Skip to main content


April 24, 2015 Reader Kathy Jund Reports on the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books

Posted by emily

The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books was held on the sunny USC campus over the weekend of April 18-19th. The festival has been taking place for 20 (!) years now, and reader Kathy Jund has been going for 12 of them. Here, the seasoned attendee tells us all about the LATFOB (which she humorously refers to as her “Disneyland”) --- including her favorite panels, Billy Idol, and why she’s so pleased that there’s a greater YA presence at the event. Considering the festival took place in Los Angeles, we couldn’t help but ask about its Hollywood visitors, and Kathy was more than happy to indulge us! Scroll all the way down to view our gallery of Kathy's wonderful photos.

The Book Report Network: We know you’ve been attending the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books annually for many years now. How many times have you attended the festival?

Kathy Jund: This is my 12th year attending the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books and many years now of attending BOTH days. I wait and wait all year for the weekend to finally arrive, and I’m always surprised that it’s over in a flash. As the years go by, Mondays are certainly harder.
TBRN: We know you always bring people with you. Who was with you this year?

KJ: This year, unfortunately, a number of my group of book lovers had engagements that kept them away from the event, but as always, my number one (and only) daughter, Amber-Starr, accompanied me both days! My best friends Norma and Sawsan both came with us on Saturday. It still amazes me how many people do not know about the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, be them booksellers, readers or even authors! I try to do what I can to spread the word. Imagine my excitement when I spoke of the event with author Anne Cleeland, who is one of our Southern California mystery authors writing the Acton/Doyle New Scotland Yard series (MURDER IN HINDSIGHT) and who I've had the pleasure to meet and spend time with at a few other events this past year! After discussing the festival with her this past January, Anne decided in March that she would like to attend! Anne has a new hardcover out and was asked to do a signing at the Mystery Ink (one of our Southern California independent bookstores) booth; after our conversation about the event, she was excited for the chance to check it out. There is nothing better than introducing someone to this event. But an author? What a plus! Although schedule constraints didn't allow Anne to experience an author panel of festival proportions, I was thrilled to give her a peek!

TBRN: How did this year’s event compare to other years?

KJ: The best part oftentimes is the weather, and you could not have asked for better weather than what we had this past weekend. I was excited to go as the festival is my "Disneyland." However, in reviewing the author panel schedules early on, I found I was going to have to choose what I really wanted to see. Although the festival goes all day, you would be surprised after a panel or two how fast it goes by! It appeared this year that there were quite a number of Young Adult (YA) authors, so I was very happy to hear that. All those youngsters who have attended for years now need more of their own group of authors to discover in order to grow into future adult readers! 

TBRN: Have people now settled into the USC venue after three years, or do people still miss the UCLA setting?

KJ: I had actually asked a number of people that exact question over the two-day event, and many I spoke to said they had made the adjustment (as I have)…especially when it comes to the accessibility of the event via public transportation (light rail train, buses and the shuttle from Union station that connects with the Metrolink trains) that was not readily available at the former UCLA campus. Anyone will tell you that driving in Los Angeles traffic --- especially on a terrific spring weekend --- can be daunting, so having an alternate option can certainly go a long way between deciding to attend or not. The campus at USC is very easy to get around, whereas at ULCA, there were many stairs and hilly areas to navigate, which could be troublesome if you were rolling around great quantities of books and had to get from one end of the campus to the other in a very short time. I do enjoy the ambiance of both campuses, but have become acclimated to the festival's new home!

TBRN: Was there one author you were particularly excited about meeting? If so, share with us something about that.

KJ: I was very excited to meet Hallie Ephron (NIGHT NIGHT, SLEEP TIGHT) and Kimberly McCreight (WHERE THEY FOUND HER and RECONSTRUCTING AMELIA) --- although I have my special "faves," I'm always researching new authors. I certainly enjoyed meeting these two fine ladies, as well as reading their books. The theme for their panel was "secrets and suspense," and hearing how each had endeavored to write a story that would be compelling to the reader with bits and pieces of their own fears and experiences sprinkled throughout certainly kept the audience (and me) engaged.
TBRN: Was there one panel that stood out to you? If so, what was it, and why? If there was more than one, feel free to share as many as you like! 

KJ: Although it wasn't a panel per se, the one-on-one interview with LeVar Burton was definitely one I was especially moved by. LeVar has been a regular at the festival for as long as I have been going, and I don't think there is a celebrity more attuned to getting children to read than he is. Since I always seem to be running from one mystery panel to the next, I'm not usually over in the children's section at the height of the day. However, this year we had the opportunity to attend LeVar's panel in the large, almost ballroom-sized venue, and it was filled with attendees of all ages! Amber-Starr is an elementary school teacher, so we could not pass up the chance to see him talk about the importance of getting children engaged with books early on. His talk was very heartfelt, and his passion for getting children to read was clearly expressed. LeVar read to the audience his new children's story (THE RHINO WHO SWALLOWED THE STORM), and we were all mesmerized.

TBRN: Was there anything you learned during an author talk or a panel that surprised you?

KJ: I was surprised to learn that LeVar Burton and his company now own global rights to the "Reading Rainbow" copyright and intend to continue bringing reading --- in all media forms --- to children. The testimonies by some in the audience, who gave LeVar accolades for contributing to their "want to read," was something to watch; you could tell he was truly touched by the audience comments. Who knew that a television program geared to help bring those summer days of "no school" would prove so valuable to the nation's children.

TBRN: The LATFOB is now in its 20th year! Was there anything special going on for its 20th anniversary?

KJ: Sadly, I will say in this regard I was disappointed. Although I know this event is truly not Disneyland, I had hoped for a more celebrative air surrounding the festival. In past years, great attention was drawn to the "theme," but I did not get the feeling of this years' festival being a momentous occasion. Let's face it, 20 years is an accomplishment anywhere! There were a few banners throughout the campus that reflected on past themes (and there have been some terrific ones!), and it appeared perhaps the theme was a culmination of them all, but no merchandising to memorialize it could be found. I heard a lot of commentary about "where's this year's magnet (my fridge has many of them), t-shirts, buttons, posters, pens?" Those things that might seem small make a big difference to the attendees. I initially assumed the theme was being kept a secret as the circulars really weren't promoting one; I thought that would have been an exciting thing to do. I presume the economy probably had something to do with it, as I can't even imagine the overhead that would go into putting this terrific event together. Still, I couldn't help feeling a bit let down in that regard.

TBRN: Los Angeles is known for its movies, not its books. Was there any Hollywood crossover at the event?

KJ: I will agree that Los Angeles (Hollywood) is known for its movies, although I think we have some pretty terrific authors out here. But when you have the added element of Hollywood's influence, you never know who might be writing a book. We had a number of celebrities as guests this year, as writing a book seems to be the thing to do these days. The Los Angeles Times Stage is a terrific venue to witness one-on-one interviews, out in the open air under the tents! This year, just to name a few, we had the pleasure of seeing Lorraine Bracco (of “The Sopranos” and “Rizzoli and Isles” fame), as well as Candice Bergen, who stands on her own for sure as Murphy Brown! There was quite the rave I heard over on the Cooking Stage, as Pauley Perrrette (“NCIS”) was a celebrity worth looking for. The highlight for me and my group on Saturday afternoon was the one-on-one interview with Billy Idol that we attended. And let me tell you, he still looks great! And to top off the interview, Billy was joined by two of his "mates," and an impromptu concert broke out where Billy treated us all to an outstanding rendition of “Rebel Yell!” The whole crowd moved to the front of the stage to take it all in! I'll have to say his reading of a passage in his book (DANCING WITH MYSELF) was terrific! I hope he reads for the audio version; I bet it could be a bestseller!  

TBRN: With more than 300 authors attending, and so many panels happening simultaneously, it must have been hard to see everything you wanted to see. What did you wish you had had time to see that you had to miss?

KJ: I was really disappointed to miss the mystery panel with Lisa Scottoline on Sunday; I'm hearing all kinds of great things about EVERY FIFTEEN MINUTES, and she is one of my ultimate "faves." Scheduling for that panel conflicted with Hallie and Kimberly's early panel, but I made up for it by spending a bit of time one on one with Lisa at the Sisters in Crime booth later in the afternoon. It was so great to see her! I was also very disappointed to miss the Romance panel, as we have been lucky to have one these past three years, and it is great to have that genre represented. Since I have such a range of reading interests, the fact that the romance genre has a presence in what is traditionally described as a mystery/suspense venue is something I look forward to.

TBRN: What did your friends comment on?

KJ: My friends both commented as well on the fact that, considering 20 years is such a momentous milestone, the atmosphere didn't seem to give the anniversary the attention it deserved. They most definitely enjoyed our Billy Idol “concert.” They, like me, enjoy meeting the authors and listening to the panels and just having a terrific time looking through all the vendor booths to see what kind of goodies are available and spending moments appreciating the written word. We did discuss that one day it would be nice to stay somewhere close so we can attend the night events that have also come with the change of venue to USC…Maybe next year!

TBRN: What did you walk away wanting to read most?

KJ: I really want to read my copy of EVERY FIFTEEN MINUTES [by Lisa Scottoline], for sure!

TBRN: Is there anything that would make the LATFOB more special for you?

KJ: What would make the festival even more special to me than it is already would be to get as many people as I could to come and see the event and experience it for themselves. I think reading is a very important thing, regardless of the medium you choose to read from. Although, I have to tell you, reading off of my cell phone screen isn't going to happen, but I certainly don't begrudge those that choose to do so! I really enjoy when someone comes up to me and asks, "Have you read any good books lately?" There's a conversation set to last for quite some time! I really hope that we will be blessed with many more years to come for this awesome event.

TBRN: Feel free to share any other highlights.

KJ: I hope that I have helped bring a little of our Los Angeles Festival to your readers!


(First row, from L to R: Festival crowds. Second row: Festival overview; the "tree of knowledge." Third row: Secrets and Suspense panel. Fourth row: LeVar Burton on the schedule; Kathy and Lisa Scottoline. Fifth row: Presenting Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. Sixth row: Anne Cleeland and Hallie Ephron. Seventh row: Anne and Kathy; Lorraine Bracco and Amber. Eighth row: Here's to 20 years!