USC's annual festival of books still going strong

In today's world, vampires and werewolves are beloved. And although they do not exist in the real world, they have become some of the most famous characters in pop-culture fiction books. Books are the imagination's muse. They are a means of escape from the dullness of everyday life. Books provide insight into the cultures of people in faraway lands. Some read to learn, while others read for pleasure. But no matter what the reason for grabbing a comfortable chair and sitting down to read a good book, books are worth celebrating.

The annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books held at USC provided books the opportunity to shine.

With nothing but blue skies, the only thing raining down on the festival was confetti during the welcome ceremony on Saturday morning at 10 a,m.

USC's marching band performed for the onlookers, and C.L. Max Nikias, USC's President, took a moment to address the crowd gathered in front of the USC Stage.

"USC is a perfect home for this event, because this university is full of intellectual energy, curiosity, and vitality," President Nikias said. "All of us, young and old, understand that to be educated, you must be well read. No matter your age, great books are a passport to a lifetime of learning."

Traditionally held on the UCLA campus, the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books has traditionally occurred on the last weekend in April since 1996.

Beginning this year though, the festival has moved, making USC its new and permanent home. The move was the result of discrepancies between organizers on how to share expenses in light of recent University of California budget cuts.

"I'm so proud that the nation's largest public literary festival has found a home at one of America's leading private research universities," President Nikias boasted. "This is only the beginning."

Each year, the Festival of Books plays host to a number of authors, guest speakers, and publishers.

Sherry Lewis's daughter, Mallory Lewis, and her beloved childhood puppet partner Lamb Chop, performed on the Target Children's Stage.

Lewis charmed the audience, using the puppet Lamb Chop with silly songs and humorous banter. For many, seeing Lamb Chop brought them back to their childhood memories, and gave them an opportunity to share those memories with their children.

Jamie Lee Curtis was yet another headliner who took to the Target Children's Stage for a reading of her book, My Mommy Hung the Moon.

The presence of celebrities like Curtis, Lewis, Lamb Chop, and the Goosebumps series author R.L. Stein attracted the masses to the event.

For those interested in books relating to food, the Cooking Stage was the place to be. Erin McKenna, the creator of BabyCakes, was just one of the special guests to grace the Cooking Stage.

McKenna is best known for her tasty sweets, which are great for those with food allergies or special dietary needs.

"My family and I come every year," said Caitlin Mohney, a Chapman University student.

Mohney handed out books, which were a compilation of stories, poetry, and literary works, all written by Chapman University students.

The book, entitled Elephant Tree, included a poem by Mohney, called "Hustlin'"

The festival helps students to have their works reach a broader audience.

KTLA 5 had a booth where newscasters were signing autographs. Trader Joes was also in attendance, as were local radio stations and even book series like the "For Dummies" instructional series.

Besides being a star of the acclaimed television show "The Office," Rainn Wilson, best known for his role as Dwight, was interviewed by advice columnist Amy Alkon. Wilson is also the co-author of SoulPancake.

 SoulPancake is a website and book, allowing people "a place to speak your mind, unload your questions, and figure out what it means to be human."

Wilson and his co-authors took to the Los Angeles Times Stage on Saturday to discuss SoulPancake's impact.

"It's meant to be your own book," Wilson said of SoulPancake. "You carry it around and you can sketch in it, work on it, scribble in it."