I was able to go this afternoon and had two big highlights. One was Leonard Stern, co-creator of Mad Libs, on the Storytelling Stage. He opened with a big Mad Lib, of course, and my son was selected to contribute an adjective, with a little help from Stern's daughter, sitting next to us.
Some interesting points included that Stern came up with the idea while writing episodes of The Honeymooners, and that after being rejected by every publisher in New York, his partner suggested self-publishing, which went from 14,000 copies of the first Mad Lib book sitting in his partner's kitchen to literal overnight success after playing it on The Steve Allen Show. Although their publishing label appears to be under Penguin now, one can only assume that being forced into self-publishing led to countless riches that would have otherwise been lost to a publishing corporation.
The other highlight was meeting one of my all-time favorite authors, James Ellroy. I was introduced by my friend, author Erika Schickel, who wasn't sure if he would remember her from meeting last year. But as we approached him his rose from his seat and greeted her by name, absolutely charming as well as self-deprecating and profanely funny throughout our conversation.
I did say I was a fan and asked if I could ask him the big question. I'm certainly not the only one, as he jumped right in with the publication date of the final book in his American Underworld Trilogy, June 2009, with a huge excerpt to run in Playboy (I think I got the magazine right) prior. I told him I had actually read the first two volumes out of order (American Tabloid precedes The Cold Six Thousand, although I'd argue that the latter is the greater and more devastating book) and he asked if it still made sense (it did).
The final volume is entitled, Blood's a Rover, and when I told about reading his tragic/horrific memoir, My Dark Places, during a golden stay with my in-laws in Boca Raton several years back, he revealed that his following book with be another memoir, covering his romantic life in the years since that book, with names and key characteristics changed to protect the bedded.
This may have been a special case with special access, but it still highlights one of the key joys of the Festival, getting close to the creators, being able to witness them in the flesh and maybe even end up having a conversation together.
And the weather this weekend is beautiful.