn’t know I would necessarily do professionally or publicly. My writing had to get a certain level for myself.”

Danica McKellar, also known for her acting, talked and at times sang about her passion for motivating young girls to love math. With witty titles like, "Kiss My Math" and "Girls Get Curves: Geometry Takes Shape," McKellar subtracts away the fear of the subject.

“My favorite thing about writing the books is that challenge of how do I make this so non-mathy? How do I make this feel fun?” McKellar said.

By the USC football field, famous chef and TV personality, Ludo Lefebvre, led a cooking demonstration and shared his favorite ingredients.

“Ten or fifteen years ago, I hate flowers on food,” Lefebvre said. “It was so tacky.”

Lefebvre admitted to putting flowers on food sometimes, “but it needs to be a good flower, with a lot of flavor.”

Amidst the music, food and tents, panels on a variety of topics brought people out of the sun and into the USC auditoriums and classrooms.

During the "Guns in America" panel, the audience listened to experts detail and debate the history and nature of the second amendment, the popularity of Glock handguns, and the rise of the National Rifle Association.

“The language of the second amendment is an enigma,” said Erwin Chermerinsky, dean of the University of California, Irvine School of Law and a member of the panel. “[The idea that] gun ownership is for individual rights is a fraud.”

In another classroom, Thomas Curwen, Constance Hale and Ben Yagoda discussed the nuances of writing in a panel called Not Just Writing Good: Writing Well.

“We humans have this innate love of the sound of words and delight in the music of language, which is completely beaten out of us in school," Hale said. “We’re taught to write academically. I regret that we aren’t encouraged to play and fail a little bit more.”

Authors, books and book signings were the main attractions, but the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books has evolved quite a bit from earlier years. Now, live bands, performances, cooking demonstrations, food trucks, comic books, poetry readings, film screenings, and hot topic panels are all in tow.

“We expanded to not just be about books, but everything that is inspired by the written word,” said Scott Dallavo, director of events and strategic partnerships for the Los Angeles Times.

If the assortment of events and activities could possibly leave anyone wanting more, Dallavo mentioned there were plans to expand the hours of the festival.

“We were endeavoring to do a night-time program, like a paid ticketed program for charity, a vaudeville show of some kind based on the written word or a musical performance,” said Dallavo. “That was the goal for this year. We just didn’t find the right fit, but it’s definitely a goal.”