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Book the date for annual USC festival

Festival of Books returning for its 19th year

Krieger_Dianeby Diane Krieger
Festival of Books 2013
Last year's event brought together about 150,000 people to campus. (USC Photo/Dietmar Quistorf)

The popular Los Angeles Times Festival of Books returns to USC on April 12-13. Now in its 19th year, the nation’s largest public literary festival welcomes more than 500 authors, artists and entertainers and 150,000 booklovers to the University Park Campus.

The 2014 festival schedule is chock-full of activities — with back-to-back author interviews and panel discussions running simultaneously in 13 lecture halls, live performances on eight outdoor stages, book signings, film screenings, cooking demonstrations and hundreds of bookseller booths and exhibitors. This year’s speakers include Reza Aslan, Aimee Bender, T.C. Boyle, Eoin Colfer, Jackie Collins, Jared Diamond, Barbara Ehrenreich, Michael Koryta, Katherine Schwarzenegger, Alicia Silverstone, Marlo Thomas, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Henry Winkler.

New this year, the festival introduces an “Artists’ Row,” where leading Southern California artists will create on-site installations live. “Pop-up” galleries of photography by award-winning Los Angeles Times visual storytellers will also be on view.

Inspire Your Fire,” the 2014 festival theme, invites amateurs to get creative with contests in music performance, photography, stand-up comedy, poetry reading and fine art. The submission deadline is April 1; winners will perform during the festival. In addition, a “Favorite Read” sweepstakes will award a $300 bookseller gift card to the winner.

In another first, the April 12 schedule will run late with “Festival After Dark,” an evening of improv, sketch comedy, conversation and music. Festival-goers can attend a live performance of the popular public radio show Wits, with host John Moe, featuring comedian-author-musician Margaret Cho, punk rock band Superchunk and singer-songwriter Will Sheff of the indie-rock group Okkervil River. The ticketed event will take place at 8 p.m. in Bovard Auditorium.

On the eve of the festival, the 34th annual Los Angeles Times Book Prizes will be awarded. In addition to announcing winners in 10 genre categories, the newspaper will honor novelists Susan Straight and John Green with the Kirsch Award for lifetime achievement and the Innovator’s Award, respectively. The ticketed event will take place on April 11 at 7:30 p.m. in  Bovard Auditorium.

USC Trojan Marching Band

The USC Trojan Marching Band performs at Hahn Plaza’s USC Stage. (USC Photo/Dietmar Quistorf)

The university will have two dedicated venues spotlighting its own authors, artists and entertainers. Hahn Plaza’s USC Stage will present such Trojan acts as the gospel choir Saved by Grace, R&B band Idesia and South-Asian a cappella group Asli Baat. USC popular music major Catherine Rose Smith, winner of the university’s Festival of Books-inspired songwriting contest, will premiere her original composition, “Learn from You,” on April 12.

‘A true celebration of community and creativity’

In Hoffman Hall, USC faculty will explore such intriguing themes as living with mental illness, “truth” in fiction, food and identity, mapping Los Angeles and the future of reading in a digital world. Broad multidisciplinary panels will bridge the worlds of music, spirituality and politics or race, justice and law. Authors headlining these conversations include popular culture scholars Josh Kun and Leo Braudy, best-selling writers Janet Fitch and Sandra Tsing Loh, law professors Jody Armour and Elyn Saks, Oscar-winning filmmaker Mark Jonathan Harris, game designer Tracy Fullerton, media theorist Henry Jenkins and education expert Gisele Ragusa, to name a few.

As in previous years, the USC Health and Wellness Pavilion will provide free screenings for glucose levels, blood pressure, body mass index, skin cancer and sleep apnea. The USC Mobile Dental Clinic will offer oral health screenings and family education and a new “Talk to the Doc” booth lets festival-goers consult in private with USC’s world-class doctors.

Readings and signings by children’s book authors will be ongoing at the USC Civic Engagement booth, and new or gently used books will be collected for distribution to local children through the USC Family of Schools.

“For the fourth year in a row, USC takes great pride in hosting the largest literary festival in the United States,” said USC President C. L. Max Nikias. “It is a true celebration of community, creativity and intellectual curiosity — one that shares the joy of literature and the power of imagination with our local communities.”

The festival will kick off Saturday at 10 a.m. with an opening fanfare by the USC Trojan Marching Band and Trojan Song Girls, followed by a joint welcome from USC Provost Elizabeth Garrett and L.A. Times publisher Eddy Hartenstein. USC popular music major Catherine Rose Smith, winner of the university’s Festival of Books-inspired songwriting contest, will then perform her original composition, “Learn From You.”

Hungry festival-goers can choose from dozens of gourmet food trucks as well as USC’s many cafés, food courts and restaurants. More details about festival programming, public transportation and parking services can be found at festivalofbooks2014.usc.edu

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