The Exploding Spaceship Visits Bookmarks!


The Exploding Spaceship travels to Winston-Salem for Bookmarks Festival of Books and Authors!

Bookmarks is a festival of books and authors held in Winston-Salem, NC. Lev Grossman, the featured fantasy author, drew us to the event because we had never heard him speak. The festival has indoor venues for author talks and outdoor space for food vendors and vendor and publisher tents. There was a photo booth in the theater lobby where you could dress up in funny hats and props to get a free strip of pictures and this was very popular. The Hanes Brand Theatre is where the events we attended were located. This is a nice venue for events on a stage, but the concessions booth is very expensive, even more extreme than movie theater prices, with some small snacks being four times the grocery store price.


Lev Grossman had a very interesting talk about his new book The Magician’s Land (August 2014, Viking) and the universe in which the book is set. He comes at fantasy from a classical literary background and was raised by parents who were also traditional literature trained. Lev was always a fantasy reader even though by day he read other things. When he began writing fantasy he wanted a universe with a different take on magic. His main character has no advisor to guide him and so wanders around sort of lost and there are no straight-up evil guys, just characters who can be viewed as a darker gray. His stories try to address the question, “What is magic for?”


Lev writes his fantasy in a contemporary American voice and humor is used frequently. His characters are normal people with drinking problems and a sex life to worry about. They do traditional epic fantasy things, like engage in single combat against a champion, but never say or do anything in the manner you expect. He writes to please the teenage version of himself, who wanted magic to be real, so the language including the slang and bad language all reflects modern society. This makes his fiction very approachable for those put off by the trappings of genre fiction.

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Maggie Stiefvater gave a very interesting talk about her fiction, and her life in a celtic band while dressing like a punk band member. Maggie is from Virginia and so she drove to the event. This enabled her to bring her daughter who was seeing her Mom’s writer talk for the first time. Nothing puts pressure on a speaker like an audience whom you see over the breakfast table every morning.  She is a great speaker though, particularly for the young adult audience. We had two young adult males with us for the event and they were very entertained.


Maggie has written several fantasy series for Scholastic Press. Her most recent release, Sinner, is a volume which is almost general fiction but uses characters and background from her werewolf universe.  The setting is LA instead of Mercy Falls, and you see some of Maggie’s knowledge about bands being used in this volume. Her more traditional fantasy series is based on Welsh myth and is called the Raven cycle. The next volume of this comes out in October and is called Blue Lily, Llly Blue.

Both of these fantasy authors were extremely good speakers, even for young adults with short attention spans. Keep a look out for their appearances near you! Maggie has a book out October 14 so check for events near you on and via Twitter @mstiefvater . Lev can be found on and on facebook as lev.grossman and on Twitter as @leverus.

Overall, Bookmarks was a good day out for us. The speakers were great and they all had signings. Note that the signings are under tents with the queues in the sun, so hats and sunglasses are recommended for those wanting books signed. This is an every year free event, so Your Humble Reviewers hope to see many of you there next time! Keep watch on for next year’s event and author events around the area also sponsored by Bookmarks.

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