A Quick Review of the San Diego Festival of Books

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    So I just got back from the third annual San Diego Festival of Books. It's a one-day event that our newspaper and local KPBS channel sponsor.

    I was pleasantly surprised. I mean, there was a HUGE children's book presence. Half the festival was children's books, and a disproportionate number of the panels focused on writing graphic novels, middle grade graphic novels, and picture books. Albeit they were only 45 minutes long, but I'd never been to anything like this before and I walked out feeling incredibly heartened.

    There must have been over 100 different author tables, each with authors signing and selling their work. And they were divided into two giant tents of adult books and children's books. It was so impressive. (I'm sure the regional and national SCBWI conferences are much more impressive, but I've never been to one of those.)

    Of course, I may be incredibly easy to impress since this was all new to me, but there was such a diversity of topics and styles and targeted age-ranges from the graphic novelists and visual storytellers that it really made me step back and realize: Wow--there's so much a person can do! There was a panel that discussed how mainstream publishers are now seeking out non-traditional visual presentation and niche-interest topics, and how in the last 15 years an entire genre of illustrated middle-grade graphic novels has sprung into existence that simply wasn't there before. (And you know it has arrived when there's an entire section of shelving in bookstores dedicated to it.)

    And honestly, most of the illustrators were over 40. Because of the recent 3-Point Perspective podcast about transitioning careers, I was paying attention to it. I only saw two panelist illustrators whom I would categorize as being in their 20s, and one of them had created her children's book while holding down a full-time job in animation. By far, most of the illustration work of all kinds presented at this festival had been executed by people who looked to be (to my eye) in their 40s and older.

    It just gave me a lot of hope that perhaps there's much more room for so many more creative illustrators out there than I thought there was. And I thought I'd share.

  • @Coreyartus sounds like a wonderful time!!! You have me thinking along the lines of wondering what non traditional visual representation and niche topics can look like lol 😉 something different than everything else!
    Thanks for the insight, sounds like it was so fun.

  • Thank you for sharing!

  • Moderator

    @Coley Here are the examples of "out of the box" niche works that were featured on the panels I attended. These are just a few examples of how topics and art styles were all over the gamut:

    A memoir graphic novel about the author-illustrator's father's kidnapping in Mexico:

    A memoir comic strip about "very heavy topics like mental health, relationships, misogyny, abuse, self-harm, and my varying emotional states."

    A graphic novel/book for young readers, "Tiger Vs. Nightmare" featuring a protagonist with no "identifying feminine gender characteristics or appearance"

    Middle Grade graphic novels--"Baby Mouse" (one of the first in the genre not published by DC or Marvel, where the publisher & author & illustrator had to literally invent their work flow and process at the time)

    A novel with graphics done by the artist's 14 year-old autistic son (which has been so successful they're still doing them together and now he's 25) specifically for "reluctant readers":

    A graphic novel anthology of work regarding women's stories of sexual violence:

    A graphic novel by an underground comic artist exploring cubism elements with a bee:

    A middle grade graphic novel about being a person of color in a predominantly white private school (which really only scratches the very surface of this awesome book):

  • SVS OG

    @Coreyartus i would have definitely enjoyed being there

  • @Coreyartus sounds like you had a fantastic time. id love to got to some of these events next year.

  • @Coreyartus thanks for sharing, will check this out once I'm done chores for the evening 🙂

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