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LAist Guide to the Festival of Books

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If you aren't going to Coachella this weekend and somehow think that attending the LA Times Festival of Books requires less planning...well, you may be right. But only by the smallest of margins. The festival keeps growing and this year may be the largest with 400 authors, 300 exhibit booths, 6 outdoor stages and 97 hour-long panels featuring some of the quirkiest minds in the country. What does this mean for you? In the words of Walter Sobchak, you don't want to roll out there naked. You need a plan. A solid plan that will get you where you want to go and will keep you well-hydrated, well-fed and well, happy. Here's a quick guide to surviving the bookish madness:

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Parking: The parking at UCLA isn't nearly as big a problem as, say, the traffic surrounding the campus while people are trying to get there to park. If ever there was a time to take public transportation, this is it. If you must drive, parking lots are located at every corner of the campus and the fee is $8. We're going to bribe a friend for the drop-off and the pick-up to avoid this mess.

Food, Hydration & You: While it won't be Coachella-hot, it won't be cold. Bring all the usual warm-weather gear and plenty of water. That said, the Bridge Food Court will be open and plenty of vendors will be selling their overpriced food, so bring plenty of cash or seek out campus ATMs early. If you'd rather not spend the cash to eat, you may want to loiter around the Cooking Stage where chefs-with-books will be whipping a few things up:

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Tickets: The event is free, but if you plan to see any author panels or discussions, you'll need advance tickets from Ticketmaster that cost .75. BUT: Having a ticket does not guarantee access. If you are not "in your seats" 10 min. before a panel begins, your seat will be given away to those waiting in the stand-by line. For popular panels, this rule is a bitch. Especially because the lines can be very long. Festival monitors tend to be crazy strict about this policy, no matter who you are are. We once saw a running-late author banned from his own panel! The good news: if you missed out on tickets, there are plenty of seats at the lesser-known panels and all the stage and booth events are no-ticket-required!

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Panel Planning: This is where things get dicey. If you'd like to see a 12pm Fiction panel at Rolfe and a 1:30pm Music panel in Young Hall, it's not going to happen. With panels running about an hour, the whole "butts-in-seats 10 min. before" rule and the insanely busy madness of the stages and booths between you and your next panel, you'd literally have to fly over the campus to make it in time. Our super-lazy trick: find a location that features a few good panels and just hang out. You can catch several panels in a row and be on your way without breaking a sweat. If, on the other hand, you delight in sprinting all over campus, we suggest you leave at least 2 hours between panel start times. For a less intense but not entirely slacker workout, pick panels in close proximity.

The Go With the Flow Approach: Let's face it, there are mellower things you could do with your weekend, but why miss out on the good stuff just because of all the crazy stuff? LAist plans to check out some of the panels and mosey about. If we miss something, we miss it. If we catch it, we catch it. Half the fun is in finding a writer on some side stage that you've never heard, seeing an independent bookstore booth that you would never have discovered otherwise. Wander, meander, take your time. Just don't forget to get on the parking shuttles by 7pm on Saturday & 6pm on Sunday...or you'll be spending a lot of down time at the festival.

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The Goods: Directions, Event Map, Panel Schedule, Stage Schedule, Booth Info, MTA Trip Planner

The Prizes: The Book Prizes will be awarded this evening and most of the nominated authors will be speaking or reading at the fest this weekend. If you aren't familiar with their work, check out previous coverage: Fiction, Biography, First Fiction, Young Adult Fiction, Current Interest, Alicia Drake, John Green, Janice Cooke Newman, David Mendelsohn, David Mitchell

Enjoy!